All of Cafe Campesino’s fair trade, organic coffee is grown under a natural canopy of shade trees. Organic certification requires the use of a variety of shade trees on the farm.
Shade-grown coffee is coffee grown underneath a canopy of taller trees that provide shade from the sun. Traditionally, coffee has been grown in this manner – underneath a natural forest canopy – and when done so, there are many benefits. However, pressure to increase crop yields has led to some coffee crops being cultivated in reduced shade and/or direct sunlight, which requires increase use of pesticides and non-natural fertilizers.
There are several categories of shade-grown coffee, dependent upon the type and amount of shade provided by the shade trees.
Because shade coffee is slower to ripen, it often provides a more complex taste and is more flavorful than other coffees. Additionally, shade-grown coffee encourages pollination of both the coffee and other nearby plants.
Protection of the Natural Ecosystem
Shade-grown coffee works within the natural ecosystem, contributing to and receiving help from the system. Shade trees provide many nutrients to the coffee plants and the surrounding soil, natural predators help control coffee pests, and the shade trees help protect the coffee crops from frost.
Preservation of Natural Biodiversity
Migratory and tropical birds, reptiles, ants, butterflies and a host of other organisms and plant life call the canopy home. This biodiversity has positive impacts on the overall environment, beyond the local canopies where the coffee is grown.
Protection of Local Water Supplies
The roots from the coffee plants help to trap runoff water and keep the local water supplies cleaner and more pure. Trapping runoff water also helps to prevent erosion. Shade-grown coffee needs irrigation less frequently than sun grown coffee.
Preservation of Atmospheric Balance
Shade-grown coffee helps decrease deforestation by leaving the trees standing, which can help preserve atmospheric balance due to carbon sequestration.