Birds and Beans Gives more than a Hill of Beans

Pine Warbler taken on the April 2016 Bird Walk Sponsored by Birds and Beans.

As a family owed small business, our donation history punches well above our weight class.  In addition to supporting the suppliers who provide us with products and services that embody our values, we also generously support initiatives that

    1. are aimed at preserving and restoring habitat for birds and other wildlife;
    2. add value to our community and are conducted within the immediate vicinity of the café.

We donate to Ontario Nature and Bird Studies Canada as a portion of sales of their special edition coffees.  While our coffee sourcing supports biodiversity in coffee growing regions, they preserve support wildlife habitat here at home.

In our local community, we donate generously to our long term partners: Mimico-by-the-Lake BIA, Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW), and Lakeshore Arts  Their community building efforts are much appreciated and we enjoy long term friendship.

If you have a donation request, please tell us how we can become long term friends and let us know how your initiative preserves habitat, or how it builds community here in Mimico.

Birds and Beans are proud founding sponsors of Lakeshorts International Short Film Festival

Our Values

Birds and Beans was conceived as an expression of our personal values.  In founding Birds and Beans, David and I decided that we would buck the most powerful trend in the current culture - that one must maximize monetary return at the cost of everything else.

By contrast, we steadfastly defend the values of product quality, ecological sustainability and quality of life, despite a lower financial return. Yes, that's right. We dare to put our values before money: we value our values!  And it is a real financial investment.

Cheese and Dill Scone

*Flour, *Butter, *Sugar, Honey, *Yogurt, *Eggs, *Cream, *Cheese, *Dill, Baking Powder, Salt

* Organic Ingredients

We continuously strive to expand our understanding of the impact of human activity, and we use our choices to withdraw our support from those conventional processes that have monstrous consequences1. Instead, we throw our support behind processes and supply chains that are aligned with our values.  Conventional suppliers may not miss our business, but alternate suppliers do feel our support!

We know that many of you look for meaningful opportunities to express your values, and we hope you will engage with us in our endeavor.

Our values express themselves in everything we do, including:

From Organic Meadow's "Meet Esther: An Organic Cow Story"

We choose to operate a business that is mission based and we accept the enormous increase in complexity that this requires. 

We reach out directly to our heroic growers who are on the front lines in defense of the remaining forests in coffee growing regions. We support them with prices that sustain them and their families.  We form and nurture long term relationships with them. They are secure in future sales from us, and we depend on them for our ongoing supply of their meticulously tended coffees. 

We celebrate our support of several dozen small suppliers and not of Costco, Sysco, or Gordon even though it results in a tremendous increase in complexity.

Instead of ordering from 1 or 2 suppliers who provide whatever is needed that week, we manage inventory levels from over 30 suppliers, each with different order cycles, balancing minimum order requirements with spoilage, and delivery charges with the cost of product.  Each supplier maintains their specific payment and delivery terms.  Each supplier has their own shortages, which are much more common from our suppliers than conventional suppliers, because each of them face similar difficulties as do we. All this requires a constant resource stream to monitor and manage.

We do this happily in support of our like-minded suppliers who need our support to maintain and strengthen their part in alternate supply chains.  We offer them our support by accepting the inconvenience and complexity and by paying them higher prices.

We do most of our baking in-house from scratch because it is not possible to offer fresh, quality products that embodies our values any other way.  

We teach our staff about our values, and we ask them to support them with their best efforts.  We offer noticeably higher compensation than most foodservice employers.  We meet or exceed all the standards set in Ontario's Employee Standards Act. We are a team and sustainability must apply to all of us or it isn't really sustainable, is it?

So that's it.  Could we make more money? Yes. We could drop any one of our commitments and make more money tomorrow. Would we even consider it? No. We are not trying to maximize profit. We are trying to maximize value... and we measure value with more than just money.  

    1. Monstrous consequences like the appalling suffering inflicted upon factory farmed animals, the starvation of baby albatrosses whose parents see shiny plastic as fish, the burning of entire forest ecosystems in Indonesia to grow Palm so "big food" can have "cheap" oil.

Certified Organic Coffee is a Big Deal!

All our coffees bear the Canada Organic logo.

Certified by Ecocert Canada

Above shows how our packages display the Canada Organic logo with reference to our certifier, Ecocert Canada.  It is not legal to display the Canada Organic logo on a package without referencing the accredited certification body.

You can be confident about the legitimacy of products sold in Canada if the product label

  1. shows the Canada Organic logo along with the certifying body; OR
  2. it shows the organic logo of one of the CFIA accredited bodies (such as Procert or Ecocert)

From the CFIA FAQ: "[Understanding] these regulations enable consumer protection against deceptive and misleading labelling practices and claims regarding organic products." The CFIA vigorously defends the use of its logo and the certifying bodies are always willing to provide credentials for any product bearing their name as a certifier.

By the way, if you ever see a product with a Canada Organic logo without the certifier, you should report it to the CFIA. Such violations are rare, and sometimes inadvertent, but the integrity of the system relies on all of us participating and being vigilant.

Our 2016-2017 Organic Certificate

When we say our coffees are Organic, we mean all of our coffees are certified organic 1 by Ecocert Canada.

All our coffees are certified organic: we offer no conventional coffee. Many coffee marketers include some organic coffees in their line, while deliberately making no comment about the conventional ones, in hopes that the organic ones will "greenwash" their line. Others claim that their coffee is organic while not submitting to the costly and rigorous verification process of certification.  Sadly, in Ontario, due to a lack of commitment to the Canadian Organic standard from our provincial legislators,  this is not prohibited and leads to much confusion and abuse.

All of our offerings bear the organic Canada Organic Logo. And bearing the Canada Organic logo is a big deal!

Organic drying patio with our Nicaragua Wood Thrush

Organic certification is a rigorous process.  Obviously starting with certified organic beens is a prerequisite. Beyond that, we are required to keep accurate, retrievable records of all purchases, all roasts, all packaging, all spoilage and all sales of organic coffee.  Our practices must comply with the  Organic Products Regulations, 2009 as governed by the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA).  We are required to comply with Canada's Organic Labeling Laws, our trade documents are subject to strict regulation, and we are subject to inspection and regulation by an accredited Organic Certifier who is responsible to ensure our compliance.

Our certifier, Ecocert Canada is one of about 20 organizations in Canada accredited by the CFIA to bestow the Canada Organic seal on compliant organic products.  At our cost, Ecocert Canada conducts an annual audit in which they review our internal documentation, trade documents, practices and procedures, labels, and inventory and more, all to ensure our compliance with the Canada Organic Standard. In our annual audits, we must prove compliance with record keeping rules and standards.  We must demonstrate compliance with record keeping requirements.  Auditors conduct spot exercises to demonstrate completeness and accuracy of all of our records. They reconcile inputs, outputs and check that all inputs arrived with compliant packaging and with rigorous documentary credentials.

All of our sales must be likewise documented and packaged. All of our labels must be approved by Ecocert who ensure they meet labeling rules, that the package claims are correct, and that internal and trade documents are all in alignment.

The system works because all participants in the chain are subject to this scrutiny.  I trust that the inputs into my process comply with the organic standard because they too were rigorously verified by independent, 3rd party accredited bodies.

We at Birds and Beans are proud to support the chain of organic certification. We strongly believe in third party certification.  Certifications are a way for us to participate in a voluntary chain of trust while harnessing third party verification.

On certification, we are soaring above the crowd™.

 

1 Certified organic products are
  1. produced in compliance with published international organic definitions
  2. traceable throughout even global supply chains
  3. are verified for compliance by accredited 3rd party auditors

Why we avoid Almonds at Birds and Beans

It might be impossible to always eat ethically, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try - National Post

"[Almonds] are also contributing to drought problems in California. Eighty per cent of the world’s almond supply comes from the state experiencing its worst drought on record. A report published by The Watershed Agricultural Council found that a single almond takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce. [...] California almond farmers are drilling thousands of feet down into aquifers to pump out water, threatening critical infrastructure like bridges, roads and irrigation canals, and even potentially triggering earthquakes." ~ National Post

We consider a lot of factors when choosing our products.  Being committed to health, community and sustainability requires balancing of many factors.  

We were pleased to see 2 recent articles (Toronto Star, and National Post) addressing decision making with more sophistication than considering a single factor.  

For example, is it better to purchase organic produce that has travelled a thousand miles and is packaged in clamshell plastic than it is to purchase uncertified product from a farmers market?  

Off hand, I don't know.  I would have to balance the factors and make a decision.  In my view, it is more meaningful to go through the process of weighing the factors than it is to "get the right answer".  Strengthening our ability to make fuzzy assessments with contrary impacts is itself meaningful.

So for me, there is no right and wrong.  There is trying and not trying. 

In our trying, we have chosen to remove our organic almonds from our baking.  We have replaced them with conventional hazelnuts.  

California's Drought May Be Worst in a Millennium ~ Scientific American

"Their analysis showed that a number of other droughts in California's history had less precipitation than the one the state is currently experiencing. However, the most recent drought stood out because of how exceptionally hot it was compared to other droughts over the past 1,200 years." ~ Scientific American

Why? Because we believe that the drought in California, where 80% of the worlds almonds are grown, is a factor that should be weighted very heavily.  

As for conventional hazelnuts, there is much to their credit. We prefer their flavour!  They are amazing in our breakfast cookie. 

Hazelnuts are native to Canada and grow here in Southern Ontario.  We have one in our garden at home (hey!  Maybe we should add one to our café garden!).  They offer Ontario growers a specialty crop that can reduce dependence on the forces of "Big Food". While most hazelnuts are grown in Turkey, market pressures are increasing demand for Ontario hazelnuts.  We are now part of that pressure.

And the health and nutritional benefits of hazelnuts rivals those of almonds.

So that's it!  We are off almonds and on hazelnuts.  Check our ingredient lists for them at the café.

GMO Free Eats

At Birds and Beans, it is our pleasure and our aspiration to harness all of our resources and efforts to do better.  And for us, better means in alignment with our core values: quality of life, sustainability, richness of experience, and community.

We express this in our handmade food: all of our ingredients are 100% GMO free.  

Our reasons are simple: Genetically Modified Organisms are developed by "Big Ag" (big agriculture) for "Big Food".  Their only interest is profit.  I do not have a problem with profit, I just have a problem when the pursuit of profit is at the expense of all other factors, has negative impacts or risks.   

In the case of GMOs, the scientists working for "Big Ag" developed strains of agricultural products like corn and soy, with the sole purpose of withstanding higher applications of agrochemical inputs.  It works nicely for them as they both sell the seeds and sell the chemicals.  

Lest there be any reader who is under the impression that current levels of agrochemical application are sustainable, pesticides and chemical fertilizers wreak havoc on ecosystems as do fertilizers.

Nor are GMO crops necessary.  Leading expert Pablo Tittonell advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds growing demand for food.  See his TED talk here.

On the GMOs themselves, in matters of unknown and unknowable risk, I am an advocate of the "precautionary principle".  Those who profit the most from GMOs claim that their genetically modified organisms represent incremental change on selective breeding is disingenuous and is intended to deflect scrutiny. The reality is that the risks of this revolutionary technology not understood by policy makers and are generally unaddressed by GMO patent holders.  See this insightful article.

Further, the GMOs that "Big Ag" have chosen to produce are motivated by their quest to maximize profits and not by the public good.  For those of us who may think that this is a small problem and that most of the food in the food system is not GMO, almost all big food contains GMO ingredients. It has taken considerable effort and focus to ensure no GMO ingredients creep into Birds and Beans. 

And Finally, GMO crops have failed to meet their promise. An extensive examination by The New York Times [reveals] genetic modification [...] has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

GMO's are designed to benefit "Big Ag" profit takers.  They have no obvious benefit to the public.  They are just not worth the risk.

At Birds and Beans we use 100% of our choices to support our values, and in this case, be assured that no food item prepared in Birds and Beans contains GMO ingredients.  We may be a tiny family owned and operated company, and we have no illusions about changing the trajectory of "Big Ag" and "Big Food", but we do steadfastly oppose the trend through mindful disengagement from "Big Food". 

 

I Witness

(Warning...This poem is not for the faint of heart.)

the horror runs through my arms and legs
the ache fills my heart
the reality fills my mind
the finality pulls my gut
as the mass extinction ticks onward

largely unacknowledged and unnoticed
the tremendous specialty of form and of life
unappreciated
gasping in the loneliness of last pairings
doomed and hopeless

habitat consumed by unsustainable food and junk
hopeless and final in a way we do not conceive
not just death, but death of species, of kind
termination of lines of being
the final end of the rise from the muck
the endless creation that brought animation to matter
the interplay of mutually sustaining diversity
the dance of procreation

dying

while we decorate the packaging of our wasteful crap with their images
tasting not, feeling not, seeing not, living barely
and watch a horror movie to feel something
while failing to notice the life that yet is
in its intricate and living beauty
dying at our hand, utterly squandered

I witness
unshrinking
open heart experiencing
the “Sixth Mass Biological Extinction Event”

© Dragon Heart 2014

Enjoying a Great Cup of Coffee

Enjoying a great cup of coffee...  For me it represents the culmination of all the attention that has gone into growing and harvesting, roasting, brewing, and at last, tasting it.  I feel connected to the whole process and I show my appreciation by surrendering to the pleasure of the drink.

Right now I'm considering the results of a roasting experiment.  My life is full of these. Great roasting is much more than firing up the roaster and letting it rip until the beans are dark. Great roasting mingles intuition with science in a trial and error process judged by taste.

As heat is applied to the beans, molecules form and reform, much like in cooking.  The chemistry of roasting is so complex than no-one has a scientific grasp on its details.   But, the science guides our intuition and vice versa in our trial and error discovery process.

We roast our coffee with process control software.  That means that we control the temperature of the beans throughout the roast.  So the question is, what temperature profile do we want?  It turns out that, even with the same beans, two roasts that both have a final temperature of say 445 F, but that get there through different time-temperature paths can be the difference between ambrosia and bitter swill.

So science tells us the methodology to follow, and chemistry tells us some generalities about molecules that are created in the Maillard reaction phase combining and recombining to form the many-hundreds of delicious complex sugars we might taste as caramel or nut or chocolate.   Intuition and experience tell us what to try next to reward our senses, and tasting it tells us if we were right or wrong.

Today we are trying a new roast profile for the Peru Norte.  It is a new crop.  The profile we used on last year's crop is resulting in a harsher cup than we would like.  We decided to try a steeper slope with more curvature at the beginning of the roast and a slightly lower final temperature.

Then we had to wait 2-3 days.  When coffee is first roasted its flavour is "closed" and dull. Very much like red wine needs to breath before it "opens up", roasted coffee needs to "de-gas" for a couple of days sometimes longer.

So finally, after being tended on a Bird Friendly Certified coffee farm, hand harvested, milled, dried and and shipped to our roastery, roasted with our new profile, rested for 3 days, ground and finally hand-drip brewed, I'm now considering the result.

The dry fragrance of the fresh grounds is heavenly showing a touch of vanilla or almond. The cup is smooth and balanced, is slightly sweet with dominant caramel flavour and undertones of nut.  It is somewhat bright and leaves a long aftertaste that becomes increasingly sweet and fruity as the cup cools.

We'll go with this for the house coffee in the café for a while.

The pleasure in Birds and Beans coffee is total:  It is just amazing to sit in the backyard sipping a cup of phenomenal coffee that supports the continuation of songbird migration  while actually seeing and hearing the returning songbirds.  Would you like to join me?

Why Birds and Beans Café is palm oil free

The mainstream media has picked up the crisis of a small population of orangutans this week.  Their habitat in Indonesia has been relentlessly brought to ruin by palm oil producers over several decades.  According to RainforestPortal.org  “The globally exceptional Tripa peat swamp rainforests of Aceh, Indonesia have been set illegally ablaze by the oil palm industry, threatening to massacre one of the largest and most dense natural populations of orangutans.”

http://www.rainforestportal.org/shared/alerts/sendsm.aspx?id=orangutan_oilpalm

It is only the crisis of the appalling suffering and imminent demise of this population of our close relatives that has brought attention to this perpetual issue forward this week.  Pictures of near dead orangutans with faces pleading like our own gutted me.

But I’m not writing this to have us indulge in sorrow, though that may also be appropriate.  I’m writing this because the cause of this suffering is the production of cheap palm oil… “cheap”, there is an interesting word to use for the destruction of untold natural capital (I feel another post coming on!)

The destruction is happening because we buy and consume palm oil, either directly or indirectly, every day.  If we didn’t, the destruction would stop tomorrow.  It is not easy to eliminate palm oil from one’s diet because it is used in most processed food because it is “cheap”.  While reference to palm oil is disappearing from food labels as the public becomes aware of the environmental and, yes, health problems assoiciated with palm oil, the product is still there disguised as “vegetable oil”.

So in honour of earth hour, Birds and Beans cafe would like to emphasize that we offer absolutely no products that contain palm oil and as owners, David and I have committed to never purchasing products with palm oil in our personal lives (no more processed food).  This hints at another future post (in fact, let’s make it a category)  in which we’ll discuss our contention that the making of conscious food choices is the most important thing we can do for the planet — and we start now.

If earth hour teaches us anything, it must be that our cumulative actions can have impact.  Join us in reducing demand for palm oil and save the last remaining habitat for the orangutans.

Birds and Beans Throwbacks

  • Kenn Kaufman describes his experience birding on a Bird Friendly® coffee farm in Nicaragua in the May/June print issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest. Its reposted here on the Birds and Beans USA site.
  • Madeleine and David received the Michael O’Connor Thompson Award at the Gem of the Lakeshore ceremony. It is awarded by Laurel Broten and the Lakeshore Joint Business Improvement Association for Volunteerism and Community Spirit. We are overwhelmed. Thank you!
  • Public Radio International’s “The World” discusses Bird Friendly Coffee
  • Dr. Robert Rice discusses the benefits of Bird Friendly® certified coffee for birds and in combating climate change. see clip
  • Smithsonian Report Shows Bird Friendly Shade Coffee Farms Are the Next Best Thing to Natural Forest
  • SMBC Eco-Report to be discussed at Birds and Beans sponsored Songbirds and Migration: Making the Connection Oct 7 at ROM
  • Ron MacLean mentions Birds and Beans on After 40 Minutes during the game five final Stanley Cup playoff game! For real!
  • Birds and Beans is shortlisted as an Urban Hero in the Environment Category!
  • Birds and Beans wins their Second Gem of the Lakeshore in the Fast Food Service category!
  • Torontoist review of the Green Living show gives special mention to Birds and Beans.
  • Drinking Bird Friendly® or Rainforest Alliance Certified shade coffee is listed as one of 10 things You Can Do to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
  • 10 Things Michael Ignatieff Can’t Live Without. Check out No. 1
  • Christina Sharma of Project CHIRP! discusses Bird Friendly® coffee on Lets Get Growing on December 12th. listen
  • Birds and Beans mentioned in Globe and MailNational Post (thanks Diane!), Toronto Sun, and pics in Metro and Metro again
  • Birds and Beans serves Bird Friendly® Coffee at Shoreline Cleanup Event with Dr. Jane Goodall
  • Website for Margaret Atwood’s book The Year of the Flood references Birds and Beans on her blog and in the neat stuff section.
  • Our friends in the USA are discussed in New England Birdhouse
  • Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center recognizes Birds and Beans
  • Birds and Beans Month on Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds
  • Birds and Beans review in Toronto Star

 

Birds and Beans Favourites

Our Sustainability Record

We are founded on sustainability. We believe that all companies are made of people (shareholders, managers, customers, suppliers) and people can act sustainably and should. Simple.

Our record on sustainability is unmatched. We challenge all individuals, organizations and companies, large and small, global and local to meet and surpass our sustainability record. We think about sustainability in every action we take and every role we play. 

Our Sustainable Offerings

We were the first company in Canada to offer certified Bird Friendly® coffee and the only roaster to offer it exclusively. Only Bird Friendly coffee provides certified wildlife habitat. 

We challenge all roasters to offer certified Bird Friendly coffee, all food service contractors to require certified Bird Friendly coffee, and all consumers to demand Bird Friendly coffee. If we all did, the future of our songbirds would be secured.

All of our Coffees are certified organic by Ecocert Canada.

All of our Coffees certified socially sustainable by either  Fair Trade USA or the Rainforest Alliance.  In addition, all of our coffees are Direct Trade via our import partners.

In the cafe, we use Harmony Organic and Organic Meadow organic milk in our cafe. While this is a huge cost, it is the right thing to do... and the milk is fantastic!

We offer certified organic Soy Milk and GMO free Coconut Milk as a no charge dairy free options.

We use Rainforest Alliance certified, 100% shaved chocolate in our chocolate topping option.

We use certified organic cage free eggs and are participants in the Chicken Out campaign.

We make our own eggless mayo to ensure it is cruelty free,  and GMO free.

We use Raincoast pole and line caught tuna... the most sustainable canned tuna graded by Greenpeace.

We use grass fed meat slices from Rowe Farms. That means the animals were naturally raised and are cruelty free.

We use non-GMO verified soup provided by Sunflower Kitchen.

Our baking is 100% GMO free with mostly organic ingredients. We use many certified organic ingredients in our made from scratch baking.

We use compostable cups and lids for hot and cold take out drinks.

We compost our coffee grounds onsite in our backyard composter.

We ensure no product sold contains Palm Oil.

We do not sell any product in a plastic bottle.

Our Sustainable Community Initiatives

We sponsor all of CCFEW's bird walks. Come out and see the real birds!

We cultivate a native plant garden on our patio teaching others that native is beautiful!

We welcome special events that help build our community.

We show the work of local photographer Vincent Falardeau who has captured the images of migratory songbirds in our neighgbourhood! These are the birds we support by drinking certified Bird Friendly® coffee.

We work with local suppliers like The Empanada Company and More than Pies.

We work to revitalize our community by supporting community events like the Annual Mimico Christmas Tree Lighting and the opening of the Mimico Square.

We are gold level sponsors of Lakeshorts Short Film Festival.

We work to revitalize Mimico and the Lakeshore by serving on the Board of Directors of the Mimico-By-The-Lake-BIA (Business Improvement Area) and the Lakeshore Joint BIA.

Our Sustainable Background Initiatives

We roast on our Loring Smartroast that is the cleanest and most energy efficient roaster on the market.  And we roast with bullfrog powered™ 100% green electricity and 100% green natural gas.

We package all of our coffee in compostable bags.

We use compostable packaging peanuts in our shipping boxes. (If we receive conventional packing peanuts in a shipment we reuse them because we think they should be used at least twice in their 10,000 year product lifespan.)

We separate the trash every day at the cafe (our favourite task!) into recycle, compostable and garbage and we compost our coffee grounds onsite!

We repurposed church pews from a historical church and burned down for our seating. These pews were destined for use as scrap wood when we gave them a new life in their own neighbourhood with many of the same people sitting in them.

We work with Gus Design, a local furniture manufacturer who repurpose our empty coffee sacks into an Upcycle Ottoman and reuse our skids.

We use energy efficient led floods at the café and the roastery. They use less energy and produce less heat and so reduce cooling costs in the summer and we dispose of them safely.

We use a programmable thermostat that does not call for heating or cooling when not required. We set our summer thermostat to 25C and our winter thermostat to 20C ... always comfortable for the seasonally dressed.

We do deliveries and pickups in our hybrid vehicle.

All of our appliances are energy star compliant and we are careful to use them wisely.

Our outdoor lights are on timers and motion sensors.

Our mission at Birds and Beans is to use coffee, in all its capacities, to improve life on earth in the small ways we can. We choose to invest ourselves into the quality of our coffee, and into supporting our heroic growers who are the defenders of forest habitat in Latin America.  We appreciate the simple pleasures of a delicious cup of Bird Friendly® coffee while discussing it's very contribution to the diversity of life on earth. "In a world of cynicism and doubt, we do better."™

A richer taste, a richer earth.®