Fair Trade and Shade Grown Coffee

Raquel Kaelin

American College of Healthcare Sciences

Fair Trade and Shade Grown Coffee

No two terms are more synonymous with coffee in today’s society than “shade grown” and “fair trade”. These buzz words have generated a lot of attention, and for good reason. Rather than a tool of exploitation, these terms serve to protect the people and the environment of coffee growing regions. According to Fairtrade America (2018), Fair trade standards are implemented to “support farmers and their communities and protect the environment.” Fair trade does this by guaranteeing farmers a minimum price, which provides assurance of steady income if and when coffee prices drop (Fairtrade America, 2018).

Shade grown coffee refers to the ecologically sound practice of growing coffee beans under the canopy of shade-bearing trees, as was common practice until the early 1990’s (Steward, K. L., 2007, p. 238). The benefits of shade-grown coffee include, but are not limited to: nutrient-rich soil from the ecological diversity found in the forest beds, longer life spans than sun-grown coffee trees (by up to 75 years), greater quantity and variety of bird species, and alternative income through other crops/trees (Stewart, K. L., 2007, p. 237).

While conservation and equality organizations have worked to standardize practices for fair trade and shade grown, it is always best to track down the source of your coffee and ask questions. Find out about the farm where the coffee you purchase is grown; ask questions: how are the farmers treated? Does your coffee roaster have a direct relationship with the farmers or are there many middle men (likely lowering the profit for the farmer)? Is the coffee grown in a natural and shade-covered environment? Which indigenious plants and bird species thrive in the region? The more questions and information you can gather, the more educated you can be about which company you want to support. Make sure you remember, you always vote with your dollar, and be sure you are proud of what you are voting for.




FairTrade America (2018). Coffee. FairTrade America. Retrieved from: http://fairtradeamerica.org/Fairtrade-Products/Coffee

Stewart, K. L. (2007). Eating Between the Lines. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.