By Emma Bladyka, Coffee Science Manager, SCAA
As the specialty coffee industry grows more concerned with sustainable practices at origin, we often find ourselves in conversations about shade-grown coffee. No one will argue that shade-grown coffee is less sustainable than growing coffee in full sun plantations, but what scientific information exists to support our tendency to support this practice? Perhaps shade matters more to some because they feel it influences the quality of the cup. What do we really know about these important issues? Justifiably, much research has been done on the ecological and economic impacts of shade-grown coffee. However, there is far less information available on how this influences the cup quality. Below, I highlight some of the most interesting points available in the scientific literature as I assess whether shade matters.