Over 100 million bags of coffee are produced globally each year. Just a fraction of these bags come from farms that participate in sustainable farming practices. Producing delicious coffee and caring for the environment has become a top priority for many farmers in recent years.
Bird friendly coffee means that the coffee was produced on a farm that meets strict criteria for sustainable farming practices. If you’re looking for the best bird friendly coffee brands so you can help coffee farms practice environmentally safe procedures, we’ve got you covered.
What is Bird Friendly Coffee?
Bird friendly coffee is a type of environmentally friendly coffee produced on farms that help support biodiversity. Coffees that are bird friendly are certified through the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC).
All bird friendly coffee is shade-grown, but not all shade-grown coffee is bird friendly. The SMBC sets strict guidelines that coffee farmers must meet to put a bird friendly certification label on their products.
Other certification labels may not include as strict of guidelines as the Smithsonian bird friendly label. However, there are other certifications that require sustainable farming practices.
Environmentally-friendly farm practices not only protect wildlife, but often results in higher-quality coffee beans.
Where is Bird Friendly Coffee Grown?
Bird friendly coffee can be grown in any of the coffee-producing regions. Since bird friendly coffee is shade-grown, it’s likely that most bird friendly coffee comes from Arabica coffee plants. Arabica plants thrive in high-altitude, shade-grown environments.
It’s uncommon for the other main coffee variety, Robusta, to be grown in canopy-covered environments. This is because it’s able to withstand harsh weather conditions. Places known for growing beans in full-sun conditions include Brazil and Vietnam.
Many coffee farms also don’t practice sustainable habits but participate in forest clearing. More than half of coffee farms around the world aren’t bird friendly.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t coffee farms there that practice sustainable farming, but it’s less common.
Countries that are known to grow their coffee in canopy-covered environments include Peru, India, and Ecuador. The SMBC works with several certified coffee farms throughout Latin America, Eastern Africa, India, and Thailand.
Bird Friendly Coffee Certifications
Although the bird friendly certification is the top label to look for in bird friendly coffee brands, there are other labels to keep an eye out for.
The Rainforest Alliance label doesn’t specifically state that it protects birds, but its main goal is to ensure farmers are being environmentally and socially conscious.
Coffee farmers who seek a Rainforest Alliance certification must follow sustainable agricultural practices in an effort to protect forests, wildlife, rivers, and soils. The SMBC bird friendly certification has more strict criteria in place that specifically keeps birds in mind.
Another environmentally friendly coffee label to look for is organic certified by an accredited organization. Organic certification means harmful pesticides were not used on the coffee plants. Pesticides can be harmful to the environment and wipe out food sources for birds.
One of the requirements for the Smithsonian bird friendly certification is that it must be organic certified by a certification agency accredited by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The European Union (EU) and USDA have an agreement in which organic certification can be given to producers that meet EU and USDA standards.
Coffee farmers may use natural products to ward off pests that aren’t harmful to the environment or depend on birds to eat the pests.
Benefits of Buying Bird Friendly Coffee Brands
Buying bird friendly coffee can be a little pricey for some brands. However, there are several benefits that come with bird friendly coffee brands.
Bird friendly coffee is good for the environment and wildlife. It protects fauna and flora in the area by preserving habitats and ecosystems. Bird friendly coffee supports biodiversity by following sustainable practices that work alongside nature, instead of against it.
Certified organic coffees are free of pesticides that can harm not only wildlife but also humans.
The quality of coffee beans can also be higher for bird friendly coffee brands. There are a few ways coffee is grown that enhance its quality. These characteristics may include:
- Coffee grown at higher altitudes
- Shade-grown coffee
- Type of coffee bean
At least 40% foliage coverage after pruning is one of the requirements to receive the SMBC bird friendly certification. This means that coffee farms need to be intermixed with other vegetation and have canopy coverage.
Preserving trees and other vegetation provides habitats for native bird species. Canopy coverage is an important part of a bird’s habitat.
When canopy coverage is provided over coffee plants, this is known as shade-grown coffee. Coffee grown in shade is generally considered higher-quality. Coffee beans that thrive most in shade-grown environments are of the Arabica variety.
Robusta beans are able to withstand harsh temperatures and no-shade environments. Although Robusta plants can be grown in the shade, most shade-grown coffees are Arabica beans.
High-altitude environments are ideal conditions for Arabica beans, which results in higher-quality beans. You can find many of these qualities on bird friendly coffee farms.
Looking for Bird Friendly Labels
One of the first things you can look for in bird friendly coffees is certification labels. Some coffee brands may state they’re environmentally or bird friendly, but certification is important for establishing credibility.
The Smithsonian bird friendly certification label is black with the words “Bird Friendly” on it. Written below is “Smithsonian” with the institution’s logo next to it.
The Rainforest Alliance has multiple labels for different products. Its label for coffee is generally a green-colored seal with a frog in the center and “Rainforest Alliance” stamped along the top of the seal.
Certified organic labels can look different depending on what agency it’s from. The USDA label may appear in different colors, but “USDA Organic” is centered inside a circular seal. The organic logo for the EU is bright green with stars that form the shape of a leaf.
Bird Friendly Coffee Brands
1. Peet’s Coffee – Organic Yosemite Dos Sierras
- Single-origin and traceable
- Bird friendly certified
- Portion of proceeds go towards Yosemite National Park preservation
- Sensitive brewing time
Peet’s Coffee Organic Yosemite Dos Sierras is a bird friendly certified, dark roast Colombian coffee. The beans are grown under a canopy at the Finca La Cabaña estate in the mountains of Santa Marta.
It’s hand-roasted in small batches to bring out its milk chocolate, apricot, and toasted almond flavor notes. Along with being bird friendly, a portion of the proceeds for this product goes to the Yosemite National Conservancy.
2. Java Planet – Peru Organic
- Bird friendly certified
- USDA organic and fair trade certified
- Flavor can be underwhelming
Java Planet specializes in roasting sustainable and organic coffee beans. Their Peru Organic coffee is bird friendly, USDA organic, and fair trade certified. The beans are also free of GMOs.
This single-origin, Peruvian coffee is 100% Arabica beans that offer sweet floral undertones. It makes a full-bodied cup with a mildly sweet and balanced flavor. This coffee might be a good option if you’re looking for a medium-dark roast that isn’t too strong.
3. Tomorrow’s Coffee – Dark French Roast
- Bird friendly certified
- USDA organic certified
- Fair trade
- Omnidegradable packaging
- Flavor lacks intensity
If you’re looking for a bird friendly certified dark roast, you might enjoy Tomorrow’s Coffee. This brand is focused on providing a sustainable and fair trade coffee. It’s vegan, kosher, and USDA organic certified.
The beans come in omnidegradable packaging, which decomposes five times faster than normal coffee bags. This dark french roast has a smooth chocolate flavor and it’s available in ground or whole beans.
4. Allegro Coffee – Organic Early Bird Blend
- Bird friendly and organic certified
- Well-balanced roast
- Acidic (depending on preference)
- Bitter aftertaste
Allegro Coffee Organic Early Bird Blend is an organic, non-GMO, and bird friendly certified medium roast. If you’re looking for an economically priced bird friendly coffee, this might be a good option for you.
The beans are grown from Latin American coffee farms that practice sustainable farming and don’t use harmful pesticides. This coffee has a smooth body with some acidity and can have a bitter aftertaste. It has a mild flavor with notes of cocoa and roasted nuts.
5. Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company – Honduras
- Bird friendly certified
Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company – Honduras offers a bird friendly certified Honduran coffee. The beans are grown in the town of Marcala within the La Paz region. This single-origin coffee is a light-medium roast with a smooth body.
It has a slight acidity with hints of honey and cherry and notes of dark chocolate. It’s slightly pricey for a bird friendly coffee, but might be a good option if you enjoy these sweet and rich flavors.
Best Bird Friendly Coffee Brands – Final Thoughts
Bird friendly coffee is certified through the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Its guidelines include strict criteria that coffee farmers and producers must meet to preserve the environment.
If you see bird friendly or Rainforest Alliance certification on coffee packaging, this means that the coffee growers practice sustainable farming to protect wildlife and the environment. Bird friendly certified coffee must be shade-grown and organic certified.
If you’re looking for a bird friendly and overall environmentally friendly coffee brand, we suggest trying Tomorrow’s Coffee Dark French Roast. It’s not only bird friendly, but also fair trade certified and comes in packaging that degrades faster. This coffee might be a great option if you love a dark roast that isn’t too intense.
If you’re not a fan of dark roasts, you can try the other brands listed. All of the brands we covered are bird friendly certified and have their own special perks.