What is shade-grown coffee?

Green Coffee Beans

Shade grown coffee is exactly what it sounds like: coffee grown in the shade. The coffee bean trees get little, if any, direct sunlight and the coffee beans, in turn, also get very little direct sunlight. Since coffee tends to grow in very temperate climates to begin with, this means that coffee trees are sometimes subjected to extreme temperatures. With shade-grown plants, they will remain in the shade of a high jungle/forest canopy for the majority of the day and their beans will not be subjected to extreme heat no matter how high the temperature climbs.

Coffee trees actually thrive in the shade, but in some areas the forest canopy has been cut back to make room for more coffee plants and increase the yield of coffee crops. The beans that are subjected to high heat tend to ripen faster and are widely regarded to be less flavorful than their slow-developing shade-grown counterparts. That forest canopy also reduces the need for pesticides and leads to an increased biodiversity in the area, meaning that coffee that is shade-grown is more eco-friendly than that which is not.


There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Cold Brewed Co. at 12:12 am

    Have you ever experimented with shade grown in cold brew coffee? We generally use lighter roasts for cold brew…where does shade grown fall in the spectrum?

    – Cold Brewed Co.

  2. Nicole Author at 12:08 pm

    Good question. Any type of coffee can be shade grown, both light and dark roasts. Shade grown beans often have a smoother flavor profile, regardless of roast so they should be a very good choice for cold brew.

  3. Nano at 11:18 am

    Shadegrown coffee doesn’t inherently taste different from other coffee, it is just a more ecofriendly way to produce coffee. The one caveat to this rule is that the kind of tree shading the coffee plant can impart certain flavors if the coffee is processed and stored well. For example, coffees from Southern India and parts of Indonesia are grown next to citrus, pepper or spice trees (cinnamon, cardamom, etc.), and these flavor notes show up in the final coffee IF the coffee is high quality upon arrival and not over-roasted.

    I love making cold brew, aka toddy, from Ethiopia Yirgacheffe to capture intense berry flavors of blueberry and strawberries, but these flavors come from the beans themselves, processing methods, and roast level, not from shade growing, as desirable as that is. By the way, for toddy, I always prefer lighter roasts to get the underlying bean flavor.

    Sorry for the long comment….

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