Have you ever pondered on the idea that your favorite coffee brand could potentially be benefiting or harming the environment?
"Are you serious?"
"Say it isn't so!"
Yep, that's right. We don't mean to be dramatic, but your ritual morning cup of joe could very well be the cause of deforestation, as well as the reduction of the earth's precious biodiversity. Of course, these adverse effects will never be branded on the label of your tin of Folger's. Luckily, there's another way to indicate whether your coffee is helping or hurting the environment. The answer? Shade-grown. If a coffee indicates that it's shade-grown, it means it's grown in a sustainable manner, i.e., one that benefits the earth. Prior to 1970, coffee was grown in a traditional (and natural) way by being cultivated in tropical, mountainous regions. In this setup, it flourishes under the comforts of a canopy of trees and— according to International Coffee Organization— as an evergreen shrub, coffee contributes to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and also allows for the preservation of the original biodiversity in that specified region.
Unfortunately, the demand became so high for coffee a few decades ago that producers started practicing a method called "sun cultivation" because it yields the highest amount of coffee in a shorter period of time. This easy-way-out approach calls for mega fertilizers to speed along the process and—here's the worst part—cutting down trees. So, that cheap coffee on the shelves may look appealing to your wallet, but it's contributing to the planet's environmental problems. On a happier note, there are plenty of amazing shade-grown coffee brands out there and Eat This! has gathered 21 of them for you! And as a bonus, they are all certified Fair Trade! Check 'em out below and then keep your quality-coffee choices going by finding out The Best Coffee Shop in Every State.
Counter Culture Coffee
Counter Culture is the first on our list for a reason: they are committed to transparency with regard to where they're cultivating the coffee, as well as fiscal and social considerations such as equal pay. Splurge on their Colombian variation called "El Moral" for a rich cup of coffee embellished with notes of red grape, dark chocolate, and almond. You can purchase a 12 ounce bag on counterculturecoffee.com for $18.95! We know it's steep, but it's totally worth a try!
Just Coffee Co-op
Similar to Counter Culture, Just Coffee Co-op also values transparency so much so that they launched their own "Transparency project" in 2006, which includes everything from their contracts with farmers, the prices they pay them, their profit and loss statements, and more! There truly are no secrets with this cooperative. If that part didn't tickle your fancy, then wait until you hear some of the rad names of their coffees. They have anything from the Ethiopian, light roast called the "Humdinger" to the dark roasted "Electric Monkey Espresso" and even one named after fellow podcaster Marc Maron called "WTF Roast." You can buy any of these 12-ounce bags of coffees, along with others, on shop.justcoffee.coop for just $14!
Birds & Beans
There's a bird on the cover of this coffee bag for good reason! It is actually certified by The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center because it comes from 100 percent organic farms that meet the strict biodiversity criteria. Their "Wood Thrush Breakfast Roast" comes from what the company calls "some of the best-managed family coffee farms in Latin America— full of birds and good conditions for workers." You can purchase this light and nutty coffee from birdsandbeans.com for $12.50.
Grounds For Change
The name of this coffee is incredibly accurate. When you sip on one of Ground For Change's gourmet blends, you can be reassured that you're drinking a brew that is 100 percent organic, shade-grown, carbon free, and Fair Trade certified. Wow! Check out those credentials. They even have a seasonal winter blend on the market that's a mixture of coffee grown in Central and South America and East Africa! You can find a 12 ounce bag of this one-of-a-kind cup of coffee for $10.60 on groundsforchange.com. And speaking of winter drinks, don't miss these 6 Cozy Winter Cocktails That Aren't Belly Bombs.
Equal Exchange also abides by shade-grown policies, but the company is doing something on the social side of things that's worth mentioning. For each bag of coffee that's sold, Equal Exchange donates $2 to the Panzi Foundation, which raises money for women who have been sexually abused in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thus far, Equal Exchange has raised a whopping $39,000 to the Panzi Foundation, which funds medical care, counseling, literacy education, and more. If this piques your interest, you can purchase a one pound bag of the coffee at shop.equalexhange.coop for just $12.00.
Silver Bridge Coffee Company
If you're on the prowl for a coffee to go with one of your healthy breakfast ideas, then this may just be the perfect match. Silver Bridge Coffee Company has a wide variety of mouthwatering roasts including blends called, "Jamaican Me Crazy" and "Farmer's Market Blend." However, one roast sticks out above the rest, and that's its Sumatra blend. This dark roast coffee is hands down one of the company's most popular, single-origin coffee selections. The grounds are known for capturing the essence of the tropical Indonesian island. And the best part? It has quite a low acidity, contrary to most coffees! You can purchase a 12-ounce bag of this blend with all of its hints sweet of caramel and chocolate on silverbridgecoffee.com for $11.99.
Java + Planet = benefits the environment. You don't need to be a mathematician or a philosopher for that matter to interpret that equation. Java Planet's tagline is: "Best coffee on the planet, best coffee for the planet!" See for yourself at jporganiccoffee.com with one pound bags ranging from $14.99-15.99!
Liquid Planet has quite a few roasts, but one that truly shines in flavor is its shade-grown organic Mexico variety! Pair a mug of this medium bodied roast with floral accents with a cup of oatmeal and berries for an antioxidant-filled morning meal. You can snag a 12 ounce of bag of this roast from liquidplanet.com for $12.95.
Higher Ground Roasters
One of the three goals of Higher Ground Roasters is to invest in the future through supporting the preservation of the environment. Similar to all of the coffee producers mentioned in this article, Higher Ground Roasters support for shade-grown coffee enables forests to remain a natural habitat for the indigenous animals and insects that reside in those regions. You can sip on one of their scrumptious blends and simultaneously promote the conservation of the earth's wildlife. You can pick a roast of your choice on highergroundroaster.com— their 12-ounce bags range from $11.99-12.99.
The creators of DOMA Coffee reflect the kind of startup method Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had for Apple— their successful business began in their own garage. Since its inception in 2000, every decision DOMA makes is rooted in sustainability. Give their "La Bicicletta" blend a whirl, which has a mixture of fruity and chocolate flavors, for $14.14 on domacoffee.com. Fun fact: Proceeds from this coffee go to support local women's competitive cycling!
Peace Coffee was one of the first Fair Trade certified coffee companies in the United States, and this year it celebrates 20 years of sustainability and an "uncompromising commitment to coffee farmers and to innovation in trade." Jumpstart your day with the "Morning Glory Breakfast Blend" which has an irresistible aroma of butter, maple syrup, and apples. Pair a mug of this luscious brew with a piece or two of toast with almond butter, honey, and cinnamon! You can pick up a 12 ounce bag from peacecoffee.com for $11.00.
Level Ground Trading
This admirable company began in 1997 by four families that came together to make a difference by improving the lives of disadvantaged producers through trade. Their descriptions for their coffee selections are short, sweet, and absolutely delectable. Take the description of the "Tanzania Organic Coffee" roast as an example: A deep, wild, full-flavoured cup with pleasant earthiness, juicy acidity, and a fearless dark chocolate finish. Is your mouth watering yet? You can purchase a one pound bag of this decadent coffee as well as any of their other flavors on store.levelground.com for $16.00.
Just Haiti works with coffee growers in Haiti, but what makes their business stand out is the Fair Trade Plus model that they institute. With this method, they not only pay the farmers a fair trade price for their coffee, but they also go the extra step to return all profits to the community. In 2012, 64 percent of every consumer dollar was returned directly back to the people who grew it. Incredible. You can purchase a 12 ounce bag for only $11.00 on justhaiti.org.
This quirky name is no joke when it comes to coffee. Grumpy Mule is based out of the UK and gets its beans from all over the world. One region in particular that has an epic layout of shade is the town of Ataco, Mauricio, which is enveloped by the Ilamatepeq Mountain Range. The flavor is called, "El Salvador Santa Rita Natural Honey" and it has an eclectic combination of flavors including rhubarb, raisin, and nectarine. Are you up to the challenge? You can purchase of a bag of your own on grumpymule.co.uk for $7.99.
Café Mam (say mom), comprises fair trade cooperatives of native Mayan farmers living in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. These hardworking group of farmers believes strongly in taking care of the soil because, ultimately, it benefits the entire biosystem. Not only do they strive to conserve the natural environment, they also work diligently toward creating a higher quality of life for their families. If you are moved by their story and want to give one of their coffee's a try, check out the half-pound sample bag! You can pick and choose which variety you wish to savor for only $5.25 on cafemam.com.
Allegro Coffee was one of Colorado's first specialty coffee producers, practicing traditional, shade-growing methods ever since 1977. The company believes that great coffee isn't about overwhelming the palate, but rather giving the senses a rebirth. We like the zen-sounding promise of that, don't you? If you're intrigued, check out allegrocoffee.com with roasts ranging from $4.99-14.99. And speaking of zen, calm down with these 32 Foods That Turn Off the Stress Hormone That's Making You Fat!
The owners of Ramble Coffee are surely something special. Toting their two children in a teardrop camper, they set out to explore and feed their obsession for traversing the world of coffee. You can check out what they're roasting at ramblecoffee.com with each 12-ounce bag ranges from $13-15.
Another Colorado-based coffee company hits the list with its diverse array of coffee blends. Currently, the company maintains 28 direct relationships in 13 coffee growing countries. Check out which countries are represented in their blends, which are all priced between $12.90-16.50 on consciouscoffees.com.
This Wisconsin-based coffee company holds quite the selection of roasts. The Kenya Gathaithi selection is a more recent addition, hailing from the southern slope of Mount Kenya it provides the blend with notes of lemon, honey, and mandarin orange. Pair this sweet, citrus cup of coffee with a healthy serving of overnight oats before you have to rush out the door for work. You can purchase a 12 ounce bag on kickapoocoffee.com for $18.00.
Larry is one green guy. The capacity in which he roasts his coffee in uses, "Passive solar construction, active solar systems, radiant floors, zoned heating, composting, and rainwater harvesting to minimize our impact on this awesome planet." Check out his wild flavors, such as "Fire in the Belly" which goes for $14.99 on larryscoffee.com.
Rise Up Coffee Roasters
Rise Up is the last on the list because after reading this article, I hope you feel like you can rise above the tin of coffee that costs $3 and invest in something that benefits both the hard laborers who produce it and the earth we reside in. Check out the list of coffees available at riseupcoffee.com, where the average 12-ounce bag is $15.00. Cheers!