What is shade coffee?
This generic term is used to describe coffee trees grown the traditional way, under at least a partial forest canopy.
What are the environmental standards?
Many roasters and sellers support producers who raise coffee in the traditional way, which maintains at least part of the natural canopy of trees that provides habitat for birds and other wildlife. But because there is no third-party or government certification, there are no strict standards to be met by producers who describe their coffee as shade-grown.
What are the labor standards?
Individual vendors selling coffee as shade grown may have relationships that allow them to encourage producers to follow certain labor practices, but there is no standardization.
What's the downside?
Because there is no government certification, as there is for organic coffee, or third-party certification, like Fair Trade or Bird Friendly coffee, the consumer cannot be sure exactly how the coffee was grown. One way to be sure you are getting coffee that didn't result in the destruction of bird habitat is to buy Bird Friendly coffee.
How does the coffee I buy get labeled as shade coffee?
It's up to the producer or seller to describe coffee as shade-grown.