Aside from the (in)famous Kopi Luwak coffee, all coffee can be seen as vegetarian and vegan...
On paper, coffee is of course vegetarian and vegan since it is 100% derived from coffee plants, so is 100% plant based.
But, it's not quite as clear cut as that....
Can coffee production harm animals?
Well, the short answer is, yes.
According to the UrbanVegan Website, "whilst the ingredients that make up coffee are vegan, the way in which some coffee beans are grown and processed doesn’t line up with a vegan philosophy. Not all coffee is made with the same care and love toward the environment."
There are three important things to look for in a cruelty-free sustainable and vegan coffee as follows (according to UrbanVegan):
1) Shade Grown Coffee vs Sun Grown Coffee
Coffee naturally flourishes underneath shady canopies of trees at high elevations in tropical and subtropical areas, hence the term, Shade Grown Coffee.
However, most coffee plantations now harvest their beans in sunnier conditions, to speed up production and increase revenue leading to deforestation and a loss of biodiversity. Sun-grown coffee also requires fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, and fungicides, which depletes the nutritional content of the soil.
Because the soil becomes nutrient deficient, this land is unusable for future sun-grown coffee plantations, forcing farmers to move to virgin land. You can only imagine the chaos and destruction this process produces for the many species that rely on the trees and plants as shelter.
Shade Grown coffee, in contrasts, prevents soil erosion, provides a safe-haven for countless animals and doesn’t produce toxic water runoff (from chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, etc.) that injures or kills wildlife.
Bird & Wild is Certified Shade Grown by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
2) Organic Coffee vs Conventional Coffee
Organic Certification guarantees no use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers on the coffee plantation. By doing so, this protects farmers, animals, and the surrounding wildlife from these poisonous substances.
Conversely, conventional coffee is allowed to use herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, which can be harmful to animals, but also kills insects and small animals, which are the main source of food for many animals including birds.
Bird & Wild is Certified Organic by the Soil Association in the UK.
3) Bird Friendly Coffee
Which brings us to birds! The Bird Friendly Certification is certified by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington to denote protection of migrating birds. That means protecting the environment, ecosystem and biodiversity to sustain migrating bird populations on coffee plantations.
Sadly, as more and more land is converted into sun-grown coffee plantations, migrant songbirds that migrate from North America in the winter months to tropical ecosystems (in Central and South America) are on the decline, but Bird Friendly coffee plantations acts as a haven for migrating birds.