Vegan Coffee?

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.


  1. You can make the best choices possible and still offend, kill, insult, support slave wages, damage a cause, or otherwise contribute to climate change.

    You go in the direction that feels right, causes the least harm, and makes you happiest.

    If I see a bird on my coffee bag, I’ll think that’s great. If I don’t see a bird and it’s the only coffee where I’m at, I’m having it.

    That’s me, for better or worse.

  2. You’re making yourself and the world sicker by obsessing over the most trivial of nuances. You do know that, do you?

    Where do we draw the line? Obscene filtration systems for our home water supplies to avoid ingesting micro-organisms?

  3. Hi David & Hypochondriac,
    Obviously you aren’t regular readers of our blog, or you’d know that we’re pretty much all about doing what makes you personally happy or comfortable. We’re vegans and think it’s the right way to eat, but that is our choice. We don’t condemn anyone, including meat eaters, for their food choices. And we certainly are not about making veganism hard.

  4. Lane,

    You’re right, I’m new to this blog so I don’t know your views on every aspect of veganism yet.

    I don’t share Hypo’s accusations or sentiments, I had my own comment, which I hope is judged on its own.

    My intention was to share my viewpoint to stimulate a friendly discussion. Obviously I missed the mark.

    From now on, I’ll be happy just to read and leave the discussion to others.

  5. Hi David,
    I must admit, I did judge your comments to be similar to Hypo’s. I understood your first paragraph to be “challenging,” albeit in a more conversational manner than Hypo’s.
    My intention was to explain our viewpoint, since it was clear to me by those reactions, that the two of you weren’t familiar with our philosophy. The typical “negative” comments we get tend to say we’re not vegan enough. My intention was simply to get that across. Obviously I missed the mark as well.
    Please feel free to comment. Your input is welcomed and appreciated.

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  7. There are then the special approaches of brewing the beans.
    If you are a heavy coffee drinker make lunch you last cup.

    You can even make some interesting combinations yourself.

  8. you MUST be careful. Some coffees come from the sweet poor civets bottomside. and they are treated horrid and abused. fed only diets of coffee beans.
    I think for me vegan is more than just no animal products and what not it is also NOT supporting countries that eat dogs and cats and horses.
    I am really offended by such countries. They have different values, yes, but they are also very STUPID!

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