What’s the Deal with the Birds?

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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.

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