What Is Shade Grown Coffee? Is It Better Than Sun-grown?

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Shade-grown coffee is a method of coffee cultivation in which the plants are grown under a canopy of trees, permitting both the growth and development of shade-loving species. This blog post will cover what is shade grown coffee, how it differs from sun-grown methods, and its effects on taste, sustainability, and more.

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What Is Shade grown Coffee?

Traditionally, coffee plants grow under a canopy of shade trees. Shade-grown coffee farms use different kinds of tree height to create an ecologically diverse and sustainable environment.

However, since pressure has been increasing to increase crop yields, some coffee crops have been cultivated under reduced shade or direct sunlight. Sun-grown coffee removes the natural protective barrier of trees, which means a greater number of chemical pesticides end up being used to prevent pests and disease.

The popularity of coffee consumption has motivated farmers to use the sun-grown method for production, where coffee can be cultivated at a much higher rate. While this may sound like a good thing, one must consider the negative environmental impact of sun-grown coffee, as well as the benefits of shade-grown coffee.

Benefits of Shade Grown Coffee

Great Taste

As the coffee beans mature more slowly in the shade, Shade-grown coffee often provides a more complex taste and is more flavorful than other coffees. As well, shade-grown coffee also promotes pollination of both the plant’s coffee and nearby plants.

Better Health

Coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops, after tobacco. But Shade-grown coffee is organically grown and free from artificial fertilizers or pesticides.

Promotes a Healthier Environment

Shade-grown coffee stands out among the other types mainly because it is less dependent on fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. The shade trees filter carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming and helps to retain soil moisture to minimize erosion.

Provides Bird Habitat and Greater Biodiversity

Migrating bird populations have been in rapid decline since the introduction of “sun” coffee and the consequent destruction of rainforest for more coffee plantations. As many as 150 species of birds have been identified on shade coffee farms.

Provides Bird Habitat and Greater Biodiversity

Shade-grown coffee production is the next best thing to a natural forest. A shade-coffee farm can imitate a native forest, which provides habitat for many different varieties of birds, plants, and insects.

Preservation of Atmospheric Balance

Shade-grown coffee helps decrease deforestation by leaving the trees standing. This allows for better preservation of atmospheric balance due to carbon sequestration.

Cost and Selection

How to know if your coffee is shade-grown:

  • Before deciding on a coffee plantation, look at the company literature or website; it should say that they produce ‘shade-grown’ coffee and do not use pesticides or herbicides.
  • Read the label so you know what kind of coffee you’re buying. Look for words such as bird-friendly, fair trade, certified organic, etc.
  • Country of origin can usually be an indicator of the type of coffee grown. Coffees grown in Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala are most likely to be shade-grown while coffees from Colombia, Brazil, and Costa Rica are more likely to be sun-grown.

Cost: Shade-grown coffee ranges in price from $10 – 15 per pound for roasted blends. Although shade-grown coffee may cost more than regular coffee, it causes less environmental costs.

What Is ‘Shade Grown Certified’?

Shade-grown coffee is not yet standardized, and there is no shade-grown certification that sets standards. To ensure you are getting the best, make sure to investigate the practices for any coffee producer in advance instead of blindly following the label.

But finding shade-grown coffee is not an impossible quest! Coffee-conscious consumers can look for certifications like USDA Organic, Fair Trade, and Bird Friendly.


Where to buy Shade Grown Coffee?

Finding a good shade-grown coffee brand can be a bit difficult. Here’s a great source that offers individual lists of certified growers in places like the U.S, Canada, the U.K, and even the Czech Republic.

Is shade-grown coffee better?

There’s not a ton of empirical evidence to concretely prove that shade-grown coffee is absolutely better than sun-grown. The main factor that is usually brought up is the overall quality of shade-grown beans. Shade-grown beans are generally regarded as higher quality than their sunlight counterparts.

What is one disadvantage of shade-grown coffee farming?

Shade-grown coffee plants grow under the canopy of an umbrella tree. Too much shade can damage your plant and result in fungal infections, but too much sunlight will dry out and burn it instead.


With environmental responsibility and a superior flavor, so we as shoppers should consider buying shade-grown instead. Want a Better Taste of Coffee? Consider Shade-Grown. As retailers, we should push for sustainable farming methods like shade-grown coffee because it tastes better and has less of an effect on the environment.

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