If you’ve ventured into our shop to peruse our selection of beans, you may have noticed some of the varietals are labeled “bird-friendly”. This often raises a question with customers -- how can the coffee help birds, and how is it different from organic? It all has to do with the style of farming.

Here at Alta, we sell shade-grown coffee, a method using agroforestry that keeps a diverse array of plant and tree species growing amongst the coffee plants. This approach is drastically different to full-sun coffee, which clears acres of land and destroys natural habitats.

Every year, approximately 120 different species of migratory birds head south from North America to a milder winter in the tropics. Countries such as Guatemala, our featured coffee for this month, are part of the Mesoamerican Biological Bird Corridor. This area provides shelter and food for 10% of birds across the globe. Species like the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Magnolia Warbler and Chimney Swift all make the journey each year. Many of these birds we consider to be native to North America, when in reality they spend more of their time each year in Central America. This is why maintaining their tropical habitat is so important.

To be certified bird-friendly, farms must first be certified organic, as pesticides are very harmful to birds. They must also “meet bird-friendly standards that include a 40% canopy cover, and a certain number of tree species and shrub density in their crops”, as the Smithsonian requires.

Next time you drink Alta Organic Coffee, you can feel good about your choice to promote sustainable coffee farming and help save thousands of birds from habitat destruction!