Starbucks to discontinue Organic Shade Grown Mexico

by on November 7, 2011

Late last month, Starbucks announced they will be offering four “Blonde” roast coffees beginning in January 2012. This comes after many years of complaints from consumers that the company roasted all their beans too dark, hence the often-heard “Charbucks” moniker.  The lighter roasts will be two new regular coffees, Starbucks Veranda Blend (using Latin American beans) and Starbucks Willow Blend (Latin America and East Africa), a decaf (Decaf Starbucks Willow Blend), and an instant (Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Veranda Blend).

Rumor has it that four of their current offerings will be replaced by the new coffees. They are the Fair Trade certified Café Estima Blend, the decaf Caffè Verona, the decaf House Blend, and the Organic Shade Grown Mexico. In response to my specific inquiry, I have confirmation from Starbucks that the latter will indeed be discontinued.

We reviewed the Organic Shade Grown Mexico here awhile back, and provided a lot of background information. In a nutshell, this coffee was sourced from farmers in Chiapas in the buffer zone of the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve. The sourcing of coffee from this area was done in partnership with Conservation International, and lead to the development of Starbucks’ green coffee sourcing standards program, known as CAFÉ [Coffee and Farm Equity] Practices. The Starbucks/Conservation International partnership began in 1998, continued for years with substantial reinvestments by Starbucks, being known as the Conservation Coffee program.

Starbucks just recently renewed the partnership for two years and $3 million, with a focus on climate change. The renewal will mark the beginning of work in Brazil, and expand on programs in Sumatra and Chiapas. However, I was unable to get a direct answer from Starbucks on whether or not they will still be providing an organic, shade-grown Mexico coffee as a seasonal offering, whether it will be used in one of the new Blonde blends, or in some other blend.

With the advent of the Conservation International partnership and the development of their CAFE Practices, Starbucks imposed quality standards on the Chiapas cooperatives supplying  this coffee. While it supplied significant benefits to the co-ops initially, many objected to the requirements and quit selling some or all of their coffee to Starbucks once their own capacity and abilities improved. These included CESMACH (Ecological Farmers of the Sierra Madres of Chiapas), Organización de Productores Cafetaleros de Ángel Albino Corzo (OPCAAC), Finca Triunfo Verde Sociedad Civil, and Organización Regional de Productores Agroecológicos (ORPAE). At least one source [1] indicates that many of the suppliers to Starbucks in this area of Chiapas are small producers that do not belong to cooperatives. Perhaps there is not enough volume to support a quasi-single-origin coffee from this region any longer.

In any event, the Blonde roast roll out will coincide with an overhaul of coffee packaging/branding at Starbucks to emphasize the three roast levels (with the lightest being Blonde, which is still roasted to second crack) rather than origin, and that may also play a role in the discontinuation of this coffee.

I have generally recommended the Organic Shade Grown Mexico to friends who are Starbucks customers looking for their most eco-friendly offering.  While I generally believe that the Starbucks CAFE Practices environmental standards, which apply to nearly all their coffees, are quite strong and relevant, I’ll have to reassess to come up with a specific recommendation once the Mexico disappears from shelves.

Renard, M.-C. 2010. In the name of conservation: CAFE Practices and Fair Trade in Mexico. Journal of Business Ethics 92:287-299.

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Revised on February 8, 2013

Posted in Retail and specialty roasters,Starbucks

Audrie December 22, 2011 at 11:34 am

This was the ONLY coffee I’ve ever enjoyed from Starbucks. It works well in my espresso maker and is a great coffee in my regular pot, with the added bonus of being organic. I was so disappointed that they will be discontinuing it. I’ve been going around buy up all the bags at the stores around town–I’m running out of stores! Thanks for the information.

John Humphreys January 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I was outraged when I heard this news. As a regular Starbucks customer and a shareholder, the fact that they had shade-grown was CRITICAL. I wrote and complained and had the usual anodyne brush-off back.
So….I ordered from Audubon coffee club…….and that will do nicely.
But what a cruel blow to the cause of growing coffee AND rain forests…if Starbucks pull out, where is the popular movement to preserve these living jewels?

JACraves January 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm

John — I presume that Starbucks will probably still be buying from these farmers, but perhaps not at the required volume to be able to offer this coffee or (more likely) they’ve decided this isn’t how they want to market it. The Audubon coffee you mentioned is Rainforest Alliance certified, but they do not have shade requirements in their certification (although I have been to some of the farms that their roaster, Rogers Family Coffee, uses and they do have high-quality, often shaded, farms). If you want the strictest criteria for shade, go with a Smithsonian Bird-Friendly certified coffee. Birds and Beans and Golden Valley Farms are the most prominent U.S. distributors. You can learn more about the certification standards here.

Jesse January 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Hey guys the Starbucks store still has some for sale online and if they run out I have an unopened bag (whole bean of course) I would part with at fair price.
Jesseindallas@gmail.com

Bob March 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

I always bought the Mexican Shade Grown Organic, very disappointed when it was dropped. I did find an exact replacement from a fellow vender … It is from ‘Equal Exchange Fairly Traded’.

JACraves March 1, 2012 at 10:07 am

Quite a few roasters carry beans from this area. Look for those listing from Chiapas that are organic and mention being from the El Triunfo area.

Clarke Hamilton April 6, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Dropping the Mexican shade-grown coffee is not the Starbucks I know. This is antithetical to the philosophy of Starbucks. After many, many years of Starbucks purchases, I am sorry to say that I will take my business elsewhere.

Linda Lavender April 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I, too, am thoroughly disappointed in Starbucks dropping this wonderful ORGANIC, shade grown Mexican coffee from their product line. As a holistic nutritionist, I have referred many clients to this wonderful tasting and ORGANIC coffee, and now I don’t know where to take my business to find a similar product. Thanks for the suggestions of other places to look.

John July 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I am not happy that Starbucks discountinued their Mexican organic shade grown coffee, yet they sell horrible “light roast” coffee like Blonde that is neither actually light roasted, nor tastes good or like an actual light roasted coffee should!

Art September 29, 2012 at 1:32 am

I am requesting to Starbucks corp to reconsider dropping the Mexican organic shade grown, This is a sheer blunder all around for the consumer and sales for the company…. Take my advice do not commit suicide, but instead promote the hell out of it and watch sales soar..

D. Cross November 14, 2012 at 10:34 am

I’ve tried those “blonde” coffees and they are nowhere near as good as Mexican shade grown. I will no longer be buying Starbuck’s coffees.

TJ January 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I’m so disappointed to say the least Starbuck’s DCd the only other coffee (decaf) I can drink. I can’t consume caffeine. I searched for years and finally found 2 coffees I liked. Now both are DC’d. One is from Starbucks – decaf Cafe Verona. The other is a brand from Trader Joe’s who claim it never sold. That’s BS as far as I’m concerned. I know very well I’m not the only person in the world who buys and drinks decaf coffee. I think someone is just plain lazy and doesn’t care about the consumer. Well 2 can play this game. Maybe if enough ppl stop patronizing places that tell us we don’t matter they’ll get the picture. I spend a lot of $$ each week buying coffee for the several adults in my home.

Maz September 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Bought twice per year whilst on holiday in USA a suitcase full of shade grown Mexican Starbucks coffee to bring back to uk. Now starbucks not doing it anymore. Where can I get some in USA. I am running out of it. Sad sad sad I love this coffee and
start my mornings waking up with it, love that coffee shame on you starbucks bring it back

Celia Marsh February 6, 2014 at 7:51 am

hi
I was surprised to read you think the Starbuck’s criteria are strict. As i understand it you don’t have to pass any environmental criteria to be ‘verified’ only 6 social ones. And compared to Rainforest their water criteria for BOD is 1000 mg /l as opposed to 50 mg/litre- or have i got it wrong?
Celia

JulieCraves February 19, 2014 at 6:17 am

Take a look at my detailed post on Starbucks CAFE Practices, which explains how they work, what the environmental criteria are like, and contains a link to the standards themselves. Your BOD criteria for wastewater are correct — but the RA water standards are not binding for audit purposes, and even at the largest discharge volumes only require monitoring and recording quarterly. The Starbucks standard calls for monthly checks not matter what the volume. In any event, these criteria really only apply to farms that wet process their own coffee.

The way each program requires/awards points are different (unfortunately…too bad there isn’t an industry standard), but for Starbucks at least 60% of possible points in each section are needed for preferred supplier status, and 80% for strategic supplier status, and there are environmental sections for both coffee growing and coffee processing, and overall are very specific, targeted, and vigorous.

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