When you drink your daily morning coffee do you ever wonder why it tastes so good or how exactly is it is grown?
The coffee plant is a shrub by nature, and it thrives underneath a canopy of trees where it receives partial sun and partial shade. Coffee beans produced in this manner are known as “shade-grown.” Many factors play a role in the quality and taste of any one brand of coffee – among these are location, soil composition, altitude, temperature, and amount of sun and shade.
Unfortunately in the rush to meet the world’s increasing demand for coffee many farmers removed trees from their land to make room for more plantings. What happened? Plants grew too close together, the soil degraded and eroded from exposure, and the coffee cherries matured too fast. More fertilizer was required, the costs of production went up, and the quality of the coffee product went down.
Today thanks to the higher profits achieved from “specialty” coffee production, more farmers are incentivized to return to the “natural” method of growing coffee. They are planting trees and thinning out fields to lessen the crowding and stress on each coffee shrub.
If you are a fan of shade-grown coffees and want to go see where they are grown, here are five destinations to choose from.
Coffee is an essential part of Ethiopian culture as a whole as the plant was first discovered there and has been cultivated by generations for more than 1,000 years. It is home to the arabica variety of coffee plant – the most popular and widely distributed of the varieties. Arabica is known for its complexity of flavors. The robusta coffee plant is hardier but less flavorful. Ethiopians take coffee very seriously as it is their country’s primary export crop.
More information: Fanos Ethiopia Coffee Tours
Once a coffee powerhouse, Puerto Rico saw its coffee export income fall during the last century. Why? The government stepped in the wrong direction when leaders decided to promote full-sun coffee as the way to increase yields. The quality of the coffee beans nosedived and buyers reduced orders or looked elsewhere. Today Puerto Rican farmers have reversed this trend by returning to more natural methods. The territory now enjoys status as the #1 largest producer of coffee within the United States.
More information: Hacienda Pomarrosa Lodge
When it comes to the arabica bean, Colombia is the world’s 2nd largest exporter. Coffee farming and harvesting has been a trade that's handed down from generation to generation on small family-run farms. Locally-produced coffee is a staple item in most homes, rural and urban. It’s a beautiful country full of forested mountains and deep canyons, and you can enjoy a cable car ride as part of your adventure when visiting selected coffee farms.
More information: Zaia Travel
There’s much to respect about Costa Rica. Its government has pledged that within a few years it will become the world’s first fully self-sustainable country (in terms of renewable energy). With this dedication to environmental conservation, the concept of shade-grown coffee fits right in. Beyond the coffee farm tours, travelers can visit lush rain forests, volcanoes and other natural wonders while enjoying a comfortable climate year-round. Costa Rica is leading the way in Central America.
More information:Finca Rosa Blanca Plantation and Inn
A hugely popular vacation destination, the state of Hawaii also serves as the #2 producer of coffee within the United States. Seeing first-hand how coffee is grown, harvested, and roasted is great fun for many visitors. Maui is one of the islands where you can add a coffee farm tour to your itinerary. In fact, at the O’o Farm, the owners grow a wide variety of crops, so in addition to the tour and sampling of their coffees, you can enjoy a farm-fresh luncheon.
Nutritionist and blogger Christal Sczebel shares her experience and photos of a day at O'o Farm - read her post here.
Peter Carriveau is principal at Carriveau Custom Creations in Wisconsin, USA. To visit his Facebook page - click here.
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