Neither Jane nor I drink coffee, so we never considered this issue. But are you a vegan if you drink coffee? Technically, the answer is yes, there are no animal products involved in the growth or production of coffee, it comes from a bean... However, as we learned at the Healthy Living Blog, if you're not drinking shade-grown coffee, you may be contributing to a reduction of migratory bird populations. While drinking coffee without the "bird-friendly seal" certainly doesn't mean you're an omnivore, it does stand to reason that we, as vegans, would look for this seal of approval.
(Modern) coffee production to more closely parallel the big business agriculture model that has become so common worldwide. This resulted in a turn away from traditional coffee growing methods. Much of the coffee in Latin America started to be produced on farms where the coffee was either grown under an unnatural canopy of only a few species of mature trees or pretty much right out in the open.
This new approach to coffee growing allowed more sun to reach the coffee plant, but turned out to adversely affect the migratory bird population that winters in Latin America. These migratory birds depend on the varied natural forest ecosystem and it's insect population to survive. Growing coffee this way also introduced the use of chemical fertilizes, pesticides, and disease controlling agents. In addition, the increased sun and fertilizer created a nice environment for weed growth, so the use of herbicides became necessary.
Source : Healthy Living Blog
Simply buying shade grown coffee doesn't guarantee that you're doing the right thing either. Often farms have been repopulated with only one or two varieties of tree, which don't rival the diversity of the natural forests where coffee was originally planted.
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has "bird friendly" criteria which, if met, result in certain coffees earning a seal of approval. According to their website, they are currently active in the following countries:Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela. Ethiopia is pending. So, make sure to look for the bird friendly logo (above right) when purchasing your coffee. If not truly vegan, it feels like the "vegan" thing to do.