15 years of Coffee & Conservation

by JulieCraves on December 6, 2020

I made the first post on this website on this day in 2005. I initially envisioned a modest collection of resources explaining the importance of “shade-grown coffee” to biodiversity, birds in particular. As an ornithologist, I knew how critical wintering habitats in the tropics are to the birds that I studied here in North America. As a coffee drinker, I was frustrated and surprised that there was no single go-to place for consumers that would enable them (us!) to make an informed choice about what coffees were grown under ecologically-responsible methods. I thought I would just whip one up!

Here I am, fifteen years and hundreds of posts later. There were so many layers of nuance to explore: not only ecology, but also agronomy, economics, marketing, and the social and cultural aspects of coffee. I attended trade shows, and visited coffee farms. And drank a lot of coffee.

There has been so much evolution in the coffee world over these years. Consolidation among the big players in coffee buyers (often to private ownership) has made it nearly impossible for me to provide what I considered to be some of the most valuable data on this site: which corporations owned which brands, and how much certified or eco-certified coffee they purchased. A proliferation of certifications or sustainability claims, with increasingly copious criteria and similar but unequal definitions, has made my other crucial task — attempting to explain what these labels, standards, and seals mean to the consumer — tedious at best.

The coffee and product reviews have been fun, and I have especially enjoyed writing about birds and biodiversity. But the difficulty in updating information on certification standards and corporate ownership, purchasing, and sustainability issues that I consider the core of my mission has me uncertain as to the future of this site. So I’ve while had some long dry spells without posting, depending on what was going on in my own life, now I feel I am at a crossroad.

I welcome constructive comments on what direction this website should take as I ponder the future. Just leaving the site here indefinitely is likely not an option. Although I am now accepting donations, I haven’t tried very hard to monetize this site because my emphasis was on providing information, not making money. As a recent semi-involuntary retiree, I don’t think I can commit to supporting the site long-term.

Thank you, readers and friends, for this interesting journey. We’ll see where the future takes us.

Revised on November 28, 2020

Posted in Housekeeping

John Hamburg December 15, 2020 at 3:54 pm

Well said about the factors that affect researching a topic. It may be like when picking a topic for a term paper whether in high school or graduate school. If its one that has roadblocks such as yours does, it makes for a much harder project. I respect your great results, and like so many things that are changing fast and unpredictably, it leaves one without easy answers for future directions. I myself, would appreciate whatever info you are able to supply to the body of knowledge, so please continue in some form. Thanx!!

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