Is Your Morning Cup of Joe Toxic? (The Case for Shade Grown and Organic Coffee)

What's Lurking In Your Cup of Coffee? | Healthy, Fit & Barefoot!

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Happy Friday everyone! I’m sitting here typing this sipping on my morning cup of coffee and thinking about how many millions of people enjoy coffee every morning (some people all day long).

Coffee is a “hot” commodity…lol…Over 80% of US adults now drink at least 1 cup of coffee on a regular daily basis which equates to nearly 600 million cups of coffee per day!

Coffee isn’t only good for giving you a boost of energy, it’s got some other amazing health benefits.

  • Coffee boosts athletic performance
  • Coffee can help those who suffer from asthma
  • Coffee can mitigate the pain of migraine headaches (although withdrawal from caffeine can cause other headaches)
  • Coffee raises your metabolic rate which can aide in your weight loss efforts
  • Caffeine has a paradoxical effect on hyperactive children with ADD; letting such children drink coffee seems to calm them down
  • Coffee is high in antioxidants. In fact, several studies have noted that coffee has one of the highest, if not the highest, antioxidant content of all foods.
  • Coffee is also extremely high in polyphenols and may have a protective role in degenerative diseases such as brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and even certain cancers

I have been a coffee “geek” since my teens…I used to work at Starbucks and even wrote a business plan in my final semester of college on opening my own coffee shoppe. One of my favorite books is called Uncommon Grounds which is all about the history of coffee and how it transformed our world. Did you ever hear about how coffee was actually found? “According to folklore an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi discovered the joys of coffee when his goats ate the berries and became so frisky that they “danced”. Kaldi soon joined them.” There are other stories, but this is the most enjoyable version 🙂

Why Buy Organic Coffee?

Coffee is the third most heavily sprayed crop on earth. It is steeped in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides – a real mouthful with a bad taste. Not only does the environment suffer from this overload, but so do the people who live in it. Farmers are exposed to a high level of chemicals while spraying the crops and while handling them during harvest. The surrounding communities are also impacted through chemical residues in the air and water. These chemical presences are not just unpleasant; many are highly toxic and detrimental to human health.

Organic coffee is grown with only organic fertilizers, like coffee pulp, chicken manure, or compost. Organic farms also combat climate change by emitting less carbon than chemical farms, while also sequestering significant amounts of carbon. As a bonus, organic coffee beans are richer in healthful antioxidants, and many people can even taste the difference. Your health, and the health of the planet, both get a boost.

What is Fair Trade?

Your rich cup of Fair Trade coffee can help farmers escape poverty. Most small-scale family farmers live in remote locations and lack access to credit, so they are vulnerable to middlemen who offer cash for their coffee at a fraction of its value. Fair Trade guarantees farmers a minimum price, and links farmers directly with importers, creating long-term sustainability. Through Fair Trade, farmers earn better incomes, allowing them to hold on to their land and invest in quality.

What is Shade Grown Coffee?

Coffee comes in two species: robusta, a plant that produces a lower-quality coffee, is able to grow in direct sunlight and at lower elevations and is typically produced using an intensive farming style; or, Arabica, a plant that produces a higher-quality coffee that flourishes under the cover of shade and is grown in more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.

Coffee evolved in shaded environments. It thrives in rain forests and under layers of trees patching together a blanket of shade from different heights.

Shade-grown coffee can benefit farmers and the environment:

Potential Livelihood Benefits:

  • Provide farmers with additional sources of income, in the form of fruit or wood
  • Reduce farmers’ production costs, as shade-grown coffee generally requires fewer chemical inputs, such as pesticides
  • Increase farmers’ productivity over the long-term, as coffee trees grown under shade have a longer lifespan than those grown under very lightly shaded or full-sun conditions; the data on short-term productivity gains is more inconclusive
  • Raise coffee quality, which can lead to higher prices for farmers, as shaded coffee trees generally produce slow-maturing, larger beans with a better flavor profile (read more about the evidence in this discussion from the Specialty Coffee Association of America)
  • Provide farmers with access to specialty markets that reward shade-grown coffee with  premium prices

Potential Environmental Benefits:

  • Enrich the soil and strengthen root systems, preventing soil degradation and erosion
  • Capture and retain rainfall, lowering temperatures for the heat-sensitive coffee trees
  • Attract birds, ants, and other organisms that serve as a natural pest control against coffee pests
  • Remove carbon from the atmosphere, helping with climate change mitigation
  • (Assuming a high degree of shade) Serve as important habitat for wildlife, such as migratory birds – this is why shade-grown coffee is often also called “bird-friendly” coffee (read more about bird-friendly coffee on the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center website).

When I purchase my coffee I look for these labels:

My favorite Shade Grown & Organic Coffee’s:

There are more brands out there, but these are the 3 I’ve personally had and enjoy, and know that they are organic and shade grown. (Shade grown coffee doesn’t have an actual label, so if you want to know 100% that your coffee is shade grown look for the “Bird Friendly” label) 

If you have tried and found an organic and shade grown coffee that you love, please do share with me!

Oh and if you’re looking for a healthy coffee creamer, check this blog post out.

Stay Healthy my Friends!

XO,

Carrie A Groff

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