Amplify your Coffee Drinking Experience

Our coffee growers are on the front line preserving forest ecosystems.  Bird Friendly coffee cultivation has lower yield than conventional coffee, but look at all the good it does!  All of these pictures were taken on Bird Friendly coffee farms.  

Every pound of coffee we sell preserves 147 square ft of forest habitat.  A subscription of a pound a month maintains 1760 square feet of this forest!  That is about the size of a city lot.  One person can do that by choosing certified Birds Friendly coffee.

Amplify your coffee drinking experience.  Our coffee is:

  • Grown in natural forest.
  • Expertly roasted to reveal hidden flavours.
Strength without bitterness,
Mellow without weakness.
 
~Birds and Beans

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

Biodegradable Straws: Its the Little Things

A Brief History of the Modern-Day Straw, the World’s Most Wasteful Commodity
A Brief History of the Modern-Day Straw, the World’s Most Wasteful Commodity

Some of you might recall the viral video of the sea turtle who was lucky enough to have the plastic straw lodged in its nose removed.

An article was brought to my attention today entitled "A Brief History of the Modern-Day Straw, the World’s Most Wasteful Commodity".  While others might look at the pictured straws and see pretty colours, I see, and feel, the pain and suffering caused by single use plastics.  

The straws at Birds and Beans Café are biodegradable.  We do not offer anything in single use plastic ... including water.  Our single use cups, lids, straws and cutlery are all biodegradable.  

We pay several times more for our biodegradable straws than we would for plastic straws.  For us plastic straws are not an option.  

The real price of plastic straws is not in the sticker price.  No-one in the supply chain, including the end user, pays the real price for single use plastics.  Instead, the enormous price is paid in the suffering of the worlds creatures and in the ever increasing stresses borne by the web of life.  

The remains of a baby albatross and the contents of its stomach.

While writing this, I reread this throwback to 2012 when I banished the last plastic from our offerings.   

At Birds and Beans, we incur the higher cost for a biodegradable straw, which is, in my assessment, much better value.

 

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.

Reflecting on 5 Years being Palm Oil Free

Warning!  These images reflect the consequences of our blind consumerism. 

Whether you join us or not, we are not buying anything with palm oil. Because we are not going to feed the monster.

Single organgutan in the last tree standing after deforestation for palm oil
Palm oil is UBIQUITOUS! It the preferred oil for the 10 Food companies responsible for almost all global brands

Most of you will not be able to watch this.  If you can even bear to scan this article about the film you may be forever changed.

" 'She has lost everything': Filmmaker's heart-wrenching documentary shows tragic final hours of orangutan's life as her rainforest home is ruthlessly destroyed"

On "Sustainable" Palm Oil, we say NO!

The palm oil industry has taken over the resistance to palm oil claiming that we need palm oil and that it is better to produce it sustainably.  I will write a specific rebuttal in the coming weeks.   But for now, it is our position that sustainable palm oil is a ruse by "big agriculture" and "big food" to silence opposition and continue business as usual.  Their so called certification fails all three tests of a credible certification:

  1. a public standard set to achieve a purpose with monitoring against its effectiveness
  2. chain of custody traceability
  3. verification by an independent third party

It has been 5 years since Birds and Beans Café went completely palm oil free.  David and I went palm oil free at home at the same time.  So we thought it would be interesting to discuss how its going with us as well as look at what has changed in the industry.

The palm oil problem is the shocking destruction of forests perpetrated in its production.  These forests are often taken from indigenous peoples without permission nor compensation and laid waste for all but the gluttonous palm oil industry.  Of special notice, is the horrifying pain and suffering faced by displaced animals, most of whom are endangered species.   I doubt most readers can tolerate looking at the images.  

When David and I came to understand this in 2012, at a visceral level, our resolve kicked in: Under no circumstances will we support this monstrous behavior!

So this is not a crusade, nor do I imagine our stance or communication will make a meaningful impact on the industry.  But my body and my soul ache for the pain we inflict, and I will not support it.  

At first it was difficult to find products without palm.  Palm oil ingredients are UBIQUITOUS!  And big food sneaks it into the ingredient lists so we have to learn to recognize it.

Once we understood that "vegetable oil" is a cover for palm oil, we realized that palm is in most processed foods (and most consumer soaps and cleaners).  For health reasons we were also motivated to reduce salt and we noticed that most processed foods are loaded with salt (and sugar) too.  It was overwhelming!  Where to begin!  

We took a step at a time approach.  We looked at

  1. what we purchased the most
  2. what we didn't need

We found processed foods that use sunflower, safflower or other explicitly stated oil1.  You won't find these at the 7-11, but most responsible grocery stores have something.  We continued item by item.  

Over time, perhaps a year, we found we were preparing our own food again.  This would have seemed impossible at the beginning of this process, but by changing one thing at a time, it happened on its own.  We shifted our shopping from the big grocery retailers to smaller organic grocers.  Interestingly, by bringing our food preparation back in-house, we found it was less expensive too!

We noticed that the huge loads of sugar, salt and fats in processed foods dull our flavour pallets, so it took some time for our pallets to recover back to full taste sensitivity. Now, I just cannot eat a conventional tomato... they are bland and pithy.  

The food processing industry has convinced us that we need them, but we don't.  The cost of outsourcing our food preparation is extremely high and it does not save as much time as we imagine.  We have now established new shopping habits and we support local grocers and organic production. Preparing food has shifted to a shared pleasure followed by the shared delight of real flavours! My fear of living on chickpeas and rice was utterly unfounded...Quite the opposite! That fear was planted by big food to keep me addicted to their low quality, bland, unhealthy food that is engineered to their lowest cost.  

And by their lowest cost, I mean the unfathomable cost of the utter destruction of entire ecosystems and the human and animal inhabitants. The cost of life on earth.  And the cost of all of us becoming monstrous.  Cheap oil?  Really?

If you got to here, now you know.  You can never go back.  What you do now is who you are.

  1. Since banning palm oil from our diet and the café, we have since banned GMO foods.  Over 90% of canola oil is GMO, so now it is banned from our diet and the café too.

 

 

 

Now Serving Cheese and Dill Scone!

We are proud to offer this unique scone made with all organic ingredients.  What a delicious and beautifully textured scone it is!  Great for breakfast or lunch.

The organic ingredients mean that it, like all of our baking, our great new scone is 100% GMO free and 100% cruelty free.  These important qualities are shared by everything we bake. 

We believe that honouring our core values results in better taste and better health.  

 

Cheese & Dill
Scone

GMO free, Palm Oil Free, Cruelty Free, mostly Organic

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

* Organic

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

Now Shipping with New Bird Friendly Logo!

Smithsonian_BFH_Logo_Gold_Solid
The Bird Friendly Logo is Changing

Look for the new Bird Friendly logo on all of our coffees.  They are ALL certified organic coffees grown in Certified Bird Friendly Habitat!

Today we start shipping with the new Bird Friendly logo!  We are thrilled that the new logo now appears on both the front and back of all of our coffees.  

Bird Friendly is the only certification that takes organic coffee to the next level: It guarantees that our "shade grown" coffee is not just a claim on a label, but is certified to provide quality wildlife habitat.  

Bird Friendly coffee and quality habitat as far as the eye can see.
Certified Organic and Bird Friendly coffee cultivation looks like this!

When you purchase coffee that is certified organic and shade grown by the SMBC you have the assurance of the Smithsonian Institution that you are conserving wildlife and biodiversity.   ALL of our coffees have the seal... every cup of Birds and Beans coffee you drink is a gift of habitat to the world.  

 

/ Posts, Sustainability
Meet the New Bird Friendly Seal!

Meet the New Bird Friendly Seal!

The New Bird Friendly Seal The Smithsonian Seal appears in the new logo. We say goodbye and thank-you to the ... Read More...
/ Bird Friendly, Posts, Sustainability
What is Bird Friendly Coffee?

What is Bird Friendly Coffee?

Bird Friendly coffee is grown in a forest! ... Read More...
/ Posts, Sustainability
Bird Friendly® Certified Coffee according to Dr. Robert Rice

Bird Friendly® Certified Coffee according to Dr. Robert Rice

Quality habitat for as far as the eye can see! As we near the end of the summer, many of ... Read More...

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.

Our Free Shipping Deal!

When birds migrate home, so does Birds & Beans coffee.
 
Celebrate spring migration with Free Shipping on Roasted coffee* orders over $45.
 
And to make it even better, we’re extending the offer to all orders over $45 that contain at least 1 lb of Roasted Coffee.
 
For example:
An Aeropress + 1 lb of Roasted Coffee = Free Shipping
A 5 lb bag of green coffee + 1 lb of Roasted Coffee = Free Shipping

* Offer expires Dec 31, 2017 and applies to ground shipping to destinations within Canada only. Canada Post Air Stations excluded.

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". 

 

Roast your Own Green Coffee at Home

Coffee beans drying in the Sun in Nicaragua
Green coffee beans ready for roasting

As Coffee Roasters, we know green coffee beans. Green coffee beans are our raw material. Great roasted coffee can only come from great green coffee.

Our beans have been carefully selected so that we can offer a full range of coffees to sell online, serve in our cafe, and deliver to our wholesale partners. We’ve spent the past 15 years refining our choices of beans so that we have the highest quality specialty grade Certified Organic, Bird Friendly and Fair Trade Arabica beans available anywhere. These are the ones that we sell for for you to roast at home.  No old crop specials, no cheap or tainted beans. People often comment how clean and defect free our beans are when they first see them. You can see the quality as much as you can taste it.

 Our prices are competitive, especially when you consider the quality, sustainability and ethical values - and you can also order the same coffee roasted by us to use as a benchmark for your roasting. We ship across Canada from our Toronto area Roastery.
 
So whether you are roasting on your stove using a popcorn popper, on a BBQ or using a small home roaster, you can easily start with the best beans and feel good knowing that with every cup, you are helping to conserve vital habitat and supporting small family farms in coffee growing regions.
 
You'll spend a lot of time roasting your coffee, make sure you start with the best beans. To see our current selection and to place your order, please click here. For those of you near us in Toronto, we stock the 1 lb and 5 lb sizes at our Café

 

Meet the New Bird Friendly Seal!

The New Bird Friendly Seal
156px-Smithsonian_logo_color.svg
The Smithsonian Seal appears in the new logo.
We say goodbye and thank-you to the Old Seal

Have a look at the new Bird Friendly logo... the seal that represents the gold standard of forest habitat.

There are several things worth pointing out in this logo.  We love that it illustrates several aspects of good habitat, like a variety of species, varied heights, and dense coverage.

The change in phrase on the seal from "Bird Friendly" to "Bird Friendly Habitat" points to the "friendliness" of Bird Friendly coffee: that it is grown in forest and preserves that habitat (see our post "What is Bird Friendly Coffee").

Bees nesting in a fallen tree on a Bird Friendly Coffee Farm

We strongly support the refocusing on habitat:  Forest habitat is not just for the birds!  Forests are the lungs of the world.  Bird Friendly habitat is a functioning, biodiverse ecosystem that supports and is made up of a web of inter-connected creatures, like monkeys and butterflies and beetles and native trees and plants and... oh... our wintering migratory songbirds.

It is also great to see the seal of the Smithsonian Institution within the logo.  The Smithsonian Institution is one of the worlds most respected knowledge organizations.  It is world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the National Zoo.  The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) is a department within that most prestigious organization. It is the scientists at the SMBC who developed and who administer the Bird Friendly® certification.

When you purchase coffee that is certified by the SMBC you have the assurance of the Smithsonian Institution that you are conserving wildlife and biodiversity.  And ALL of our coffees have the seal... every cup of Birds and Beans coffee you drink is a gift of habitat to the world.  

After proudly displaying the old logo for 15 years on our coffees we hope you will join us in congratulating the SMBC on the introduction of their new seal.  We use it throughout this website and we will be transitioning our packaging within the coming weeks.

Fallen flowers in the dappled shade on a Bird Friendly coffee Farm
Baby hummingbirds on a Bird Friendly coffee farm.

Show us your Mimico Joe!

Show us your Mimico Joe! Use the hashtag #MimicoJoe to be entered in our monthly draw for Birds & Beans Gift cards and Mimico Joe T-shirts. 

Mimico is our home and we love it, which is why it deserves to have its very own coffee blend. Let’s celebrate it.

Share your pics of Mimico, Birds and Beans coffee cups, Birds and Beans coffee bags.  Be sure to tag them #MimicoJoe on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to enter. All winners must be able to pick up their prize in person at our Café … in Mimico.

And the t-shirt! It’s a good one:  made in CANADA out of an Organic Cotton/Bamboo Blend and is available in Men’s and Ladies' styles for only 24.95 each! 

Introducing Mimico Joe

A muskrat in Humber Bay Park.
About 15 years ago, we established Birds and Beans on the shores of Lake Ontario in Mimico.   Although at that time Mimico was rather down on its luck, battered by the loss of its industrial base and suffering from the lure of malls and big box stores, we fell in love with soul of Mimico.
The now demolished building has become the site of Mimico Square.

We saw a diverse neighbourhood full of hard working, long term residents who shared a connection with the lake, a pride in what had come before, and vision of the future. So we set down our roots and began working towards that future. And then around us, slowly at first, then more and more, Mimico began to thrive! The neighbourhood feels energized by life in the new condominums, and the residents are enjoying the ever improving Mimico waterfront, new storefronts, and Mimico's evolving character.  

We are expressing our love of Mimico by introducing a coffee blended and named for our 'hood!  Perhaps the first coffee to celebrate its home neighbourhood, Mimico Joe is approachable, unpretentious, authentic, solid, and full of interest... just like Mimico.

We also offer Mimico Joe t-shirts for those of us who are proud Mimico Joes.

A great shot of the cafe by photographer Justin Blathwayt.

Café by the Lake Menu Choices

Sunflower Kitchen Soups

Come in to Birds and Beans Coffee and treat yourself to something special! Our coffees are all certified organic, bird friendly,  and fairly traded, boutique coffees. We use Organic Meadow Milk in our latté and cappuccino. Treat yourself with 100% shade grown shaved chocolate on your specialty drink. Even our milk table offers organic milk and sugar. We're the real deal!

Choose one of Four Freshly Roasted Brewed Coffees

Every day we offer four brewed coffees. Our menu board identifies the coffees on brew and their roasted dates — always within the last few weeks.

Our house coffee, the Daily, is a certified Organic-Bird Friendly® coffee with enough interest for every coffee lover.

You can also choose from our daily Organic-Bird Friendly® bold coffeefeature coffee or decaf.

100% Bird Friendly, Organic Specialty Coffees with Organic Milk

screenshot-2016-12-07-10-44-53We offer the best espresso, latté, cappucino and americano in the city made from the only Bird Friendly espresso in Canada! We blend our espresso to compliment the flavours the organic milk in a latté or cappucino. Our baristas are trained to pour espresso perfectly every time so it has the great great crema and aroma with flavours of chocolate and malt from the approach to the finish.

Cruelty Free GMO Free Treats

We bake all of our treats from scratch daily using organic eggs from happy hens (see Chicken Out!), organic dairy from happy cows,  and 100% GMO Free ingredients. Our breakfast cookie is a daily favourite in the neighbourhood with rolled oats, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, honey and cranberries.  

Our chocolate chunk cookies are absolutely without rival! We use our shade grown Plantations Chocolate. We offer a the cookie with either milk or dark chocolate. What a treat!

Cruelty Free Light Lunch

For lunch we offer simple wraps and sandwiches with hand crafted Sunflower Kitchen GMO free vegan soups.

All are certified organic and, so cruelty free! No factory farmed product allowed. We use Raincoast tuna in our tuna salad, the highest ranking  sustainability grade from Greenpeace. Our egg salad is homemade from fresh certified organic cage free eggs so it is always fresh and tasty. Our sandwich slices are locally raised cruelty free from Rowe Farms. Even our cheddar cheese is certified organic from Quebec, and so produced from well treated animals.

We offer spinach empanadas from the Empanada Company in Long Branch and biscotti from More than Pies. We love to keep it in the "hood".

 

Share the Café you Love

giftcard

The link for cardholders to check balance and transaction history is here.

Many of you know that Birds and Beans café has offered gift cards for 12 years, but this year they are even better!  Our new gift cards have grown up from being administered manually, to an electronic debit card with great new features.

The gift card has the look and feel of gift cards from major retailers. This ensures your recipient will feel confident using the card, and you will be proud to give it.

Once activated, the card can be used at the cafe like a prepaid credit card.

The cards are reloadable, and a 10% discount applies to reloads. So your gift will extend throughout the year!

The card is secure, and transparent. The cardholder can view their current balance and historical transactions online. The cardholder simply enters their card number and their current balance is presented and a link is presented to access to the historical transactions.  The link for cardholders is here.

So isn't it a good time to introduce your friends and family to your favourite café?

Bird Friendly® Certified Coffee according to Dr. Robert Rice

Quality habitat for as far as the eye can see!
As we near the end of the summer, many of us will be shifting our focus towards new routines at work or school. Similarly, many species of wild birds will shift their focus away from breeding and will put all their energy into reaching their wintering habitats in Central and South America.  Our migratory birds spend their winter months in the lush forests that provide the food sources and protection from predators that migratory birds need to thrive during our harsh winters.
 
In a recent interview available here, Dr. Robert Rice of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre (SMBC) describes the importance of forest grown coffee to migratory songbirds.  Dr. Rice points out that under the pressure of unsustainable agriculture, traditional forest coffee farms are often the last viable habitats available for migratory songbirds, monkeys, butterflies, reptiles and other organisms.  
 
The SMBC has characterized healthy functioning forest environments and they offer the Bird Friendly® coffee certification to coffee grown within them.  Dr. Rice notes the small proportion of world coffee that bears the Bird Friendly seal.  He humbly recognizes that as scientists the SMBC has created the certification, but do not have the marketing skills and channels to increase demand.  He asks that we, individually and collectively,  notice the opportunity to preserve and restore forest ecosystems in Central and South America by asking for coffee Bird Friendly® seal.
 
Or you can just buy it from us 😉   All our coffees are certified Bird Friendly.
bb_newlogoweb
Your source for Bird Friendly coffee
 

What is Bird Friendly Coffee?

Bird Friendly Habitat for as Far as the Eye Can See

We are frequently asked: “What exactly is Bird Friendly® coffee and why does it matter?”

Bird Friendly coffee preserves habitat for forest creatures in Latin America including our migratory songbirds. Coffee that is certified Bird Friendly grows in an agro-forest.  The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) certifies that these forests provide good habitat for wildlife.  

All Bird Friendly coffee is first certified organic, and then goes much further adding standards for shade cover, plant species diversity, canopy structure, required buffer zones, leaf litter cover and much more. These are all necessary for wildlife to flourish.  

Read more on Bird Friendly criteria here.


In Latin America, where most of our migratory songbirds spend their winters, deforestation for agriculture is happening at an alarmingly fast rate.  Forests are mowed down for monoculture and the impact on wildlife is devastating. Huge declines in our migratory songbirds are noticeable to those of us old enough to remember the plentiful songbirds here in Southern Ontario only 20 years ago.  You can help slow the rate of deforestation by purchasing Certified Bird Friendly coffee.  This supports those growers who valiantly maintain the front-lines of the resistance to this overwhelming destruction.

Bird Friendly farms provide habitat for a wide range of species, not just birds!
A hooded warbler finds a grub in a coffee forest
Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting migrating from Latin America to its breeding ground in Ontario

By choosing Bird Friendly certified coffee, we support the growers who steward forest ecosystems.  Beyond preservation of ecosystems and diversity of species, Bird Friendly stewardship also results in soil conservation,  pest control, pollination, water storage, carbon storage and climate change mitigation.  Preserving expansive and diverse forests in central and south America are necessary to world climate and the well being of global systems.  They have been called the lungs of the world and they mitigate climate change. Read more on ecological benefits here.

Sometimes the phrase "Shade Grown" is used on coffee labels as if it were equivalent to Bird Friendly.  Unfortunately, this is like accepting "natural" as equivalent to "organic".  While Bird Friendly coffee is indeed "shade grown", we need to go a bit deeper if we want to ensure our good will hits the target. It isn't the shade that provides the habitat but the fact that Bird Friendly farms are functioning, biodiverse, forest ecosystems.   The SMBC developed the Bird Friendly coffee certification so we can confidently choose to support produces who grow their coffee in harmony with forest dwellers...  Forest dwellers like this troupe of howler monkeys David saw on a Bird Friendly coffee farm in Nicaragua.

Sales of Certified Bird Friendly coffee also help to fund the research performed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This research advances the understanding of migratory birds that we need in order to preserve them for future generations. Look for the seal on the bags when you buy your coffee.  You will find this seal on all of our bags.

Why is Boxed Water Better?

At Birds and Beans we are forever expanding and deepening our commitment to sustainability. As we learn about issues and find solutions, we weave them into the fabric of what we do. Some years ago, we were struck by a beautiful impactful art project by Chris Jordan that beautifully exposed some consequences of thoughtless plastic waste. We posted this and never ordered water in plastic bottles again.

albatross-ocean-gyre-birds-pictures-04
The remains of a baby albatross and the contents of its stomach.

Birds and Beans is proud to be free from plastic bottles since May 2012.  The life cycle of a plastic bottle has harmful effects to the environment throughout every step of the chain: from formation to disposal. For more information on the life cycle of a plastic water bottle, check out this Ted-Ed video.

We are an official Quench Water Re-fill Location. Bring your reusable water bottle and we are happy to fill it up with filtered tap water. We offer a pitcher of iced water with glasses for customers to enjoy in the cafe. We also offer a bowl of water for the four-legged bunch.

Despite all of these options, people still want to buy water to go. We want to make you happy, so we investigated options to provide a take-out water option without contributing to the Garbage Patch, harming animals who mistake micro plastics for food or degrading the quality of the soil that supports us.

Boxed Water
Boxed Water is Better

The Boxed Water folks in Michigan came up with the great idea of offering water in boxes. Boxes are made from trees, which is a renewable resource. Conservation is important to them, so the trees being used come from well-managed forests. The cartons are 100% recyclable. Less resources are used when shipping the boxed packaging to the locations where water is filled compared to plastic bottles because boxes can be shipped flat. The water inside is purified with UV, carbon and reverse osmosis filtration. As a bonus, know that 1% of Boxed Water revenue is being donated to reforestation and world water relief.

Please enjoy our free filtered water. If you need to, enjoy Boxed Water knowing that it is a more sustainable option than anything packaged in a plastic bottle.

Misleading Menus

Last week, news surfaced that a Toronto Restaurant was misleading its customers by claiming that dishes and certain ingredients were special in terms of being premium, organic or local when they weren’t.

Factory farmed eggs were sold as “Free Range Eggs”, Farmed Atlantic Salmon was claimed to be “BC Organic Salmon” and Quaker Harvest Crunch was sold as “organic granola”. For more details, see the article from the Toronto Star

Many people are willing to pay a premium for special products such as these and so for the unscrupulous vendor, there’s an opportunity to increase price without increasing their costs by engaging in a little creative menu writing. We find this to be very disappointing and it raises the question of how can you be sure that the claims on a menu or a package are true?

There are two major ways to protect yourself from being a victim of false labels:

1) Look and ask for Certifications

While it is possible to claim that a product is certified when it is not, there are checks and balances in legitimate certification systems that help you determine that product claims have been verified.

In our case, we are a certified Organic Coffee Roaster and we publish our Organic certificate annually.  Our certifier, Ecocert Canada, verifies each organic claim we make. We are required to maintain meticulous records.  We are inspected and our records are checked every year to ensure we are compliant with Canadian Organic regulations. In the case of many certifications such Fair Trade and Bird Friendly, you can look up if the supplier is registered with the Certifier.

2) Ask about the Origins of the items

If a restaurant claims a product to be Organic or local or heirloom or special in any way, they should be prepared to explain the basis of the claim. So ask your server, if it is local, what farm did it come from? When? if it is organic, is it certified or how do they know it is really organic? The more people ask for details, the more difficult it will be for restaurants to mislead their customers.

Choosing sustainable, local, or artisanal foods can be rewarding in terms of tastes and the food experience and are often well worth the premium price, as long as we are getting the products that are being advertised.

Paris Climate Change Agreement – a Moment of Truth

2 ways to grow coffee
Coffee grown upslope provides habitat versus downslope sun coffee farm.
Many of the world’s companies pay no attention to how their supply chains are damaging forests, the Prince of Wales has warned as he urged action to stop deforestation.
At Birds and Beans our founding mission to preserve biodiversity directly supports climate objectives: preserving habitat is preserving forests.
https://www.killthekcup.org/single-post/2016/02/19/Is-there-a-serious-problem-with-coffee-capsules

 "It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement. Today it is a moment of truth.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke these words as he declared that the Paris Climate Change conference known as COP21 had reached an historic multilateral agreement. It is our sincere hope that he is right and that people of all countries see this as a call to action — It is the beginning of a process, and not the end.

The agreement is significant - nearly 200 countries have committed to a goal of limiting temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, rather than the 2 degrees that appeared to be the target just two weeks ago. The agreement is the product of a lot of hard work by many people.  From where I sit it seems that much credit is due to French President Hollande and UN Climate Chief Christiana Figures. As Canadians, we are delighted to see a change in the position of the Canadian delegation from obstructionist to constructive.

Local Children try birding
Delighted children try birding on a Bird Friendly® coffee farm.

As important as this agreement is, it is just the beginning.  The work lies ahead and we will face many obstacles and difficult choices in pursuing it.  To achieve the goals set in Paris, we will need to use the agreement as a framework to help us maintain our collective resolve as we face the challenges of necessary change together. As consumers, we have a big impact on carbon emissions - we make choices with far reaching consequences when we spend our dollars. Consumers reward the behaviors of everyone in the supply chain with every purchase we make:  Participants in the supply chain do what the monetary rewards incent them to do.  To curb extreme climate change, we will have to change deeply embedded common practices by changing the influence of monetary rewards.  Taxing carbon will help with this and it can work more quickly and more effectively if we understand it and if we consciously support behaviors we want to encourage in supply chains.

At Birds and Beans our founding mission to preserve biodiversity directly supports climate objectives: preserving habitat is preserving forests.  And preserving forests has been identified in Paris as a critical component to achieving climate objectives.

Sadly, during the decade and a half that we have offered this climate and habitat friendly coffee, we have seen an explosion in demand for unrecyclable plastic single serve pods containing unsustainable sun grown coffee. Single use coffee pods are the source of a great deal of profit (coffee offered in pods nets out to about $50 per pound!) while convenience brands ignore adverse environmental impact of their coffee and other unsustainable food offerings.

We maintain that using a grinder, a kettle and a drip filter holder is just as convenient a method of brewing a single cup of coffee, but has the merit of supporting an entirely sustainable supply chain.  And the superior flavour in the cup is incomparable!  This is one example of the kind of change that we as citizens can make as climate objectives are pursued.  

Our government reached an agreement because they believed it to be an expression of our collective will.  As policy changes result in choosing sustainability over convenience, waste and unchecked growth, we will have to demonstrate our support.  Let us make sure that our commitment runs deep and that no future government will be tempted to break the agreement for their own short term political gain. 

We are the citizens of the world at a the moment of truth.  Collectively, the future is in our hands.

The Messenger

We’re delighted to introduce our second Special Edition coffee: The Messenger Blend, produced in association with The Messenger Documentary - a film by Su Rynard. While the full length documentary explores the impact of our activities on birds around the world, it also offers solutions and inspires its audience to become more “Bird Friendly”. The Messenger Blend is an important part of that program.

Coffee drinkers can make one simple and easy change that will help both birds and coffee farmers - choose to drink Certified Bird Friendly organic coffee. This will guarantee that vital winter habitat is preserved for our migratory songbirds and the other creatures inhabiting those forests. It does so by paying a premium to the farmers who steward the forests for the coffee grown within them. You can support them just by changing the brand of coffee that you drink, and, if you already purchase specialty coffee, it won't cost more.

The Messenger Blend is sourced exclusively from Certified Bird Friendly Shade Grown Organic farms. Every bag you buy helps to preserve vital forest habitat for future generations. Since we here in Canada share these migratory birds with the people of Latin America, we’ve increased the impact of the Messenger Blend by donating 10% of all sales to Bird Studies Canada - Canada’s leading science-based bird conservation organization. Every bag you purchase will also be helping to promote conservation here at home.

The Messenger documentary is being released more widely and we encourage you to see it. 

For more information, visit songbirdsos.com

Grow a Tree in Your Cup

One of the best parts of my job is speaking to passionate people - people who are passionate about coffee and also people who are passionate about the environment.  Some people are passionate about both.

A few months ago, I had one of those conversations with Elaine Munro of Progressive Nutritional Therapies. They had been purchasing Birds & Beans Certified Bird Friendly coffee for their office and were using it to raise funds for a tree planting near the source of the Rouge River in North East Toronto.

In the office, they charge by the cup and were also selling jars of beans for brewing at home - and called it "Grow a tree in your Cup". They are pretty big coffee drinkers over there because when it came time to plant - they had raised enough money to plant 513 trees!

In early May,  24 members of their staff along with family members turned out to plant a selection of native trees and shrubs that were selected to be appropriate for the river side site by Ontario Streams.

This is amazing - through this simple, yet creative program, they were able to both protect habitat in South and Central America by supporting Bird Friendly coffee growers, and improve habitat here at home in the Rouge River valley. Congratulations to all involved!

For the complete story see the Progressive Nutritonal Therapies Blog and for more information.

Coffee Bird Photo Post

As spring returns and our beloved migratory songbirds make their way back to Canada from their wintering grounds in Central and South America, we urge you to support them by purchasing certified Bird Friendly® coffee!

American Redstart
American Redstart

 

Our friend and supporter Vincent Falardeau would like to remind us of the beauty of the birds.  He has a permanent show of his photographs in our café.

Indigo Bunting _web II
Indigo Bunting

 

And we would like to remind you of the beauty of the coffee.

Black-throated Green Warbler_web
Black-throated Green Warbler

 

Lets do one simple act that sustains these beautiful birds and enriches our lives with a simple pleasure.

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

 

Help us help the birds.  Buy our certified Bird Friendly® coffee.

Black-throated Blue Warbler_1_1
Black-throated Blue Warbler

 

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

A Delicious Way to Support Ontario Nature!

We are excited to announce the introduction of our first Special Edition coffee, “Ontario Nature” Blend.  This is a special blend in many ways.  It is Triple Certified: Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Organic, and like all of our coffees, is is roasted and packed using 100% green energy from Bullfrog Power. And, if that isn’t enough, we are taking it over the top, by donating $1.50 from the sale of each bag to Ontario Nature!  Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters and 150 member groups from across Ontario. They will use the funds to protect wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement.

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler stopping in our Etobicoke backyard on its return possibly from our Bird Friendly Nicaraguan coffee farm.

By choosing to drink certified Bird Friendly coffee, our customers have always supported conservation of the neotropical forest ecosystems in which our coffee grows. Now, through Ontario Nature, you can support conservation of habitat in Ontario too – by simply changing the coffee you drink.

Picking at Gaia Estate
Pickers pick only the ripe red coffee cherries at Gaia Estate. They allow the green ones to ripen and return for them another day.


And what a wonderful coffee it is! It has a lovely honeyed aroma, with balanced tones of chocolate and nuts. It is a lovely, smooth coffee with a long, sweet aftertaste that rings pleasantly in the pallet after the cup is gone.  

We are so excited to launch our first Special Edition coffee that, for a limited time, we are offering FREE shipping of the Ontario Nature Blend any where in Ontario for orders over $25.

By making this one purchase, we collectively support ecosystem and biodiversity conservation in coffee growing countries and here in Canada.  Do it now

ONnature340Back

Help Monarch Butterflies by planting Milkweed

A Monarch Butterfly visiting a Bergamot plant in our patio garden.

On a related note - we add our voice to support the proposed changes to Ontario's Weed Control Act that would remove Milkweed from the list and make it legal to grow. About time! 

http://www.farms.com/ag-industry-news/ontario-proposes-an-amendment-to-the-weed-control-act-560.aspx 

Although it doesn't have anything to do with coffee or birds, we are happy to see the David Suzuki Foundation's current #GotMilkweed program aimed at planting more Milkweed to act as host plants for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. We like it because it points out that helping to save a species (and in this case the phenomenon of the Monarch Migration) is all about habitat.

Milkweed plants are an essential part of the Monarch's lifecycle but it has been eradicated from much of the butterfly's range - in cities and in the country thus destroying the butterfly's natural habitat. The #GotMilkweed campaign's goal is to replant a milkweed corridor in Toronto to help these insects increase their numbers. If the project succeeds, we would see patches of milkweed plant around us in the place of dull, boring grass.  A new generation of children will learn the pleasure of playing with Milkweed pods and releasing the seeds and we will see more of these beautiful butterflies in the summer and fall.

It is a small thing that can make a big difference - we see a future where we look for places to plant milkweeds and other plants to provide habitat and food for insects and birds. Imagine, for example, how nice it would be to drive down a highway and see milkweeds and other wildflowers making the scenery much more beautiful than the boring grass monoculture that has become the standard road side treatment.  In the same way, we see a future where people ask for their Fair trade coffee to be Bird Friendly too, so every cup provides habitat for Migratory Songbirds in addition to providing a fair deal for farmers. 

More information: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2014/04/got-milkweed/

 

A Different Cup of Coffee

More than 10 years ago, we set out to create a different kind of company - one that would give consumers a way to use their purchasing power to make the world better rather than worse. We wanted to provide a product that was green at its core - not something that just looked green or came out of a "green" facility with a super duper recycling program. We wanted to create a true "triple bottom line" company that produced tangible environmental and social benefits.

Coffee was the perfect product for our experiment - for one thing, we love really good coffee and had a hard time finding a consistent source. And, most importantly, traditionally cultivated coffee is grown in a way that preserves habitat for wildlife - including Migratory Songbirds. Coffee is increasingly being grown in partial shade or full sun, transforming what was once a thriving forest ecosystem into "Eco Deserts" capable of supporting little life: Where there was once a thriving forest ecosystem, the only living thing is the crop being cultivated.

A few years before we started Birds and Beans, The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center had developed the Bird Friendly Coffee Certification.  Its aim is to identify and certify farms that provided good habitat for migratory songbirds - or more accurately are functioning ecosystems.

So, having identified the problem and the solution, Birds and Beans was born. We bought a small Commercial Roaster, some green Bird Friendly coffee and started developing our roast profiles. After about a year of development, we were ready to launch.

We sold our first coffee at the Guelph Organic Show in January 2003. Now we are a Certified Organic Roaster and have 2 much larger roasters and a full line of Certified Organic, Certified Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffees. We offer the World's first and only Triple Certified Espresso – Commit, an espresso blend.

A decade later, we can declare our experiment a success. Birds and Beans is a going concern where every pound of coffee sold is helping to protect valuable habitat as well as contributing to a decent life for the farmers and their families. About 5 years ago, we were joined by Bill Wilson and his colleagues from New England, who wanted to use the Birds & Beans name in the USA - and out of that has grown a valuable partnership that is spreading the word to an even wider audience. Our coffee receives rave reviews from all who try it. Together, we are building a different kind of coffee brand.

This month we are undertaking a 'bird survey' in Nicaragua on the 450 farm co-op, UCA San Juan del Rio Coco, co-sponsored by York University and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. We buy a good deal of coffee directly from the co-op. The conservation biologists conducting the survey reported 21 species of migrant birds present in the first few days of field work.

Supporting this kind of work is unheard of for companies of our size as it doesn't have a commercial payoff. So why do we do it?  Simple.  Its because we have aligned our business with our true values and our business expresses them just as we do. It isn't a ploy or a marketing gimmick.  It is what we care about.  We founded this company as a vehicle to promote conservation and this is an opportunity to do just that.

The study represents new work in this region and so the findings will add to the body of knowledge of how that ecosystem functions.  This will help our growers to make better decisions on how to manage their farms in the future.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us and have enjoyed a different cup of coffee....

The Christmas Gift for Coffee Lovers

Our coffee of the month is the perfect Christmas gift for coffee lovers lovers!   Send a different pound of our delicious Bird Friendly® of coffee every month.  Or the same one each month if you prefer.  Or every other month.  Start the first shipment on the date you set so it arrives just before Christmas or in January.  Its flexible!  Pay in advance or pay as you go.  Read more details here.

As an added bonus this year, when you purchase a coffee of the month subscription of 4 shipments or more, we will send your recipient our beautiful 2014 Coffee Songbirds Calendar with the first installment (December or January) and one to you too!  

calendar front page
Neotropical Migrants from Bird Friendly Coffee Plantations of Central and South America

Our December coffee of the month offering is our 2013 Christmas Blend… A rich, smooth, delicious coffee with a festive label.

Christmas Blend 2013

Now isn’t Christmas easy this year?

Coffee Songbirds, 2014 Calendar

Our new Coffee Songbirds Calendar for 2014 is Available Now!  This beautiful Calendar speaks for itself.  Each month a different migratory songbird with text by Pulitzer Prize nominee Scott Weidensaul and a map of summer and winter territory courtesy of Cornell Lab or Ornithology.  A great Christmas gift for the coffee lover, bird lover or conservationist!

calendar front page
Neotropical Migrants from Bird Friendly Coffee Plantations of Central and South America

 

Calendar cack cover
Back Cover with samples

 

Seeking a Compost Partner

About us:

We are the cafe part of Canada’s leading roaster of Certified Bird Friendly coffee. Our location is unique – unlike any other we’ve seen. Out back we have a lovely patio with a  view of Lake Ontario and a Native wildflower garden. The purpose of the garden is to provide habitat for birds and pollinators and to provide a beautiful backdrop for our patio.

Behind our wildflower garden is a huge composter – where we compost our coffee roaster chaffe, grinds and kitchen scraps. Since we don’t fertilize or water the wildflowers, we really don’t have a great need for the end product but we’re pretty sure someone out there really needs some great organic compost.

Our composter
Our onsite composter at Birds and Beans Café-by-the-Lake

About you:

You are reasonably local to us and are in need of some beautiful rich organic compost. You are willing to do some of the work required such as turning the piles and able to give direction to us on the adjusting the mix of inputs if required.

We’d prefer that you are a Community organization or perhaps involved in community garden but we will consider any one willing to help, You will have to agree to bag and remove the compost at your expense.

So, if this sounds like a match made in heaven to you, drop us a line and we’ll get dirty together….

To contact us, leave a comment here or call 647-439-3294.

Our Wildflower Garden
Our Wildflower Garden

To Bee or not to Bee

Bird and Pollinator Garden
Bergamot, a native wildflower, in our Cafe garden
Bees in a felled tree on a Bird Friendly Coffee Farm

There have been a number of disturbing reports about mass bee die offs in the news recently - such as this report of 37 million bees dying in Ontario.

The cause of  these die offs has not yet been establish but it is likely that they are being caused by a relatively new class of pesticides call neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are sprayed like other pesticides but are also increasingly being used to coat seeds of corn (and possibly other crops) so the seed may be sowed earlier -- before the temperature and moisture conditions are right for germination and not be eaten by ground dwelling insects. The problem is that the insecticide makes its way into the leaves and the pollen of the plant and the bees take the pollen back to the hives and the pesticide kills the bees. It also appears that pesticide is introduced to the environment during the planting process, exposing bees and other animals at that point too.

It is estimated that the majority of corn now planted in North America is now coated with Neonicotinoids - a rise that coincides with the increase in Bee Colony Collapse disorder. The link has not been proven yet, a fact the chemical companies are quick to point out but the European Union has introduced at 2 year ban on 3 neonicotinoids as a precautionary measure. The evidence is mounting and we suggest that US and Canadian governments should follow the same path - better safe than sorry.  We lived very well before these pesticides were introduced and a temporary ban seems like the right thing to do while the studies are done.

There's another disturbing fact that doesn't get mentioned in the stories - the bees that are dying are our domestic honey bees - the ones kept to pollinate crops and make honey.  We've moved more and more to a model of agriculture that requires honey bee hives to be brought in to pollinate crops as we've reduced the biodiversity in farm fields to the point where they are eco-deserts - nothing much lives there except the crop we are growing. We have replaced the natural pollinators with domesticated bees -- essentially hives of agricultural workers. And now, in our never ending quest to maximize yield and minimize immediate cost, we appear to be killing the domestic honey bees - our agricultural partners on whom we are utterly dependent.

If we are unable to keep bees, we won't be able to grow crops that depend on them for pollination but our governments do not act. If something was killing our cattle, hogs or chickens, we would see action - so why not for the bees? How will our crops be pollinated with out them?

 

 

The simple answer is that they won't be unless we take steps to protect the biodiversity of pollinators whether they be domesticated or wild. The native wild pollinators are being killed by the same agents as the Honey Bees and they are losing their natural habitat. The loses are hard to quantify because we don't count them.

Protecting the pollinator diversity requires 2 simple steps.

1. Provide habitat for the bees and

2. Stop poisoning the bees.

So, what can we do? I encourage everyone to contact their elected representatives and urge them to support a temporary moratorium on the sale and use of Neonicotinoids. The justification for doing so may be found in something called "The Precautionary Principle" - which says we have a duty to prevent harm to the environment if it is in our power to do so, even though all the evidence is not in - or, in other words, Common Sense.

You can also do your part to help reduce the market for the products of this kind of chemical intensive industrial agriculture. Start by supporting Organic and small scale local farmers. Summer is a great time to purchase local food at a Farmer's Market - ask the farmers about the the food and how it is grown. Does it cost more to support the small scale farmers? It can do but you get benefits for that extra cost. You are strengthening your community, it is better for the environment and the food tastes better! If we all take some action on this, collectively we will have an impact.

Finally, if you have a garden, plant some native plants that will provide a food source for our native pollinators. Our native bees are in trouble too but nobody is counting them so we don't have the numbers. We must protect the species that we have, we are going to need them in the future. We have done this behind our cafe and we enjoy seeing a wide variety of bees visiting our native plants.

What Bird Friendly® Looks Like in Nicaragua

Picture taken by Scott Weidensaul on this trip
Marvin Venega with a cacao pod
Marvin's kids try birding
Marvin's kids try birding

A guest post for Earth Day from Scott Weidensaul, one of our "Voices for the Birds" (http://www.scottweidensaul.com)

In January, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Nicaragua, visiting a number of the farms that supply Bird Friendly® coffee to Birds & Beans - an experience that drove home the critical importance of such Smithsonian-certified shade coffee farms to the survival of migratory birds.

Much of our time was spent in the country's northern highlands, a region of exceptional avian diversity, where Birds & Beans is partnering with UCA San Juan del Rio Coco, a cooperative of more than 400 small family farmers, all growing USDA organic coffee, 60 percent of which is also certified Bird Friendly®.

My guide was Jefferson Shriver, who with his wife Gabriela Narvaez runs Gaia Estate, also a Birds & Beans supplier. We met with the leadership of UCA San Juan, including their general manager Griselda Jarquín Lopez, and learned that the cooperative has decided to become 100 percent Bird Friendly® within three years - a significant step for this large, successful operation, which ships more than 2.5 million pounds of coffee each year.

I also had a chance to see first-hand how important the traditional shade coffee farms of this region are to migratory birds. Whether one is driving north from Managua, or looking at the region from space via Google Earth, you're struck by the realization that the highlands around San Juan del Rio Coco are an immense island of quality bird habitat, surrounded by denuded cattle pastures, grain fields and sun coffee monocultures. In the highlands, though, traditional shade coffee farming has preserved an oasis for birds.

I was expecting farms that looked like, well, farms. Instead, the Bird Friendly® certified farms of producers like Marvin Venega look like almost untouched forest - high, complex canopies of native trees, draped with vines and spangled with orchids. In the shade of these forests, Venega and his neighbors grow not just coffee, but also cacao, vanilla, starfruit, cinnamon and a host of other crops - a system that is centuries old.

The habitat they protect simply drips with birds. We found great, rolling flocks moving through the woods. There were migrants like Philadelphia, yellow-throated and warbling vireos; yellow, chestnut-sided and Wilson's warblers; summer tanagers and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Mixed with them were flamboyant resident species like emerald toucanets, blue-crowned motmots and masked tityras. Baltimore orioles from the north fed beside yellow-backed orioles, and Tennessee warblers were everywhere. It was paradise for a birder like me, and I hardly knew which way to look.

The coffee you drink makes a real, demonstrable difference for the birds that migrate to Central America. Because of the premium price they receive for Bird Friendly® coffee, farmers like Marvin Venega are actually restoring degraded habitat. Marvin proudly showed us an old corn field where, with the cooperative's support, he has planted thousands of saplings of native trees and shrubs. Within a few years, this too would become vital habitat for migrants like blue-headed vireos and western wood-pewees.

The habitat preservation that every bag of Birds & Beans coffee makes possible isn't happening just in the northern highlands. We wrapped up our trip at Gaia Estates, not far from the Pacific coast, which Jefferson and Gabriela have turned into a model of organic, Bird Friendly® habitat.

At daybreak, we sat on the deck of their cabin listening to flocks of parrots and parakeets screeching overhead. Dozens of western tanagers mobbed fruiting trees, while ruby-throated hummingbirds - perhaps the same ones that nest at our home in Pennsylvania - flitted from flower to flower. The woods were filled with hundreds of yellow warblers, and the more open areas were alive with scissor-tailed flycatchers and western kingbirds.    

Jefferson and Gabriela are now Birds & Beans' official representatives in Latin America, helping us forge partnerships not only with farmers in Nicaragua, but in countries as far afield as Peru and Colombia - and in the process, to safeguard the kind of habitat that birds we all love must have to survive.

How Much Coffee Should I Use?

We are often asked how much coffee to use to brew the perfect cup. Well, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) provides expert advice on all things coffee and the brewing ratio they suggest is 55g of coffee for 1 litre of brew. Since we don’t usually get out the scale to brew coffee, I weighed out 55g of beans and roughly translated to volume:

  • 10 tablespoons of beans to 1 litre of brew, or
  • 2.5 tablespoons beans per cup (8 fluid oz)

For event brewing in a 100 cup perc urn, we find 14 oz ground coarse is great.

When we roast a new coffee, we start with the SCAA brewing ratio. In our experience, this brews a strong delicious cup of coffee - in most cases. Interestingly, some coffees taste much better by reducing the ratio of coffee to water. The Nicaragua Gaia Estate coffee is much better brewed at about 3/4 strength (a little less than two tablespoons per cup).

The SCAA recommends grinding the coffee at the time of brewing, so the measurements above are for beans. I measure out the beans and put them through the grinder. It makes less mess than trying to measure ground coffee too. If you are measuring ground coffee the amount needed may be a bit more or less depending on how compacted it is.

A few more tips for making great coffee:

  • use coffee roasted within the last 4-6 weeks
  • use filtered (no chlorine) good quality water
  • use clean equipment (grinders, brewers and carafes)
  • make sure the brewing temperature is between 90-96 C (195-205 F)
  • use the right grind for the method of brewing (coarse for french press, regular for filter, fine for aeropress)
  • do not leave brewed coffee on active heat

Gaia Estate – A Bird Friendly® Coffee Grower’s Perspective

A guest post from Jefferson Shriver and Gabriela Narvaez are Owners of Gaia Estate, Diriamba, Nicaragua:

The planet is becoming an increasingly inhospitable place for agriculture.  This is especially the case with full sun, rain fed monocrops grown in the tropics where pounding rain, high winds, and long dry periods are an annual experience.

Fortunately, coffee is a forest crop by nature, and forests can create natural buffers for such inhospitable conditions.  As organic, agro-forestry farmers, we just help that process along a bit.

Shade Grown Coffee at Gaia
The ecosystem is functioning in this “agro-forest” on the Gaia Estate.

At Gaia Estate in Nicaragua, coffee was first grown here over 100 years ago by simply clearing a bit of the underbrush from a natural forest. The place looks much the same today, with over seventy species of trees on 90 acres.  A thick blanket of leaf litter covers the ground all year, maintaining soil humidity, preventing erosion, and building up organic matter that our coffee loves. Our three story shade canopy of fruit and forest trees shields the coffee from strong rains and volatile temperatures, and slows the maturation of the coffee beans, giving the coffee more complexity and sweetness.  The limes, bananas and avocado intercropped with coffee as that first shade layer give us plenty of fruit year round for our family, workers, and a bit of extra to sell.  Most people say they feel they are walking through a park when they come to Gaia.  We feel much the same way – like gardeners in a forest – and can’t imagine farming any other way.

Picking at Gaia Estate
Pickers pick only the ripe red coffee cherries at Gaia Estate. They allow the green ones to ripen and return for them another day.

We know that Gaia is a refuge for migratory and resident birds, and a host of animals and insects.  This is also very important to us.  Since assuming ownership of the farm six years ago, we are seeing greater populations of migratory and resident birds, butterflies, lizards, iguana, and rabbits. We’ve even spotted a few deer and monkeys recently, the first to come back to this area in a long time. We don’t have to worry about the risk of worker exposure to poison because we don’t use pesticides or herbicides.  The soil is alive with micro-organisms, worms and ants that all co-exist here given we use only organic fertilizer and repellents.

Butterfly
Bird Friendly® certified coffee farms are a functioning ecosystem with biodiversity that rivals rainforest.

I am hesitant to over-romanticize, however.  Annually we apply a half bucket of organic fertilizer to every plant.  Compare that to the bottle cap of urea we see our neighbors apply to their conventionally grown coffee plants, and you can see that our production costs can get expensive.  All of the coffee cherry residues, horse and cow manure, and fallen branches we convert to charcoal are used to make a rich blend of organic fertilizer.    Then we hand weed instead of applying herbicides like Round Up or paraquat.  While this is also time consuming and more expensive, it allows us to let tree seedlings – spread by birds and bats throughout the farm – grow back and replenish the agro-forestry system over time.  These kinds of practices also generate more employment, meeting a critical need in the local community.  Finally, there is nothing easy about regulating the shade of trees 20 meters high. The pruning of branches is necessary to allow some sunlight in for the coffee, and requires careful handling for both the tree and the coffee below.

Pruned Tree
On Bird Friendly® certified farms, trees must retain 80% coverage after pruning!

Not everyone farms this way.  As I write, in addition to the songs of at least a half dozen birds, I also hear the whirring of chainsaws in the distance.  The value of trees in Nicaragua are calculated when they are horizontal, in board feet, not vertical and alive.  Deforestation in Nicaragua, like much of Latin America, continues at a relentless pace.  Tragically, most coffee markets do not reward farmers for growing coffee in the shade.  There is no market value assigned to shade.  Bird Friendly is a small but significant exception to the industry standard.  If more people buy SMBC Bird Friendly coffee and demand grows, we would love to share the Birds & Beans and Bird Friendly certified market with our neighbors. After all, we are not an island – what our neighbors are doing ultimately affect our growing conditions and the health of the ecosystem we take care of at Gaia.  The orioles and warblers and thrushes, if they could speak to us during their short visits here annually, would probably agree.

Jefferson Shriver and Gabriela Narvaez are Owners of Gaia Estate.  Consider a visit to the farm – www.gaiaestate.com

What is up with the Fair Trade logo?

You will notice a new Fair Trade logo on our website and packaging this month.  There have been some changes in the fair trade system this year, and, we are now licensed with a different certifier: Fair Trade USA.  Their fair trade logo looks like this.

Fair Trade Logo

So what is going on?  And what does it mean?

Well in short, the fair trade system now has multiple third party certifiers, each with slightly different criteria.  This is similar to the organic system in which there are well defined criteria on what is required for a product to be organic and there are several certifiers (Ecocert, Procert, and many more) who audit processes and records to ensure compliance with that standard.

It differs from the organic system in that the criteria for fair trade used by Fair Trade USA are now slightly different than those used by Fair Trade Canada.  The differences between them are subtle and are motivated by a differing views on how best to meet the goals of Fair Trade.  The goals remain common.

As licensees, we are disappointed by the confusion this disruption that has been caused by this shift.  While there seems to be rather vicious debate between advocates of these 2 systems (and the Rainforest Alliance actually), we remain focused on uncertified product as the problem:  where workers have no rights, poor pay and no security and where small producers have poor access to credit and to markets.  We believe effort should be spent on increasing the market for socially certified coffee rather than debating the merits of the various social responsibility certifications all of which have made significant improvements in the lives of real people.

From our perspective, the most important aspect of any certification including one for social responsibility, is that

  • it has published criteria that are developed openly and can be seen to be achieving their stated goals
  • the criteria are verified at every step by an independent third party
  • that chain of custody is unbroken so every party from producer to consumer willingly commits to third party verification

This brings us to why Birds and Beans, a Canadian family owned company, has landed with Fair Trade USA.  As the Canadian leader in certified Bird Friendly® coffee we are not able to purchase our raw coffee from the list of FTO coffees offered by local importers (as almost all other Canadian roasters do).  We have had to build our own global supply chain.

Our supply chain is complex and specialized and we have partnered with several like minded buyers in the USA to meet our goals.  Our buying partners have always been licensees of Fair Trade USA.  In order for us to preserve the new chain of custody requirements, we have joined them and now report through Fair Trade USA.

Chico Depulping
Chico depulping the coffee cherries on Gaia Estate

We are offering the same coffees grown, purchased and certified under the same conditions as we always have.  The only thing that has changed is the logo.  In the future, we hope to be able to add coffees sourced from our estate farmers (who were who had been ineligible for fair trade certification as independent family farms) as Fair Trade Certified.

 

Valuing Eco-services on Bird Friendly Coffee Farms

2 ways to grow coffee

Human activity has had a dramatic effect on our world. Shopping malls stand where forests once stood. A once pristine beach is now a concrete wall at the foot of a condominium. Factories pollute our rivers. Trawlers are racing to pull all the fish out of the sea. The question is – “why do we do it?”, particularly since we know the consequences.

The explanation is simple. People do what they are incented to do. Since Nature provides the services that sustain us for free — that is, we don’t pay for them — we consume them at unsustainable levels.

Dr. Pavan Sukhdev heads up the United Nations Environment Program’s Green Economy Initiative where they try to understand this question and more importantly how to incent us to behave differently. He says that the cost imposed on society for the degradation of ecosystems through the legal actions of corporations is between $2 – 4  trillion per year.  That’s an amount roughly equivalent to the financial losses of the 2008 banking crisis. For a quick introduction to the topic check out this video.

For a bit more detail, watch this TED Talk by Dr. Sukhdev see What is the Price of Nature

Dr. Sukhdev proposes that the solution is for consumers pay for the value of the services provided by nature that are consumed in producing the products they buy.  Moving to a solution that takes what has previously been considered “external costs” into account is achievable but will not be simple.  The relative costs of what we consume will change to reflect the true costs.  For example, we will discover that manufacturing a plastic bottle will be too expensive to use for a one time sale of water.  Recall our post on plastic water bottles:

albatross-ocean-gyre-birds-pictures-04
The remains of a baby albatross and the contents of its stomach.

Given that we do what we are incented to do, putting a price on natural capital is our best choice.  None of us wants to be responsible for causing the last forests to be cut down or catching the last fish, do we? Yet our current economic models are driving us there.

Rather than waiting for the economic apparatus to be implemented, we are valuing the natural capital in coffee growing regions by choosing certified Bird Friendly coffee.  Bird Friendly coffee farms provide many services including habitat for wildlife, water retention and purification, pollination, pest control, carbon storage, soil erosion protection to name a few.

2 ways to grow coffee
Coffee grown upslope provides habitat versus downslope sun coffee farm.

Meanwhile, in pursuit of higher yields, coffee farmers are encouraged to cut down forests so they to make more money.  Sometimes they do make more,  but even when they do, the forest, and all the services that it provides, are gone.  The land becomes an Eco-desert. Those services that ultimately sustain us are no longer provided (at any price) and our ecosystem is one step closer to collapse.

So by choosing certified Bird Friendly coffee we are rewarding farmers for protecting habitat and natural services.

Our eco-system has so far proven to be remarkably robust in the face of our unchecked consumption, but there are signs everyhwere that we may be reaching its limits.  Is it not be better for us all to pay the farmers to keep the forest and have it continue to provide “eco services”?   We think so.  What do you think?

Water is Free at Birds and Beans Café

We are no longer selling bottled water at the cafe. [update: we now sell boxed water if you want it to go]  I saw a Pop! Tech talk with Chris Jordan about a month ago.  He wanted to engage us in the impact of Pacific Garbage Patch.  Well it worked on me.

He photographed dead albatross chicks who had died from eating the plastic they were fed by their parents who thought it was food.

Here is what Chris Jordan says on his website about this project:

"On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.

Is Earth Day Really Over?

20120412-006a
Eagle Nest Cam courtesy Hancock Wildlife Foundation

Last week, on Earth Day I happened to see a broadcast of American Experience's "Earth Days" documentary on PBS.  I've been thinking about it ever since.  Did you know that the first Earth Day was organized 42 years ago and marked the consolidation of the environmental movement as a political force?

As someone who grew up in the 60's and 70's it struck me is what a huge impact the movement had on my personal view of the world. Its collective voice and momentum gave me the sense that we can save the natural world from human imposed ruin.

The Environmental Movement had some really big wins in those days. Banning DDT, expansion of National Parks, and the creation of the EPA to name a few. They are the reason we have Eagles today and we have relatively clean air to breath and water to drink.

In striking contrast, it dawned on me that not much has happened in the 30 years since.  The tremendous policy advances have pretty much stopped.  Sure we have a small number of Hybrid Cars and a few more solar panels and LED lights - but what progress has there been towards creating a truly sustainable economy?  Very little.  In fact, I would argue it has been a time of backslide and greenwashing.

Meanwhile, the international scientific community warns us of the effects of human induced climate change, and in response, we elect governments who ignore the science and marginalize environmental leaders.

It is now a week after Earth Day. The commercial rush is over. There are no more "green" inducements from the big brands because the commercial machine has moved on the the next big promotional opportunity... Mother's Day.

What about Mother Earth?  Is Earth Day really over?

Every Day is Earth Day

At Birds and Beans we don't do anything different on Earth Day.  Don't get me wrong, its not that we don't appreciate the other guys giving some notice to the environment one day a year. Every little bit helps.

If we were to take the opportunity to crow (pun intended) about our sustainability record, you'd get bored because it is so comprehensive.  So instead, click here if you want to see what we do everyday to make our Earth more livable.

Earth Day is a good moment to look at what we've done in just the past year to raise the bar from where we were the year before.  For businesses, the most significant measure of sustainability must be in the production of its core product.  I see way too many companies getting "warm fuzzies" from the public for changing their light bulbs while their shelves are stocked with products made in toxic sweatshops in other countries. Its not that I begrudge their choice to use less energy to illuminate their walls of shame... enough said?

By contrast we're on track to our goal of offering 100% certified Bird Friendly coffee by 2013. [Update: We did that!] We're delighted that after years of discussions, our 3 growers in Nicaragua have become the first certified Bird Friendly growers in Nicaragua. This is more than just adding a certification to a previously available crop. It turns out that even within these growers, some of their coffee is certifiable and some is not. That means when we purchased coffee from these growers in the past, it might not have been grown in the bio-diverse rustic shade that we are trying to support.

Do you see why certification is important? Now our Nicaraguan growers are separating the coffee grown in certifiable shade from the rest. So in purchasing the Bird Friendly coffee we feed back to the growers that we are willing pay a bit more to preserve a bit of lush habitat with our delicious coffee.

In 2012, together with our USA counterpart, we purchased the first ever full container of certified Bird Friendly coffee to leave Nicaragua!

We do believe the little things do matter too. So we've upgraded to St. John's organic bread in the cafe. We've shifted from an assortment of cleaners with unverified green claims to Green Cricket's EcoLogo certified cleaners. We've banished all products containing Palm Oil from our cafe. We planted our CHIRP! native garden behind the café and incorporated onsite composting.

If the most significant measure of sustainability for business is in the production of its core product, what is the parallel for us as individuals? Arguably, it is for us to change our daily consumption, specifically, our food choices. If you drink coffee every day, this is a great place to start. Imagine changing from drinking coffee that is eradicating habitat every day, to coffee that preserves and enhances it? Its so easy! And the payoff is also better tasting coffee.

Cup of Coffee
Cup of Peru Norte

Celebrate Earth Day with certified Bird Friendly coffee from Birds and Beans and then make Earth Day last forever by enjoying it every day.

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?

Coffee Birds in our Backyard

This post is to bring you a few of the beautiful photographs taken by Vincent Falardeau in our back garden in the Long Branch neighbourhood of the City of Toronto.  These birds spend their winters on shade coffee farms in Central and South America.  Traditional rustic coffee farms are the last refuge for these beautiful creatures as their formerly lush wintering grounds are deforested.

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

We want you to understand that they are here.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

They are beautiful.

Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting in Eastern Redbud

They will visit if you give them a bit of habitat in your backyard…

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

… or your local park

Yellow-rumped Warbler High Park
Yellow-rumped Warbler High Park

And that the most effective thing you can do to help them survive is to drink our Certified Bird Friendly coffee.

American Redstart
American Redstart

See more of these amazing photographs in Vincent’s exhibit at our café.

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.

How to Make Earth Hour Last Forever

Earth Hour is actually a pretty good idea. It gives people a visible way to express their concern for the environment. As we are such social creatures, it spread from Sidney, Australia, all around the world and has become a huge world-wide event. It represents a wonderful opportunity for generating impetus to make positive change and elegantly demonstrates that many small changes really add up to make a difference.

However – the experience will only make a difference if we use it as an opportunity to make real changes in our daily lives. We mustn’t get so involved in the moment — the hour — that we look out in the darkness and see our collective accomplishment as the goal. It is a demonstration.

Let’s use Earth Hour as an opportunity to make a permanent change that lowers our footprint on the Earth. Things that you do every day or every week have the most impact. For example, in the Café, we just changed our sandwich bread from a high quality conventional bread to a certified organic bread (we already use certified organic meat, eggs, dairy and veggies). So there are fewer chemicals and pesticides going into the environment and more farmers are being rewarded for employing sustainable methods. This is a small change, but a positive one – we make sandwiches every day and the increased cost is relatively small.

So what can you do?  Look for things you do often and make the change there for to have the greatest impact. We eat food every day so you can:

  • Switch some of your regular purchases to organic products rather than conventional ones,
  • If you eat meat, eliminate it one day a week and switch some to certified organic,
  • Use local farmer’s markets,
  • Reduce your dependence on processed foods,
  • And of course, our favourite, switch your coffee to Certified Bird Friendly, Organic and join us in preserving essential migratory songbird habitat.
Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler stopping in our Etobicoke backyard on its return possibly from our Bird Friendly Nicaraguan coffee farm.

So let’s turn out the lights tonight and let us know what you will do to make Earth Hour last forever.

What’s the Deal with the Birds?

Carved Baltimore Oriole
Carved Baltimore Oriole before being applied to our cafe mural
2 ways to grow coffee
Upslope is a shade coffee farm. Downslope is sun coffee.
Birding On Gaia Estate
Birding On Gaia Estate

Something we get asked often about our name -- "I get the Beans, but what's the deal with the Birds?" The answer is that we started the company to  import, roast and sell Certified Bird Friendly® coffee in Canada - something that no-one was doing at the time.

We chose the name to highlight the link between the coffee you choose to drink and the Migratory Songbirds that you see in our back yards, parks and forests. You see - "our" songbirds aren't really ours at all, we share them with the people of South and Central America.  Every winter, they fly south to spend the winter months in tropical forests. At least that's what they've done for the past several hundred thousand years.

Over the past 40 - 50 years, we in North America have seen dramatic decline in Songbird populations and, it turns out, that one of the major causes of this decline is winter habitat loss. We are losing tropical rain forests at an alarming rate - mostly they are being cut down for agricultural purposes -- for sun coffee, for other crops and for cattle. When the birds that used to winter in a forest return to find that it was turned into a sun coffee farm,  they have struggle to find food and don't gain enough fat reserves for the trip back to their breeding grounds back here in North America.  They arrive back later, breed less successfully and those populations are in steep decline.

The thing is, coffee likes to grow in the forest!  So why are we cutting it down to grow coffee?  To increase yield of course.  It is pretty depressing really until you realize there's something we can do to help stop the trend.  We can support traditional rustic shade coffee farms that do provide winter habitat for our migratory songbirds.  The coffee tends to be better too.  Drink a cup a day from these farms and you'll be responsible for preserving about 1,750 sq ft of bio-diverse habitat for birds and other creatures. That may not sound like a lot, but multiply that by the millions of cups of coffee that are consumed by Canadians every day and we can have a huge impact.

This brings us to a key question  - "how do you know if your coffee is really helping preserve habitat for migratory birds?" Easy - just look for the Smithsonian's Bird Friendly Seal. It is the only way to be sure. We'll discuss it in more detail in a later post but the Bird Friendly Certification guarantees that a coffee farm provides habitat for birds by measuring against criteria developed by the Smithsonian's scientists. So you could say that the certified Bird Friendly farms are scientifically proven to provide habitat for our migratory birds. Most importantly, the Bird Friendly certification was not developed by the Marketing department of a coffee company.

So that's the deal with the Birds.  We became a coffee company to help the birds by bringing you beans that preserve their habitat.  Drinking it is something easy and delicious you can do every day to help save our migratory songbirds.

Welcome

Welcome the the Birds and Beans Blog! About 10 years ago we set out on this journey of sustainable business, coffee and birds – and from now on we’re going to share the journey with you on this blog.

We love animals, plants and wild spaces. We also love coffee. So what better business to be in than one that helps protect habitat for some of the most vulnerable species on the planet just by drinking coffee?

Mural2We could have started a typical artisanal coffee roastery — seeking out the best beans from coffee farms around the world, and roasting them to perfection and selling them while they’re still fresh.

But that would have been too easy.

The truth of the matter is, that despite the marketing hype, much of the so-called “artisanal coffees” come from chemical-doused, shade-less fields. We’ve set the bar even higher. Not only do we seek the best coffee, but it also must be grown in harmony with nature rather than dominating nature. Hence our tagline: “A richer taste, a richer earth.®”

This means it has to be Organic. Certified Organic not “Trust me” organic. It must be grown in rustic, diverse, shaded ecosystems in order to provide the precious habitat birds and other creatures require. The gold standard for the habitat certification is the SMBC Bird Friendly® designation, which we’ll discuss more in future posts.

We’ll also blog about coffee, what to look for when you buy, and how to make a great cup at home. We’ll write about where our coffee comes from and why. We’ll examine the various certification schemes and keep you posted on the news from the certification bodies. We’ll talk about the environment and some simple things you can do to tread a little more lightly on the planet. And we’ll highlight some of our products, as all, this was designed to show you can have a business that puts the environment first!

A Bit About Coffee

We want to share with you the amazing taste experience of pre-industrial coffee.

Through the industrialization of our food supplies, we have lost the simple pleasures of exquisite taste. Flavour and quality are routinely sacrificed for shelf life and transportability and sustainable growing practices for profit. In the case of coffee we say "No Thanks!"

We take an entirely different approach from the conventional coffee industry. We pursue the best tasting coffee sustainably produced. In that pursuit, we have found through our own tasting program that:

Coffee should be brewed within 4-6 weeks after roasting. The industry standard shelf life is 1 year!

Like wine, the flavour profile is unique within each crop of boutique coffee.

The best roast for a boutique coffee, the one that reveals the best flavours during its first 4 weeks after roasting, is never charcoal and is often quite light.

We admire the experience, the traditional knowledge and hard work of our growers that result in the extraordinary quality of our beans. Our long term, mutually respectful relationships with them are the basis of our product. We feel our connection with them in each cup of our shade grown coffee and with the songs of our migratory birds.