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COFFEE INDUSTRY GOES GREEN

The international retail coffee chain, Caffé Appassionato, just announces that its Shoreline retail store will go "all-organic" offering only organic retail and café items. The new plan includes the exclusive use of shade-grown coffee that comes from traditional, environmentally sensitive farms in Central America that protect threatened migratory bird habitat. This on the heels of protests at Starbucks' annual shareholder's meeting and other efforts to increase the use of organics and other environmentally friendly products in the coffee industry.

"Providing organic, shade-grown coffee to our customers is simply a good business decision," said Steve Sinser, Caffé Appassionato's chief operating officer. "Caffé Appassionato not only cares about the environment, but also wants to capitalize on the growing demand for this specialty, "bird-friendly" coffee. We'd be stupid not to listen to consumer demand."

The growing trend in organic products has taken off in the Northwest and is showing great force in the coffee industry as evidenced by the efforts of industry giants such as Starbucks, Tully's and Seattle's Best Coffee (SBC). Starbucks and SBC will run promotional campaigns for their own lines of organic, shade-grown coffees this spring. As well, special interest groups that represent considerable consumer voting power have begun to form a groundswell of support for these environmentally friendly products. The Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign (representing over 40 coffee roasters, retailers and importers), TransFair USA and the Songbird Foundation backed by the likes of musicians Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne have come on board to show the support these products demand. These groups have hired organizing staff in Seattle to build consumer awareness for shade-grown coffee and to support coffee companies who sell shade-grown coffee.

Ashley Parkinson, coordinator of the Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign, comments on the emerging trend, "Caffé Appassionato clearly knows that "the next big thing" in the specialty coffee industry is "bird-friendly" shade-grown coffee and is positioning itself to take full advantage of the potential for increased sales in this area."

Caffé Appassionato, founded in 1991 and headquartered near Seattle's Fisherman's Terminal, roasts and sells super-premium coffees locally, nationally and world-wide though company owned and licensed retail outlets, grocery stores, food service accounts and via the Internet. The Caffé Appassionato Shoreline café is located at Shoreline Central Market, 15505 Westminister Way N., Shoreline, WA.

Fast Facts

World coffee consumption is booming, with Americans leading the charge. About 3,300 cups of coffee are consumed every second of the day worldwide, and 93 percent of Americans consume coffee at home. Americans consume a third of the world's coffee.

Today, coffee is the second most widely traded commodity on the world market, with oil ranked first and steel ranked third. Coffee is also the second largest source of Third World export earnings.

To meet the high demand for coffee, coffee growers have employed new growing practices, such as converting their plantations from shaded, forested farms to sun farms, which require increased use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

These practices are highly productive in the short term, but hard on the environment in the long term, degrading soil quality and destroying critical habitat for birds. In addition, coffee shrubs grown in the sun have half the productive lifespan as shrubs grown in the shade.

Impact on Migratory Birds and Other Concerns

Until the 1970s, nearly all commercial coffee production was managed under the canopy of shade trees that provide critical habitat to migratory bird species from North America.

Coinciding with the transition from shade to sun coffee plantations over the last 25 years, scientists and birdwatchers have documented a marked decline in migratory bird populations.

Habitat conversion and forest loss in their tropical wintering grounds are eroding migratory birds' ability to survive and breed. Shade coffee farms that have retained their tropical forest canopy comprise some of the only remaining mid-elevation habitat for migratory birds in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Colombia.

Studies in Colombia and Mexico found 94 to 97 percent fewer bird species in "sun-grown" than in "shade-grown" coffee plantations.

Shade coffee plantations provide other side environmental benefits. Not only birds, but whole ecosystems, from insects to amphibians, are affected by the loss of forests. The tree canopy in shade coffee plantations protects the soil from erosion and provides natural mulch and beneficial organisms for coffee plants.

Hummingbirds, swallows, warblers, orioles, tanagers and other native and North American migratory birds need the safe havens and food sources, such as nectar, fruit and insects, found in the remaining forests of shade coffee plantations to survive and to maintain their body condition up to the time of spring migration.

Approximately 360 species of birds migrate to the United States and Canada to breed, many in the lower elevations of the Cascade mountain range. Half as many birds are migrating to and from North America today as they did in the 1960s.

Today, shade coffee represents only 1 percent of the total gourmet coffee market. But there is a burgeoning movement to return coffee production to its roots as "coffee drinkers with a conscience" are demanding that more coffee retailers carry traditional shade-grown coffee.

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