So, I’m a huge coffee drinker. I drink maybe a pot a day, and as a writer that probably means that I drink much less than other people do… but it’s still a lot. I have an addiction to coffee of sorts, and I’m OK with that, but recently I’ve started to look more into what it takes to grow this stuff. What I found was that it’s much more involved than I had imagined.
Now, I’ve been buying organic coffee for years. I buy organic everything because I don’t want to eat GMO products and eating organic is literally the only way to avoid them. Recently, I stumbled upon some coffee at the store that I had never used (named Javatopia), that carried the moniker “Bird Friendly”. My first instinct was to ask “What the hell does bird friendly mean?”
Well, here’s what it means.
Traditionally, coffee was grown as an understory crop. It was grown beneath a canopy of trees using sustainable growing/harvesting methods, and was part of a full “food forest” model. It was a self-replenishing cycle that basically allowed the coffee to grow itself. This older method created huge tracts of habitat for many different bird species, however it did not produce uniform crops. As the industry developed into an international sensation, big agricultural interests took over and changed the entire way coffee is produced. They cut down all the trees and converted these “shade grown” and “bird friendly” coffees into “sun grown” coffee plantations. They turned it into monoculture farming.
This monoculture in coffee farming has had the same overall negative effects that monoculture farming has had in all types of agriculture. It turns this once thriving habitat into a genetic wasteland– creating inferior crops and making the land unlivable for any of the birds that once thrived here. Companies like Javatopia are going back to that older way of farming, producing a much more complex product that is much better for the environment.
Who knew growing coffee was such an involved process? It’s just one more example of how we can all make better choices in our purchases. Often, these are choices that we would have never thought of until someone told us about them.