Attention Caffeine Junkies!

If you drink coffee (about 50% of Americans drink it every day, and 80% quaff it sometimes) you should know where it comes from. (and hey, now it’s good for you, so go ahead!)

The exhaustively researched cover story for the Nov/Dec Issue of E/The Environmental Magazine, “Grounds For Change” covers the coffee industry, from small fair trade outfits to Starbucks.

There’s three labels to be concerned with if you care about people, birds and the health of the earth: organic, fair trade and song-bird friendly. To make your life easier, if your coffee is organic, chances are it’s fair-trade and good bird habitat, so you don’t need to go nuts looking for triple-certified brew. Besides the labelling, organic coffee just tastes better. For the last few weeks I’ve been sipping on Equal Exchange’s decaf and it is the best decaf I’ve ever had! (I know, I know, decaf, I ‘m a weenie).

This is why: “Coffee grows best in tropical highlands,” explains Chris Wille, the Costa Rica-based chief of the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Agriculture Program. The bushy plants are maintained at a height of six to eight feet. After the seeds are dried and hulled, they become green coffee beans. A mature coffee plant generally yields about a pound of roasted beans per year. According to Connecticut-based roaster Coffee-Tea-Etc., “Every step in the process from climate and growing conditions, genetics of the tree, to the final brewing methods affect these natural chemicals. Each of these factors affects the distinct taste of the final brew.”

‘This is what shade-grown coffee looks like. Integrated with the forest, it makes a better tasting coffee.’

‘This is what coffee that's grown in the sun looks like. Monoculture alert!’

There are also some excellent sidebars to the article, including one on where to find this good-for-us-all brew.

About Starre Vartan
Starre Vartan is editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life.


  1. Ok — I kinda disagree with this: “if your coffee is organic, chances are it’s fair-trade and good bird habitat” cuz there are a lotta struggling organic coffee farmers out there…

    Regardless, I agree that all three — shade grown, fair trade, and organic — are v. important 🙂

  2. I challenge the purported “health benefits” of consuming coffee. Recent studies have shown acrylamide (known carcinogen) to be a by-product of the roasting process. It has also been noted that even decaf coffee can be bad for heart health by increasing dangerous type of cholesterol. Anything that changes bodliy function so dramatically, and creates entire nations of latte junkies, has to have some serious effects on our health.

  3. These hold em hold em hold em bluff minus?

  4. Hello,

    I completely agree with fair trade.

    Thanks for promoting it !!!

    Best regards.

  5. Thanks for promoting it !!!

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