Bird-friendly coffee is grown in the shade under a canopy of trees rather than in a plantation that has been cleared of all vegetation. For this reason, you will also hear bird-friendly coffee called "shade-grown" coffee. Trees are essential for providing food and shelter to resident and migrating birds in Latin America. Some of these neotropical migrants are the very same birds we see here in the Midwest!
Not only are these plantations bird-friendly, they are also earth-friendly because they are organic. Growing coffee on plantations in the sun requires fertilizers and pesticides. However, birds living in the canopy will feed on insects, eliminating the need for many chemical pesticides. Shade trees also protect plants from severe weather and help maintain soil quality.
Bird-friendly coffee comes from the highlands of Latin American countries from Mexico south to Peru. This is the region where you will find many of our nesting birds during the cold winter months. The coffee at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center comes from mountainous, northern Columbia from a farm named "Mesa de los Santos" or "Table of the Saints".
This all sounds good - but does it taste as good as other coffee? Yes! Coffee experts say that shade-grown coffee tastes better than sun-grown coffee. This may be because coffee beans ripen more slowly in the shade, resulting in a richer flavor.
Bird-friendly coffee costs a few more cents per cup than sun-grown coffee, but it is a very small price to pay in order to preserve critical habitat for birds and wildlife. It also benefits sustainable coffee farmers and promotes fair trade and the overall health of the planet. Not bad for a cup of coffee!
You can sample bird-friendly coffee at the Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival.