What is “Bird Friendly®” coffee?
- Simply put, “Bird Friendly®” coffee is coffee that comes from farms in Latin America that provide good, forest-like habitat for birds. Rather than being grown on land that has been cleared of all other vegetation, “Bird Friendly®” coffees are planted under a canopy of trees.
Because of the shaded, forest-like setting created by these canopy trees, coffee produced this way is called shade-grown. Not only are “Bird Friendly®” coffees shade-grown, they are also organic, meaning they’re grown without the use of chemical pesticides which poison the environment.
What’s the difference between “Bird Friendly®” coffees and other coffees?
- “Bird Friendly®” coffees are the only coffees on the market that are certified as shade-grown and organic by an independent third-party inspector using criteria established by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center of the National Zoo.
These criteria are based on years of scientific research. Companies that sell “Bird Friendly®” coffees contribute 25 cents per pound to support Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center research and conservation programs.
How do I know if the coffee I buy is “Bird Friendly®”?
- Look for the “Bird Friendly®” logo created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
Where do “Bird Friendly®” coffees come from?
- Like much of the world coffee, “Bird Friendly®” coffees are grown in the highlands of many Latin America countries from Mexico south to Peru.
Do “Bird Friendly®” coffees cost more than other coffees?
- Yes, “Bird Friendly®” coffees may cost a few cents more per cup. This is a small price to pay given the benefits to birds and other wildlife, coffee farmers, and the overall health of the environment.
How do “Bird Friendly®” coffees taste compared to other coffees?
- Coffee experts say that shade-grown coffees taste better than sun-grown coffees. This is because shade coffee beans ripen more slowly, resulting in a richer flavor.
Where can I purchase “Bird Friendly®” coffee?
- You can purchase “Bird Friendly®” coffee at all Smithsonian National Zoo stores and restaurants. In addition, there are a number of companies across the United States and Canada that sell certified “Bird Friendly®” coffees through retail stores, internet sales, and by mail order. Sources of Bird Friendly coffee.
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has developed the only 100% organic and shade-grown coffee certification available: Bird Friendly.
That’s right—no other bag guarantees that every bean is produced organically and under high-quality shade. Our seal of approval ensures tropical “agroforests” are preserved and migratory birds find a healthy haven when they travel from your backyard to those faraway farms producing the beans you so enjoy every morning.
Great for birds and for people
With widespread clear cutting for sun coffee plantations, it’s imperative to protect the tropical forest that remains and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems. Every cup of Bird Friendly coffee you drink encourages more farmers to grow in the shade, which is good for birds and for people.
First, the coffee is certified organic, which means managing a healthy soil base and applying no harmful pesticides to the coffee that could otherwise run off into streams and rivers. This helps reduce the billions of pounds of noxious chemicals injected annually into natural ecosystems that support wildlife and communities.
But our program goes a step further, requiring a variety of native shade trees throughout the coffee plantation. Through decades of research, we’ve learned the combination of foliage cover, tree height and diversity needed to provide suitable migratory bird habitat while maintaining productive farms. Producers must be recertified every three years to ensure they continue to meet these requirements and can truly call themselves Bird Friendly.
This results in better-tasting coffee—its rich flavor comes from beans maturing slowly in the shade. Farmers protect water sources for their communities and sequester carbon by managing the forest-like system, which also provides a host of other products like cacao and spices. And the premium prices they fetch for Bird Friendly coffee supports their families and local economies.
What makes us different? Several important things.
Supermarket shelves are full of coffee touting their environmental credentials. What makes Bird Friendly coffee different? Several things set Bird Friendly coffees apart from other coffees making environmental claims. First and foremost is a history of and ongoing commitment to criteria based on science. The standards come directly out of ornithological fieldwork conducted by SMBC researchers. Current and future studies by our staff, post-docs and students will continue to gather information that will deepen our understanding of the connections between shade coffee and birds and other wildlife—as well as farmers’ livelihoods.
Bird Friendly certification also insists on organic certification as a pre-requisite. It is mandatory. Moreover (and obviously) shade inspection and certification are mandatory for Bird Friendly. And the inspections and certifications are done by agencies accredited by the USDA’s National Organic Program, assuring consumers of quality control. Once certified, Bird Friendly farms are monitored on a regular basis by these third parties.
Finally, there is the question of product purity. Some certification programs allow a small percentage of non-certified product in their bag, recognizing the difficulty of controlling the process at the farm level. Other so-called sustainable coffee programs permit product dilution, allowing as little as 30 percent to meet their standards and still carry their certification label. Some shade-grown programs don’t require shade trees meet a minimum height—a factor studies proved is critical to quality habitat for neotropical migrants and resident birds.
SMBC’s Bird Friendly certification is the only one that is 100 percent guaranteed organic and shade-grown, and translates to the healthiest farms.