Both Shade Grown and Bird Friendly certifications are designed to protect the natural flora and fauna of coffee farmland by maintaining naturally occurring tree growth canopy.
De-forestation is a big problem in many Central and South American coffee growing countries, especially in places like Brazil where coffee quantity is prioritized over coffee quality, and the government has at times encouraged cutting down the rainforest for cattle farming and coffee farming.
At Ruby, we fully support the mission of Shade Grown and Bird Friendly certification, however, their certification programs are truly aimed at large-scale commercial coffee farms.
High quality coffee requires shade canopy in order to slow the growth and development and ripening of the coffee cherry, and most coffee farms we buy from are also located at extremely high elevations in mountain ranges. The natural tree growth not only provides biodiversity which replenishes nutrients in the soil, it also prevents erosion and makes sure the newly planted coffee trees have safe, deep dirt to root into.
Almost all of the coffee farms we buy from use a natural planting technique, in which coffee trees are planted and spread out in between naturally growing shade canopy, and some farms even plant new shade canopy trees as well. Most shade canopy trees on coffee farms are other types of fruit trees, and the fruit they provide is either sold as a broader offering from the farm, or used as part of daily cooking for farmworkers.
We're very proud of the hard work that the farmers we source from — growing high quality coffee requires extremely hard work in extreme conditions. While we feel most of the farms we work with would easily qualify for Shade Grown or Bird Friendly Certifications, we currently do not require certifications for the farms we work with. It's likely that some farms we source from do have these certifications, but we have decided not to license the labels for our coffee bags so that some coffees appear to have more conscious shade canopy than others.