Background information

Coffee growing areas and biodiversity hotspots overlap, illustrating the importance of encouraging — through our purchasing power — coffee farms that preserve habitat.

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Revised on August 14, 2011

Coffee is equipped with an excellent defense against herbivory: caffeine. Caffeine is one of many alkaloids that evolved in various plants to prevent them from being eaten by insects. Evolution doesn’t stand still, however, and some insects have fought back….

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Revised on June 20, 2011

Coffee basics

by on September 29, 2006

Coffee & Conservation is all about helping consumers make the right choice when it comes to picking great coffee that is good for the environment. Coffee reviews are by regular folks using, we hope, understandable language and ordinary techniques. Still,…

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Revised on March 23, 2014

There’s so much stuff at Sweet Maria’s web site, seems like every time you visit you find another nugget. I found a great table of information on when the peak harvest and best shipping times are for coffee crops around…

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Revised on October 26, 2010

Why sustainable agriculture is important to biodiversity and the alleviation of poverty.

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Revised on August 14, 2011

A little primer on the various botanical varieties of coffee — including most popular types of arabica coffee as well as some that include robusta heritage, and even some liberica.

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Revised on April 1, 2012

Can people without a biology background — coffee roasters, importers, or retailers — make sound assessments of coffee plantations?

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Revised on October 26, 2010

There are pros and cons to the shade certification process, including costs to farmers, and problems with applying one-size-fits-all biodiversity criteria to different regions. Therefore, some farms may meet or exceed certification criteria — and be excellent sanctuaries for biodiversity…

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Revised on November 2, 2010

Who owns what?

by on February 20, 2006

You can find many different coffee brands on supermarket shelves, and frequently multiple brands are actually owned by one of only a few corporate conglomerates. Some of these companies have poor records when it comes to environmental and social responsibility….

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Revised on September 9, 2013

What is shade-grown coffee?

by on February 6, 2006

It is important to understand the various levels of growing coffee under shade. This lists the five most typical categories, from the most desirable, traditional growing method, to the least diverse, most modern and technified method.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

The problems with sun coffee

by on February 5, 2006

In order to increase the yield of coffee shrubs and individual farms, coffee farmers were encouraged to replace traditional shade grown coffee with sun cultivation. Over 2.5 million acres of forests in Central America were destroyed to make way for monocultures of sun grown coffee.

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Revised on March 22, 2014

Birds and coffee plantations

by on February 4, 2006

Traditional, shade-grown coffee plantations harbor a diversity of many taxa — orchids, insects, and mammals, for example. But it is the research that showed the importance of shade coffee plantations to birds that caught the attention of the public, and…

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Revised on January 14, 2012

There is no set definition of the term “shade grown.” Here are the two main certifications that deal with shade coffee.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

If it’s certified Fair Trade… Over 80% of the coffee certified Fair Trade in the U.S. (by TransFair USA) is also shade grown. Organizations that certify shade grown coffee are the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Rainforest Alliance. Nearly…

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Revised on March 23, 2014

What is Fair Trade?

by on February 2, 2006

Worldwide, habitat destruction is the leading cause of bird population declines and loss of biodiversity. The link between poverty and environmental degradation is inescapable. Making sure that coffee farmers receive a living wage is one way to help preserve habitat…

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Revised on March 23, 2014