Coffee Facts

What is shade-grown coffee, and how can it help save the earth?

by BO LI on Oct 24, 2022

What is shade-grown coffee, and how can it help save the earth?

Arbor Day came early this year

        With the advent of the third wave of coffee and the rise of specialty coffee, there has come a more conscious and sustainably-minded approach to java. The third wave of coffee has (or had as some think the third wave has come and gone, and we are now on the fourth wave of coffee!) brought a lot of aspects of the coffee world to consumers' minds. Things that in the past did not occur to coffee drinkers during the first and to some extent second waves of coffee. 

        But today, with our ailing planet, and moves to consume more consciously, coffee consumers have looked at how their cuppa gets made more closely than ever before. Today we will look at how coffee farms can be literally greener by incorporating the native trees of the area in their cultivation methods. Keep reading to discover more about shade-grown coffee!

 What is shade-grown coffee and why does it matter?

        The term “shade-grown” refers to coffee plants that are grown in the natural shade provided by the canopy of surrounding trees. This has a ton of benefits for coffee plants and the land and ecosystem as a whole. For arabica coffee plants, protection from harsh sunlight is a must. By keeping the natural canopy healthy and green, arabica plants can continue to thrive in the natural shade. 

        Not only that, but when sensitive arabica plants grow up alongside bigger, stronger trees, they are protected from frost and cold. The soil is also teeming with beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that only help to enrich coffee plants. This makes the need for artificial or chemical fertilizers pointless as the soil is already highly enriched.

        Since the natural canopy is protected and allowed to thrive along with the coffee plants, birds and other animals also get to enjoy their natural habitats. The presence of birds and other animals makes the need for pesticides obsolete because they feed on potentially harmful insects and other pests.

        The reasons shade-grown coffee is such an interesting mode of cultivation are manifold. By maintaining the natural canopy and treeline, coffee farmers can help to preserve the natural environment. 

        They don’t need to deforest jungles and wildlands, instead, they can grow coffee plants among the trees. As the trees aren’t being cleared for farmland, birds and other animals can maintain their habitats and continue to thrive or recover for species that have been threatened for a number of years. The land and groundwater are also better preserved as no chemicals are going into the soil that can taint the land and pollute water supplies. 

        This is all to the benefit of coffee farmers, too. Many groups that seek out shade-grown coffee will offer farmers fairtrade pay and sometimes even other forms of support like education and training. Farmers can charge a bit more for specialty shade-grown beans and help to build a better life for themselves and their families. All while being able to enjoy a cleaner more natural environment.

 Relax in the shade

        Shade-grown coffee is an interesting mode of coffee cultivation. One that seeks to harmonize coffee growing with the natural world, and thereby mitigate some of the substantial harm we as human beings do to our planet. But, with greener and more sustainable growing methods like shade-grown, we can hope for a brighter, or in this case, shadier, future of coffee!

 Works Cited


  • Nerger, Matt. “Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee.” Rainforest Alliance, 26 Aug. 2021, Accessed 23 Oct. 2022.
  • “Sustainable Coffee Institute.” Sustainable Coffee Institute, Accessed 23 Oct. 2022.
  • Wikipedia Contributors. “Shade-Grown Coffee.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Dec. 2019,



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