Sun-Grown Vs. Shade-Grown Coffee

One of the biggest focuses of specialty coffee growers and the third wave coffee movement is sustainability. We value how we can contribute to protecting our environment while producing the highest quality cup of coffee possible.

For us, that process goes all the way back to when and where the coffee trees are planted and grown. Did you know there are two different methods of choosing a location for growing coffee beans? And that these methods can actually affect the overall sustainability of the product it is producing?

When looking at coffee farms, you will either find that the coffee trees are planted in the shade or in the sun. You may be surprised to find out that coffee can actually grow in both environments (sun and shade) so what’s the difference?

Sun-Grown Coffee

Sun-grown coffee is coffee grown in fields that have been cleared of any other trees in the area that may provide shade. This offers the coffee an opportunity to grow and ripen in direct sunlight. This method of growing coffee was introduced in the 1970’s and helped farmers produce a high yield of coffee beans. To this day, this method of sun grown coffee is still used and farmers are able to produce and sell higher quantities of coffee when it’s grown in the sun.

Growing in the sun, however, can have an adverse effect on the quality of the coffee produced. For this reason, sun grown coffee is not usually considered specialty coffee, which means farmers sell it at lower price points.

Sun-grown coffee is more likely to be treated with pesticides as the elimination of trees in the area reduces bird habitats and increases pests.

Sun grown coffee has also contributed to mass deforestation, especially in parts of Central America where they use this method. This makes it a less sustainable option which is another reason why it is not considered specialty coffee.

Shade-Grown Coffee

Shade grown coffee is the traditional approach to growing and cultivating coffee. This method mimics the way coffee is grown naturally in the forest under the tree canopy. Coffee that is grown at the right altitude under the shade is likely to take longer to ripen which is actually a good thing. It allows the coffee bean to become very dense and more flavorful.

Shade grown coffee may take more time, labor, and produce lower yield, but farmers can sell it at a higher price point as it can qualify as specialty coffee.

The environmental impacts of shade-grown coffee farms are all positive. They are increasing biodiversity in their area as they grow coffee in the company of many other trees. This provides habitats and food for more bird species who actually aid the growth of coffee by scaring away coffee pests and attracting pollinators to the area.

Lastly, shade-grown coffee farmers are able to diversify their farms for increased income. The trees providing shade for their coffee can also produce bananas, mangoes, oranges, firewood, and more, which can also be sold to create additional revenue.

Shade-Grown Specialty Coffee

Our Coffee Shop on the U of M Campus serves specialty coffee that was planted and ripened in the shade from coffee farmers all over the world. We value supporting these farms as they contribute to the sustainability of the industry and provide a better way of life for the farmers growing the beans. Not to mention it ultimately produces a better cup of coffee for you, our customers! Stop into 7 Corners Coffee to taste the difference of shade-grown coffee.

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