Ethical Java: The Scoop

Environment Trends & Culture - February 6th, 2009
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by Danielle Rippingale

I think most would be surprised to learn that their choice of morn­ing Java could play a role in preserving or devastating bird habitats and rain forests. Coffee is the most widely-consumed beverage in the world and yet we are far removed from the origins of this popu­lar drink.

During the 1960s and ’70s, production demands saw changes from traditional techniques of growing coffee under a shade cannnv to nmwinn coffee under the sun, brown coffee was found to yield as much as five times more coffee than shade grown, but not without a heavy cost to the environment. Not only are forests cleared, eliminating vibrant wildlife habitats, but sun-grown coffee requires heavy use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

Traditional shade-grown coffee plantations are integrated into forests attracting wildlife including many natural predators (birds and bats) that aid in the natural control of insect pest species. Fur­thermore, the rich soil and leaf matter fertilize the crops, making the coffee naturally organic.

It is recognized that shade-grown coffee plantations support more than 150 species of birds, including migratory birds, and of­fer an agricultural environment second only to undisturbed tropical rain forests. Studies in Mexico have shown 94 to 97 percent fewer bird species in sun-grown compared to shade-grown coffee plan­tations.

In addition to being environment and bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee tastes better due to a lower yield, which gives in­creased intensity to the coffee bean. If you think it will cost you much more—think again. You may pay ¥100 more for a 250g bag of shade-grown compared to your standard non-organic varieties. However, you vote every time you spend, so by generating demand through your purchase of shade-grown coffee you are persuading yield-conscious sun coffee growers to switch back to shade coffee production.

Widely available in Tokyo: Kaldi Coffee Farm in Gyre Omotesando (www.kaldi.co.jp) ¥780/200g; Seattle’s Best (all their organic cof­fee is purportedly shade grown); Starbucks “Shade Grown Mexico” ¥1,400/250g.

GREEN
GLOSSARY
Locavore: Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food in an effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies—ones in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption are integrated to enhance the economic, environmental, and social health of a particular place.