Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? I don’t know, but for some reason, when I read the term “shade coffee,” I thought of something mystical. In any case, it is just a term used to refer to coffee that is grown without full exposure to the sun. Why do they do this? Because shade grown coffee takes much longer to ripen and it is believed that longer ripening times makes the coffee’s flavor better.
I am not an expert in this area so I think I’d better share with you the view of a person who knows more about this. Here’s an excerpt from a post in Coffee and Conservation – a very interesting blog on coffee and the environment:
In order to produce faster, higher yields and prevent the spread of coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), many coffee plantations have begun to grow coffee under sunnier conditions. The fewer shade trees that are in coffee plantations, the less biodiversity there is in those plantations.
This loss of biodiversity, especially in birds, has led conscientious consumers to look for “shade grown” coffee. However, coffee is grown under a continuum of conditions, from rustic or traditional, to full sun, and these “shades of shade” are not all equal when it comes to the health of ecosystems. Unfortunately, there is no official definition of “shade grown,” so coffee so labeled may be grown under what are technically shady conditions, but which are little better full sun.
There is more to be learned about shade coffee. I suggest that you visit the blog and find out for yourself.