Shade Grown: What Does It Really Mean?

What is the definition of shade grown?

When you envision agriculture, quite often what comes to mind are rows and rows of manicured plants out in an open field. Maybe like such:


Large scale agriculture that consumes significant amounts of space, although efficient, is not sustainable for communities or the land.  When plants are grown in such vast quantities they are often planted in a monoculture. Meaning one plant is grown in the large area vs. traditional farming methods that include growing multiple crops on one piece of land. With only one crop being planted every year, the soil begins to suffer – add to it chemical fertilizers and pesticides and we’re not in a good situation.

Unlike many other crops, coffee has the ability to be grown underneath the natural forest canopy. Although it has the potential to be grown in this way, does not always mean that it is embraced. Many other coffee growing countries in South America still practice coffee growing that is rowed and out in the open.

But one country is fully embracing the sustainable power that coffee contains. Thailand’s northern mountains are the ideal natural conditions for coffee beans. High elevation, cool temperatures, and a rich dense forest to act as a covering from the sun. It is one of the only true shade grown coffee in the world. It is planted with other native plant and tree species feeding the soil the nutrients it needs.

Shade Grown is a powerful title but requires an understanding of the meaning behind it.

What are you supporting when you purchase shade grown coffee?


You Are Supporting Healthy Forests

Shade grown is so important for the trees themselves! These trees offer shade to not just the coffee plants, but the soil and earth beneath. They are earth’s temperature regulator.

You Are Saving Animal's Homes

The forest trees are home to countless wildlife species. Elephants, monkeys, and beautiful birds all call the northern Thai forest home. When forests are cut down for agricultural purposes the animals homes are destroyed.

You Are Conserving Water Resources

Roots are powerful! Their deep interconnected system beneath the earth helps prevent flash floods and uncontrollable water flows. Not only does the forest protect communities from flooding, but it also helps to conserve important ground water sources.


Shade grown means much more than just protecting the forests. When you purchase shade grown you are casting your vote for a more sustainable way of agriculture. You are supporting the preservation of local communities, homes, and ecosystems.