We try to specialize in organic, shade grown and fair trade coffees whenever possible. Here are some definitions:
Certified Organically Grown Coffee- Coffees that are certified by an internationallly respected Agency such as the USDA or The Rain Forest Alliance to have been grown without the addition of herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers in nutrient rich soils.
Certified Shade Grown Coffees- Coffee trees are biologically "shade tolerant" and in their original habitat in Ethiopia grew under the forest canopy in a very diverse plant ecosystem.
Today most coffees are grown in large monoculture plantations, after clearcutting the forest, under intensive cultivation using chemicals much like modern American agriculture. The plants remain under stress in the sunlight and only live 10 years or so compared to 60 years in their natural forest environment. Shade grown coffees on the other hand are certified to have been grown under the shade of the original forest canopy often under organic nutrient and pest management conditions. The plants are healthy and produce fewer cherries per plant which are much richer in flavor. In addition these are usually smaller family farms and the beans are picked by hand when they are ripe and not mass produced as under plantation conditions. The coffees cost more but are well worth the additional money. Shade grown coffee farms in Mexico, Central and South America, and in the Carribean provide important winter habitat for neo-tropical migrating birds, many from Alabama, that overwinter there. Thus they are often called "bird friendly coffees"
Certified Fair Trade Coffees.- Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world behind petroleum and the price paid to the growers often fluctuate widely. Most growers barely make a sustainable living in this highly competative and very labor intensive market. As a result more of our coffees are being produced on lage scale coffee plantations which sacrifice quality for profits. "Fair Market" or "Fair Trade" Coffee is an attempt by socially concerned and visionary coffee buyers to insure the long term survival of small local coffee growers of exceptional quality coffees. The Fair market price is determined globally by a consortium of buyers as the minimum price necessary to accomplish this. Fair market coffees carry a certification.