Christmas Blend 2016 Edition is here!

This special Christmas package blends the gift of coffee with the gift of nature, by being Triple Certified – Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Organic.

xmas_blend_340beansThe coffee lovers in your life will be captivated by this lovely smooth coffee – and its festive label. The nature lovers in your life will appreciate that each package of coffee conserves 110 sq ft of winter habitat for our migratory songbirds. The birds returning in the spring will bring joy to all of us.

Give the coffee to your loved ones.
Give the habitat to the birds.
Give the birds to the world.

This coffee is delicious while being unpretentious. The aroma offers delightful christmas spices while chocolate and tropical fruit are in the cup. The flavours combine harmoniously from approach through the sweet lingering aftertaste.

This coffee brews well at both full or 3/4 strength.

Buy a case of twelve at a 10% discount and receive free shipping too! Great for all those on your “little gifts” list! And it’s like getting a free one for yourself too.

bird_friendly_coffee

The Messenger Blend

We’re delighted to introduce our second Special Edition coffee: The Messenger Blend, produced in association with The Messenger Documentary – a film by Su Rynard. While the full length documentary explores the impact of our activities on birds around the world, it also offers solutions and inspires its audience to become more “Bird Friendly”. The Messenger Blend is an important part of that program.

Coffee drinkers can make one simple and easy change that will help both birds and coffee farmers – choose to drink Certified Bird Friendly coffee. This will guarantee that vital winter habitat is preserved for our migratory songbirds and the other creatures inhabiting those forests. It does so by paying a premium to the farmers who steward the forests for the coffee grown within them. You can support them just by changing the brand of coffee that you drink, and, if you already purchase specialty coffee, it won’t cost more.

The Messenger Blend is sourced exclusively from Certified Bird Friendly Organic farms. Every bag you buy helps to preserve vital forest habitat for future generations. Since we here in Canada share these migratory birds with the people of Latin America, we’ve increased the impact of the Messenger Blend by donating 10% of all sales to Bird Studies Canada – Canada’s leading science-based bird conservation organization. Every bag you purchase will also be helping to promote conservation here at home.

messenger_front_beansOrder online today by visiting http://birdsandbeans.ca/birdsmatter

For a limited time – enter the promotion code birdsmatter when placing your order and you will receive a $1.50 shipping credit. It is really a win-win-win.

The Messenger documentary is being released more widely and we encourage you to see it. Click https://youtu.be/LjQtRr4CKcc” target=”_blank”>here to see the trailer:

For more information, visit songbirdsos.com

A Delicious Way to Support Ontario Nature!

We are excited to announce the introduction of our first Special Edition coffee, “Ontario Nature” Blend.  This is a special blend in many ways.  It is Triple Certified: Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Organic, and like all of our coffees, is is roasted and packed using 100% green energy from Bullfrog Power. And, if that isn’t enough, we are taking it over the top, by donating $1.50 from the sale of each bag to Ontario Nature!  Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters and 150 member groups from across Ontario. They will use the funds to protect wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement.

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler stopping in our Etobicoke backyard on its return possibly from our Bird Friendly Nicaraguan coffee farm.

By choosing to drink certified Bird Friendly coffee, our customers have always supported conservation of the neotropical forest ecosystems in which our coffee grows. Now, through Ontario Nature, you can support conservation of habitat in Ontario too – by simply changing the coffee you drink.

Picking at Gaia Estate
Pickers pick only the ripe red coffee cherries at Gaia Estate. They allow the green ones to ripen and return for them another day.


And what a wonderful coffee it is! It has a lovely honeyed aroma, with balanced tones of chocolate and nuts. It is a lovely, smooth coffee with a long, sweet aftertaste that rings pleasantly in the pallet after the cup is gone.  

We are so excited to launch our first Special Edition coffee that, for a limited time, we are offering FREE shipping of the Ontario Nature Blend any where in Ontario for orders over $25.

By making this one purchase, we collectively support ecosystem and biodiversity conservation in coffee growing countries and here in Canada.  Do it now

ONnature340Back

A Different Cup of Coffee

More than 10 years ago, we set out to create a different kind of company – one that would give consumers a way to use their purchasing power to make the world better rather than worse. We wanted to provide a product that was green at its core – not something that just looked green or came out of a “green” facility with a super duper recycling program. We wanted to create a true “triple bottom line” company that produced tangible environmental and social benefits.

Releasing the roasted coffee.
Releasing the roasted coffee.

Coffee was the perfect product for our experiment – for one thing, we love really good coffee and had a hard time finding a consistent source. And, most importantly, traditionally cultivated coffee is grown in a way that preserves habitat for wildlife – including Migratory Songbirds. Coffee is increasingly being grown in partial shade or full sun, transforming what was once a thriving forest ecosystem into “Eco Deserts” capable of supporting little life: Where there was once a thriving forest ecosystem, the only living thing is the crop being cultivated.

A few years before we started Birds and Beans, The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center had developed the Bird Friendly Coffee Certification.  Its aim is to identify and certify farms that provided good habitat for migratory songbirds – or more accurately are functioning ecosystems.

So, having identified the problem and the solution, Birds and Beans was born. We bought a small Commercial Roaster, some green Bird Friendly coffee and started developing our roast profiles. After about a year of development, we were ready to launch.

We sold our first coffee at the Guelph Organic Show in January 2003. Now we are a Certified Organic Roaster and have 2 much larger roasters and a full line of Certified Organic, Certified Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffees. We offer the World’s first and only Triple Certified Espresso – Commit, an espresso blend.

A decade later, we can declare our experiment a success. Birds and Beans is a going concern where every pound of coffee sold is helping to protect valuable habitat as well as contributing to a decent life for the farmers and their families. About 5 years ago, we were joined by Bill Wilson and his colleagues from New England, who wanted to use the Birds & Beans name in the USA – and out of that has grown a valuable partnership that is spreading the word to an even wider audience. Our coffee receives rave reviews from all who try it. Together, we are building a different kind of coffee brand.

This month we are undertaking a ‘bird survey’ in Nicaragua on the 450 farm co-op, UCA San Juan del Rio Coco, co-sponsored by York University and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. We buy a good deal of coffee directly from the co-op. The conservation biologists conducting the survey reported 21 species of migrant birds present in the first few days of field work.

Bird Friendly habitat
Shade coffee – and quality bird habitat – as far as the eye can see.

Supporting this kind of work is unheard of for companies of our size as it doesn’t have a commercial payoff. So why do we do it?  Simple.  Its because we have aligned our business with our true values and our business expresses them just as we do. It isn’t a ploy or a marketing gimmick.  It is what we care about.  We founded this company as a vehicle to promote conservation and this is an opportunity to do just that.

The study represents new work in this region and so the findings will add to the body of knowledge of how that ecosystem functions.  This will help our growers to make better decisions on how to manage their farms in the future.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us and have enjoyed a different cup of coffee….

 

How Much Coffee Should I Use?

We are often asked how much coffee to use to brew the perfect cup. Well, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) provides expert advice on all things coffee and the brewing ratio they suggest is 55g of coffee for 1 litre of brew. Since we don’t usually get out the scale to brew coffee, I weighed out 55g of beans and roughly translated to volume:

  • 10 tablespoons of beans to 1 litre of brew, or
  • 2.5 tablespoons beans per cup (8 fluid oz)

When we roast a new coffee, we start with the SCAA brewing ratio. In our experience, this brews a strong delicious cup of coffee – in most cases. Interestingly, some coffees taste much better by reducing the ratio of coffee to water. The Nicaragua Gaia Estate coffee is much better brewed at about 3/4 strength (a little less than two tablespoons per cup).

The SCAA recommends grinding the coffee at the time of brewing, so the measurements above are for beans. I measure out the beans and put them through the grinder. It makes less mess than trying to measure ground coffee too. If you are measuring ground coffee the amount needed may be a bit more or less depending on how compacted it is.

A few more tips for making great coffee:

  • use coffee roasted within the last 4-6 weeks
  • use filtered (no chlorine) good quality water
  • use clean equipment (grinders, brewers and carafes)
  • make sure the brewing temperature is between 90-96 C (195-205 F)
  • use the right grind for the method of brewing (coarse for french press, regular for filter, fine for aeropress)
  • do not leave brewed coffee on active heat

A Great Cup of Coffee

Enjoying a great cup of coffee.  For me it represents the culmination of all the attention that has gone into growing and harvesting, roasting, brewing, and at last, tasting it.  I feel connected to the whole process and I show my appreciation by surrendering to the pleasure of the drink.

Right now I’m considering the results of a roasting experiment.  My life is full of these. Great roasting is much more than firing up the roaster and letting it rip until the beans are dark. Great roasting mingles intuition with science in a trial and error process judged by taste.

flameAs heat is applied to the beans, molecules form and reform, much like in cooking.  The chemistry of roasting is so complex than no-one has a scientific grasp on its details.   But, the science guides our intuition and vice versa in our trial and error discovery process.

We roast our coffee with process control software.  That means that we control the temperature of the beans throughout the roast.  So the question is, what temperature profile do we want?  It turns out that, even with the same beans, two roasts that both have a final temperature of say 445 F, but that get there through different time-temperature paths can be the difference between ambrosia and bitter swill.

Roasting
Releasing the roasted coffee.

So science tells us the methodology to follow, and chemistry tells us some generalities about molecules that are created in the Maillard reaction phase combining and recombining to form the many-hundreds of delicious complex sugars we might taste as caramel or nut or chocolate.   Intuition and experience tell us what to try next to reward our senses, and tasting it tells us if we were right or wrong.

Today we are trying a new roast profile for the Peru Norte.  It is a new crop.  The profile we used on last year’s crop is resulting in a harsher cup than we would like.  We decided to try a steeper slope with more curvature at the beginning of the roast and a slightly lower final temperature.

Then we had to wait 2-3 days.  When coffee is first roasted its flavour is “closed” and dull. Very much like red wine needs to breath before it “opens up”, roasted coffee needs to “de-gas” for a couple of days sometimes longer.

So finally, after being tended on a Bird Friendly Certified coffee farm, hand harvested, milled, dried and and shipped to our roastery, roasted with our new profile, rested for 3 days, ground and finally hand-drip brewed, I’m now considering the result.

Cup of Coffee
Cup of Peru Norte

The dry fragrance of the fresh grounds is heavenly showing a touch of vanilla or almond. The cup is smooth and balanced, is slightly sweet with dominant caramel flavour and undertones of nut.  It is somewhat bright and leaves a long aftertaste that becomes increasingly sweet and fruity as the cup cools.

We’ll go with this for the house coffee in the café for a while.

The pleasure in Birds and Beans coffee is total:  It is just amazing to sit in the backyard sipping a cup of phenomenal coffee that supports the continuation of songbird migration  while actually seeing and hearing the returning songbirds.  Would you like to join me?

American Redstart
American Redstart

A Bit About Coffee

We want to share with you the amazing taste experience of pre-industrial coffee. Through the industrialization of our food supplies, we have lost the simple pleasures of exquisite taste. Flavour and quality are routinely sacrificed for shelf life and transportability and sustainable growing practices for profit. In the case of coffee we say “No Thanks!”

We take an entirely different approach from the conventional coffee industry. We pursue the best tasting coffee sustainably produced. In that pursuit, we have found through our own tasting program that:

  • Coffee should be brewed within 4-6 weeks after roasting. The industry standard shelf life is 1 year!
  • Like wine, the flavour profile is unique within each crop of boutique coffee.
  • The best roast for a boutique coffee, the one that reveals the best flavours during its first 4 weeks after roasting, is never charcoal and is often quite light.

We admire the experience, the traditional knowledge and hard work of our growers that result in the extraordinary quality of our beans. Our long term, mutually respectful relationships with them are the basis of our product. We feel our connection with them in each cup of our shade grown coffee and with the songs of our migratory birds.

Boutique Coffee

A richer taste.

Boutique coffee tastes amazing! It is like fine wine. When everything is right, boutique coffees can have natural flavours like chocolate, hazelnut, caramel, sweetness and even floral and citrus.

coffee cherries
Hand-picked from Gaia Estate, a mix of the rare and sweet Bourbon, Caturra coffee cherries, and yellow Catuai coffee cherries

These flavours are innate in high quality beans.  They are encouraged to reveal themselves through careful tending, and the right geographic and local  conditions. Like wine, each crop year the unique “terroir” of a single origin will produce differences in the coffees. The skill and care of the roastmaster coax out these innate characteristics by designing the best roasting profile for the crop. The wonderful flavour oils are volatile, so by brewing the coffee within a few weeks of roasting with proper brewing techniques yields the ambrosia!

The process of creating boutique coffee involves the special care and attention at every stage from growing and harvesting, through roasting and brewing. This degree of care far exceeds that in the typical coffee production process, even for specialty coffee. Instead the market has become acclimatized to industry practices at the expense of great taste. For a comparison of Boutique Coffee practices versus commodity and specialty coffee practices click here.

Releasing the roasted coffee.
Releasing the roasted coffee.

Of particular note is the industry accepted one year shelf life of coffee. Preposterous! The volatile flavour molecules oxidize over time. After about a month the flavours drop off and after about 3 months they go rancid! The bitterness most North Americans associate with coffee typically comes from the volatile flavour molecules turning rancid. The specialty coffee industry pretends to address this problem with vacuum sealed valve bags, but according to leading experts like Micheal Sivitz, even nitrogen flushing leaves enough oxygen in the package to enable oxidization at the same rate as coffee open to the air. The fact is that we have become accustomed to rancid coffee.

roastedbeansAnother common misconception is that good quality coffee should be roasted to an oily black. In fact, while it is true that roasting coffee dark does increase body (that’s the feeling in the mouth or the texture) it actually destroys the complex sugars responsible for the yummy flavours. The chemistry of roasting is actually very complex and developing a roasting profile that yields the best flavours from a given bean uses both scientific and artistic experience in the roastmaster.

img_3194More recently, the opposite has become popular: “blond coffee”.  This has resulted in a proliferation of sour and undeveloped coffees in the market.  At Birds and Beans, we may not lead, but neither do we follow.  We just dare to roast great coffee based on what we taste in the cup!

Birds and Coffee

A richer earth.

We chose our name to highlight the link between the cultivation of coffee and its impact on ecosystems around the world. The songbird migration that we North Americans witness twice each year is a natural wonder of the world.

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It is endangered.  We are doing what we can to help.

Songbird populations are dropping due to many factors, but  most significantly because of their shrinking wintering grounds in South and Central America. Tropical rainforests are being clear-cut and replaced by industrial farming enterprises with no regard for the impact on the environment. In most regions the last refuge for our migratory birds and other wildlife are shade coffee farms.

Bird Friendly habitat
Our Nicaraguan coffee source.  Quality forest for as far as the eye can see.

Sadly, even these remaining almost wild places are being degraded and destroyed.

Coffee is naturally a small shade loving tree. It was traditionally grown under the canopy of the rainforest with other shade loving agricultural crops. Grown in this way coffee is does not require agrochemical inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides)…  Grown in natural shade, coffee is well suited to be grown organically and in harmony with the natural environment.

Isun-coffeen the last couple of decades the coffee industry developed coffee trees that can tolerate the sun and produce higher yields. Without regard to the consequences, the clear-cutting began.  And so did the shift from one of the lowest impact crops on the environment to one of the highest. Lured by the promise of higher yeilds, growers shifted from shade covered polyculture using little or no agrochemicals to coffee monoculture requiring huge quantities of fertilizer, insecticide and herbicide.

This industrial style cultivation eradicates the winter homes of our migratory birds by destroying the forest like habitat and through chemical poisoning. Their alarming decline is the wake up call of a collapsing eco-system.

Picking at Gaia Estate
A pickers using traditional methods

Fortunately many small growers continue to grow coffee in the traditional way on farms with shade canopies. Others, seeing the destruction of their land are returning to the practices of their youth. We have much to learn from these people who preserve habitat and farm within a more natural environment rather than the destructive “technified” monoculture of North America.

We can help stop the madness by purchasing certified Bird Friendly® coffee. Scientists have shown that the ecosystem on these farms functions similarly to virgin rainforest supporting nearly as many bird species as does virgin rainforest. By contrast the ecosystem on sun coffee and partial shade farms has collapsed. These farms have been shown to support very few bird species, and not the same ones as the ecosystems on certified Bird Friendly® farms.

Transparent, third party certification is crucial to ensure the quality of the shade is actually providing habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Birds and Beans committed to purchasing exclusively certified Bird Friendly coffee in 2013. After more than 10 years of working hard to source rustic shade coffee we saw shade label claims on coffee with poor quality shade and even sun coffee. It became clear that to preserve biodiversity in coffee growing regions, we cannot accept unverified shade claims.

We challenge all other roasters and coffee marketers to refrain from unscientific and unverified shade label claims and instead offer certified Bird Friendly® coffee.

Cup of Coffee
Cup of Certified Bird Friendly Peru Norte

By seeking out coffee that is certified to preserve habitat, and compensating farmers fairly  for their global contribution to biodiversity, we can save these lush agro-forest ecosystems. It is the easiest and most impactful act we can collectively make to ensure that the songbird migration continues for future generations.

Oh… and did we mention that it tastes better?

Further Reading:

Bird Friendly® Coffee

Kenn Kaufman goes birding on a Bird Friendly® coffee farm 

Kenn Kaufman’s Blog

Silence of the Songbirds

Bird Friendly® Criteria

Shade Coffee Species List