The 4 Best Shade Grown Coffee Brands 2022

Do you like green coffee, like organic?

me too. so if caring for the environment and coffee cherries is important to you, you’ll want to know about shade-grown coffee.

Reading: Best shade grown coffee

Then, dive into the wonderful world of shade-grown coffees and let’s see what these beans have to offer.

what is shade coffee?

As you might guess, shade-grown coffee comes from coffee plants that grow partially or fully in the shade (as opposed to sun-grown varieties, which grow in direct sunlight).

They are often grown under a canopy of shade trees which encourage the natural growth of mulch beneath them, which encourages shade coffee plants well.

Despite the different terminology, it is natural for coffee plants to grow in the shade. Although you can grow coffee in a variety of regions, these plants generally grow in forested regions under the canopy of shade trees.

Trees protect coffee plants from getting too much sunlight. the natural fall of its leaves also covers the ground, adding to the natural mulch and moisture retention of the soil.

That’s not just good for the coffee plant; It is also good for preventing soil erosion and preventing the growth of weeds that could compete for nutrients in the soil. so shade-grown coffee plantations can generally avoid the use of pesticides and other chemical fertilizers.

And because it’s so natural for beans to grow this way, shade-grown coffee beans tend to be of better quality.

sun-grown coffees, on the other hand, can almost burn in the heat. they don’t get the same nutrients as they would from the richer environment under the canopy of a tree.

types of shade coffee

Shade-grown coffee encompasses a broad category of coffees grown in, well, some kind of shade.

but coffee production is full of variation, so naturally there are several types of shade-grown coffee:

fully vs. semi-shaded

shade-grown coffee can be fully or partially shaded.

semi-shade grown coffee usually involves removing much of the local vegetation and perhaps even some of the tree cover to produce an environment that is good for coffee trees. this does not have to negatively affect the environment.

Full shade coffee trees are grown under a much thicker canopy of shade trees. coffee can be shaded by existing forest and/or tall fruit trees, which provide good cover.


This is growing coffee in its most natural form. Rustic shade-grown coffee farms try to remove as little existing vegetation as possible when planting their trees.

Naturally, this is an amazing way to preserve the natural environment, and if you’re already growing in a good spot for the plant, it’s a non-invasive win-win for you, the brew, and the soil. , too.

monoculture vs polyculture

There are two ways to plant coffee crops: using monoculture or polyculture.

In monoculture, you grow exclusively (or at least mainly) one plant. In the case of Java, that means growing only coffee trees, either in direct sunlight (unshaded monoculture) or under the tree canopy (shaded monoculture).

In polyculture, several crops are planted and grown together. Instead of pure coffee plantations, farmers engaged in polyculture will grow and sell other plants/crops (or their by-products) in addition to coffee.

traditional polyculture is closer to rustic coffee farming and involves less manipulation of local plants.

commercial polyculture is more invasive and tends to involve the removal and even replacement of other plants with crops that the farmer wants to sell.

Is shade-grown coffee a bird-friendly coffee?

Speaking of “friendly” coffees, you should keep in mind that not all shade-grown coffee is bird-friendly.

according to the smithsonian migratory bird center, the criteria for smithsonian bird-friendly coffee are quite strict.

require that shade-grown coffee farms not interfere with native bird habitats and engage in specific forestry practices to ensure the farm remains fully “bird-friendly.”

This includes a minimum tree canopy height of 12 feet, certified organic coffee, and foliage diversity requirements.

See also: How to Clean a Cuisinart Coffee Maker (Easy-to-Follow Guide)

Although it remains an ecological practice, shade-grown coffee will not fit all of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s criteria. but even shade-grown coffees that don’t meet the official brand will still be more bird-friendly than other beans.

sun-grown coffee often means deforestation, which is no better for local bird populations than it is for the rest of the ecosystem.

Because shade-grown coffee promotes the use of the natural forest canopy, it is generally much kinder to the surrounding region and ecosystem, including birds.

best shade coffee brands 2022

1. stimulating coffee

lifeboost is just a good brand. all of their coffees are fair trade, shade-grown, and low-acid. (They also roast great decaf options!)

co-founder dr. Charles Livingston understood that a morning cup of coffee is an important morning ritual, and he set out to make it healthier. lifeboost coffees are single origin (avoiding the possibility of cross contamination), certified organic, and friendly to the stomach.

They also test for over 400 different toxins to ensure your coffee beans are as clean as possible.

lifeboost sells light, medium and dark roasts, fully caffeinated or decaf, as well as flavored coffees and pods. if you like it, they probably sell it, in a low-acid, stomach-friendly variety that doesn’t compromise on flavor.

Their roasts typically come with multiple grind options per brew method or as whole beans.

You can buy lifeboost coffees as a one-time purchase or through a subscription with discounted prices. But for now, LifeBoost only ships to the US. uu. and Canada.

2. fabulous coffee

fabula is a lot like lifeboost. Inspired by classic Peruvian mountain coffees, Fabula sells low-acid, “healthy” coffee grown in the shade at high elevations.

Their coffees are certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO. fabula is also committed to single origin roasts, considering it to be of higher quality.

Fabula’s light roast in particular is an excellent shade-grown coffee. From the southern highlands of Mexico, these coffee beans are fully washed and have notes of red apple, cocoa, nuts, and brown sugar.

It is complex but feels light thanks to its low acid content.

fabula coffee also sells caffeinated and decaf coffees in all types of roasts, as well as k-cups. you can buy your coffee in whole beans or ground, one time or through a subscription.

They buy from cooperatives of small farmers. this keeps prices fair for farmers and ensures plants are grown with quality, rather than quantity, in mind.

fabula strives to be stomach friendly by testing for over 300 toxins to keep the coffee clean (and definitely always mold free) and keeping the acidity low.

You’ll find fabled reviews from people with stomach issues like acid reflux who swear they can drink coffee again thanks to fabled low acid coffee beans.

fabula is for online ordering only, but is roasted and shipped three times a week to keep the coffee beans/grounds fresher. your first order can be refunded within 30 days if you are not satisfied.

3. freshly roasted coffee

freshly roasted coffee is certified fair trade, direct trade, usda organic and kosher.

Committed to sustainability, Fresh Roast Coffee LLC uses smokeless roasters that emit fewer emissions and the company is Rainforest Alliance certified.

one of their best coffees is the medium roast Haitian blue.

Apparently, Haitian Blue is the only organic, shade-grown coffee in the country. Haitian blue is fully washed and sun-dried on the patio.

These high-quality Arabica beans are on the lighter side of medium and have hints of cinnamon, sweet tobacco and plum. this roast is bold and a little “maillard” (golden and deep) and can be a bit oily.

You can order Haitian Blue Coffee and other freshly roasted coffee roasts as whole beans or fine, coarse or drip/pour grinds.

their swiss decaffeinated water from sumatra is also a great choice for shade growing. it’s earthy, bold, and even a little smoky. tastes darker than medium light as advertised.

4. volcanic coffee

volcanica offers more than 150 coffees, including single origin, estate, peaberry, decaf, low acid and flavored coffees from around the world.

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many of their coffees are also certified rainforest alliance and fair trade. their website has all three designations (including shade grown) as filter options when shopping, so you can be sure you’re getting the right roast.

the atlanta, georgia roaster specializes in single origin coffees from high altitude farms. is a family business with a history in the coffee industry. Previous generations harvested coffee in Costa Rica; the current generation started volcanic.

And yes, their coffees only come from volcanic regions around the world.

volcanica has four shaded browns:

  • Costa Rican Pea: A washed process medium roast with notes of honey, lemon and almond. it’s bright and slightly sweet.
  • Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy: A medium washed process roast with notes of jasmine, citrus, cherry, caramel and floral flavors. It is lively and sweet but with a mild flavor. It is a true full-bodied Kona coffee certified by the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.
  • kenya aa: A light to medium washed process roast with notes of raspberry, blueberry, redwood and light florals. it’s almost sweet with wine-like fruity undertones and is on the tart side. you can also get kenya aa as decaf.
  • toraja sulawesi peaberry: Another washed process medium roast, toraja sulawesi has a mild flavor with hints of chamomile, lemon and a slight tangy flavor. Grown on the oldest Toraja trees (over 250 years old), this Indonesian barbecue is rare, delicious, and fair trade.
  • You can buy their wide variety of coffees by subscription or individually. they also offer a special discounted subscription rate for students.

    the shade coffee buyers guide

    shade coffee benefits

    There are many benefits of shade-grown coffee.

    As we discussed earlier, coffee is naturally grown under the canopy of trees, so shade cultivation is automatically ideal for coffee farms. naturally supports good soil health, as falling leaves provide good mulch.

    It even limits the need for pesticides since that layer of fallen leaf mulch suppresses weed growth. that’s a benefit to organic farmers and saves farmers the cost of treating plants for pests. (fertilizers are also a minor problem).

    Shade-grown coffee farms are also a great way to encourage carbon dioxide sequestration as they conserve and maintain their forests/trees for production. They’re also a great way to preserve the natural habitat of birds and the homes of other creatures.

    Another interesting benefit of shade-grown coffee is that it also tends to be less acidic. It takes a little longer to grow coffee in the shade, which seems to lower the bean’s acidity and create a much smoother, richer, more balanced flavor.

    shade coffee vs sun coffee

    shade-grown coffee is generally more popular than coffee grown in full sun.

    Most importantly, shade-grown coffees tend to be of better quality. They grow the way coffee should be grown, under a canopy of shade trees amidst a layer of dead leaves that support good soil moisture and health.

    Shade-grown coffee is generally grown organically, as pesticides and other chemical fertilizers are simply not necessary.

    The natural layer of dead leaves that accumulates under the shade of the trees prevents weeds from growing and fights the coffee trees for resources.

    and again, since that layer of leaves is so good at maintaining soil health, there is plenty of natural mulch to support coffee tree growth without the need for added chemicals.

    Growing coffee entirely in the sun does the opposite. there is no more shade to protect the coffee plant, and no leaf drop to keep the soil in better shape.

    Shadeless coffee plantations often need chemical pesticides and fertilizers to help the coffee grow better in the less hospitable environment.

    Worst of all, since coffee lands tend to be more forested, coffee plantations are often engaged in deforestation to make room for mass coffee production. this results in habitat loss and damage to the natural environment.

    Ultimately, sun-grown beans can be produced in large quantities, but tend to be of lower quality.

    And since it’s not good for the environment, many farmers are turning more and more to traditional shade growing.

    the final verdict: the best shade coffee

    Shade-grown coffee is the mo of lifeboost, so it will of course top our list of the best shade-grown coffee beans.

    but for that matter, fabula is an equally good option.

    Both brands offer entirely shade-grown coffees thanks to their commitment to low-acid, stomach-friendly beverages. both roast excellent coffee and rigorously test for mold and a wide variety of other toxins.

    their coffee is not only grown with environmentally sound practices in mind, with lifeboost and fabula coffees

    bird friendly cafe is an official designation of the smithsonian migratory bird center.

    When the coffees are bird-friendly, they are shade-grown and the farm uses specific forestry practices aimed at preserving the habitat of local migratory birds and bird populations in general. these coffees must also be organically grown (since that also supports bird populations).

    your cup will also be quite healthy for you. just don’t go crazy with the sweetener!

    See also: A Coffee Lovers Guide To Providence, Rhode Island

    frequently asked questions


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