There is nothing like a great cup of coffee! Roughly 83 percent of Americans drink coffee making this global business worth billions. The rising popularity of coffee has since raised awareness on where the bean comes from and the desire to be more green aware.

What label do you look for when buying coffee? Let’s talk about Fair Trade and Shade Grown labels today.


Fair Trade dates back to the early nineteenth century in the hopes of boycotting work slaves. The original movement of Fair Trade was based on independent sellers, price of products, maintenance, and improvement of the farms. The shift changed to Fair Trade for all when they opened it to farmer co-ops and coffee farmers can now be certified by joining member-led-operatives. Fair Trade not only benefits the farmer with higher wages but also helps their environment. Fair Trade provides the farmers with funding options to help pay for health insurance, education, and a more sustainable life for their family and community. Receiving more income for their farms allows them to maintain better soil, provide fair wages, and learn entrepreneurial skills in the workforce. Some of the organizations participating in Fair Trade include Global Exchange, Green Mountain, and Dean’s Beans.


Do you drink a specialty coffee? “Shade Grown” is a trending word that popped up for marketing purposes by coffee companies back in the 1990’s. Shade Grown labels mean a coffee tree was grown under the canopy of larger trees in the forest. This is a longer farming process but the taste is worth the wait. Shade Grown was originally converted to Sun Grown coffee to help farmers out of a financial crisis but they soon realized it was too costly to maintain the soil because of missing nutrients. Once again Shade Grown started being promoted by various conservation groups including Bird Friendly Coffee, the National Wildlife Federation and the Rainforest Alliance. Shade Grown coffee trees help the environment by providing essential nutrients and polycultures which helps reduce soil erosion.

It’s time to venture out and go green. Start tasting coffees from around the world and look for these eco-friendly labels to see which one you like the best. When choosing your next cup of coffee, remember environmental conditions such as soil and altitude effect the taste and smell of the bean. Start a journal and take notes of the coffee you have tasted; write down the origin, variety, and elevation.


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I Albrecht. (2018, August 22). A Home Roaster’s Guide to Buying the Right Green Coffee. Retrieved from

Stewart, K. L. (2007). Eating between the lines: The supermarket shopper’s guide to the truth behind food labels. New York: St. Martins Griffin.