Shade grown coffee seems like a great way to support sustainable agriculture in forest areas.

From the few examples I have seen these beans seem more expensive than the cheapest brands of bean but it is by no means the most expensive.

So, what are the disadvantages of shade growing coffee? Does it generally affect flavour in a noticeable way?


1 Answer 1


I suppose flavor won't be changed. Most coffee beans are grown just like that. They require shade or they will die of too much sunlight. Having too much water will sometimes drown the plant to death. Here is a website that lists three main disadvantages and some advantages to shade grown coffee.

  • Too much shade will cause fungal infections

If the plant is under too much shade, fungi-related infections will attack and feed on the plant. This will ruin your plant and destroy it. Yet having too much sunlight will burn the plant instead.

  • The real definition of shade-grown is not really rock-solid. Many places will have varying amounts of shade due to their altitudes.

You can't say that this type of shade gown plant is used in every country of different altitudes.. Some places require more shade (those with a high altitude) and others less shade (those with a low altitude). It depends on where you will plant your coffee plant.

  • The further south (or, north) a farm is located from the Equator, the less need there is for shade cover to protect coffee plants from the rays of the sun: the strength of the sun's rays in, for example, Brazil (where the sun is at an angle) is far less than the direct overhead rays from Central America. Thus, while shade cover may prove advantageous in Central America it might actually lead to a fall in yield of crops in Brazil.

This directly copied from the website, word for word. The amount of shade needed will also depends on the sunlight's strength. Nearer the equator, it is stronger so more shade is required. Farther from the equator, it is weaker so less shade is needed.

There are maybe more, but these are some basic and critical disadvantages to shad grown planting. I hope this helps you!

  • "most coffee beans are grown just like that" - really? That seems at odds with the OP finding it less common and more expensive, and with the fact that the industry has bred plants to be more sun tolerant.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 20, 2015 at 2:32
  • Can you please stop criticizing every post I make!? It is getting a little frustrating here... Feb 20, 2015 at 12:44
  • Sorry, I just saw this question on the front page and looked. I'm not targeting you. And I understood that most coffee was not shade grown, so I'm just trying to figure out if you might've misspoken or if there's something I don't know (have a source for it?).
    – Cascabel
    Feb 20, 2015 at 17:00
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    @Jefromi - coffee grows best in the shade and that is why pythonMaster mentioned that "most" beans are grown that way. What the OP is seeing in the store are brands that are certified as shade grown. That certification can cost more which is one factor in the higher cost. Unfortunately, the largest percentage of coffee produced is low cost and low quality, so clear cutting areas is used and plants do not get the best level of shade.
    – Justin C
    Feb 24, 2015 at 18:55
  • @JustinC I know that's what the plants originally preferred, but... The wikipedia page on shade-grown coffee says "As a result of modernization and a push for higher yielding crops, sun-tolerant coffee plants were created to produce larger yields through higher-density, open planting, but the cultivation practices used for them are considered unsustainable and often have a negative impact on the environment." And if you do a Google image search for coffee plantation, you'll see an awful lot of what looks like open planting to me.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 24, 2015 at 18:58

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