Bird Friendly Coffee: What does it mean?

You may have seen the term bird-friendly coffee, and since it doesn’t mean that birds can drink it, what the heck does it mean?

Coffee is known to prosper in high sun conditions, so there has been a huge trend of clear cutting and forest degradation on coffee growing lots. This is causing the natural rainforest habitat of many migratory birds to become vulnerable. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center of the National Zoo determined a series of criteria for coffee growing, to protect the habitat of birds by ensuring a variety of trees are planted on a coffee lot and that the conditions of the growing are sustainable and not harmful.

Firstly, the coffee must be certified organic, with a healthy soil base and no harmful chemicals or pesticides applied during the growing. This prevents the beans themselves from soaking up chemicals, and avoiding run offs into streams and rivers, where they are absorbed by flora and fauna alike.

Secondly, to be certified Bird Friendly Coffee, the beans must be “shade-grown” and meet the criteria according to third party inspectors. The criteria is as follows:

  • Maintain a recommended minimum of 10 species of shade trees with no more than 70 percent Inga – a genus of small, tough leaved tropical tree
  • Maintain minimum shade cover of 40 percent at noon
  • Minimum height for backbone trees
  • Keep some shorter and taller plants mixed in
  • Limit pruning of shade trees and removal of epiphytes when possible
  • Maintain adequate road and stream buffers

The Smithsonian Institute aims to promote harmony between coffee production and native and migratory animals by providing viable habitats with the purpose of conducting research and education about the migratory bird populations. Twenty five cents per pound of Bird Friendly Coffee sold is donated to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre to put towards research and conservation programs.

Efforts like this in the coffee world are necessary and important to support, to make the life-cycle of coffee more sustainable means that our beloved coffee doesn’t leave a massive footprint on the Earth. After all, we want to be around to enjoy our coffee for years to come!

The Guatemalan beans we stock on the site are Bird Friendly, but we’re on the search for more Bird Friendly varietals.


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