Springtime for SongBirds

Best Coffee in the World

The best coffee is grown the traditional way— slowly, under a canopy of shade from taller native hardwood trees. Shade-grown coffees are carefully tended, harvested, and processed by people who know and love coffee, and who depend on it for their livelihoods.

Traditional shade-grown coffee really is a win for everyone: amazing coffee flavors, a fair wage for the coffee farmers’ hard work, and a lush natural habitat for migratory birds. So much good comes from a just cup of coffee.

The history of shade

By 1996, the United States forests had run out of hardwoods such as oak, ash, maple, cherry, and all the wild fruit and nut trees. These are important woods used in furniture making, home building, veneers for plywood, doors, window frames and a host of other minor but important uses.

The timber industry needed another source of hardwood, so they targeted the temperate rainforests where coffee was grown. The coffee tree is a shade loving plant that withers in the sun and needs shade to be a healthy producer of coffee fruit. Mahogany, and a dozen other hardwood varieties, were there for the loggers if only they could convince coffee farmers to cut down their trees.

The destruction of these native hardwood forests is a long story of deception. Governments, in collaboration with multinational corporations, set out to convince farmers to grow their coffee in the sun, claiming that yields would increase and incomes would rise.

Without the leaf litter from the big hardwood trees to fertilize the soil every year, oil based fertilizers would be needed. This is how the petrochemical companies became involved. Now with more sunlight reaching the ground, weed killers would become essential. This is how herbicide producer Monsanto became involved. Without the forest habitat for migratory songbirds, natural pest controls were lost. This is how the need for chemical pesticides became essential.

The big chemical companies found new markets and the timber companies gained new inventories of almost unlimited, inexpensive hardwoods. The coffee farmers paid for all this with higher costs, lower quality coffee, toxins entering the water supply, and a 90% loss of biodiversity on their farms.

At least half of all coffee grown in the northern neotropics has already been converted to full sun plantations

Preserving these precious jungle forests not only protects biodiversity, it’s also our greatest asset in mitigating the effects of climate change.

The Smithsonian’s Bird Friendly® certification is the most rigorous environmental certification possible for coffee, and the only one that justifies use of the much-abused term “shade-grown.”

Biologists have found that traditional shade-grown coffee farms can support over 170 species of birds. This is far greater than the number of birds found on sun-grown coffee plantations, and greater than partial shade coffee farms.

Based on years of scientific research, the SMBC has developed strict criteria for evaluating shade coffee farms. An independent, third-party inspector determines whether a farm meets these criteria or not. Only those farms that also meet organic certification standards are eligible to be certified Bird Friendly®.

Thanksgiving Coffee is proud to offer these coffees which are certified Bird Friendly®:

For the month of April, enjoy $2 off every package of SongBird Coffee.

Celebrate Earth Day everyday by helping to protect the complex jungle forests, all with your morning cup of coffee.

Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup.

This is Shade Grown Coffee

Shade Coffee looks like this: grown under the canopy of indigenous trees. The white barked taller trees are commonly known in Central America as “Inga”. They are great for coffee because they not only provide shade for the trees, but also habitat for biodiversity and leaf litter for soil nutrients. Leaves decaying on the forest floor is natural fertilizer. An additional benefit comes from the tree being “leguminous”, meaning its roots deliver nitrogen to the soil, further reducing the need for oil based fertilizers.

This environment is perfect for the cultivation of organic coffee. This site is located in Northern Nicaragua and is typical of the Mesoamarican Rainforest that stretches from Panama thru Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, all the way up to the Yucatan Peninsula. These forests are the home of Black Panthers and the National bird of Guatemala, the famous Quetzal. The trees are full of birds and Howler Monkeys and hundreds of species of orchards. At the higher elevations, coffee trees reflect the quality of this forest in the flavor of their fruit, and finally, in your cup.

When you taste coffee from regions like this, you are experiencing a message from the forest spirits. The expression, “There is magic in this package, only you can let it out” is derived from a walk through this place that I took with my good friend Byron Coralles long ago.

Wild Birds Unlimited of Santa Monica

One of the newest additions to the Thanksgiving Coffee Store Locator is the Wild Birds Unlimited of Santa Monica! This great little shop on Wilshire Boulevard just celebrated their grand opening this past Saturday, and they’re carrying the full line-up of Thanksgiving Coffee’s Songbird Coffee.

Bird-Friendly Coffee at Wild Birds Unlimited

If you stop by this Wild Birds Unlimited on any given Saturday, you’ll have the opportunity to taste Songbird Coffee, as well as purchase a bag. They’re serving up coffee inside the store to customers (and employees!) alongside the usual array of exceptional bird watching and bird feeding equipment.

On their opening day, this WBU store partnered with a local bird rescue group to bring in an owl and falcon as a rare treat for the folks shopping. To stay in the know for future events happening with the birding community of Santa Monica, be sure to follow them on Facebook.

Visit Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Monica

Wild Birds Unlimited of Santa Monica
12433 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: (424) 272-9000
Website: https://santamonica.wbu.com

Songbird Coffee, Benefiting the American Birding Association

Songbird Coffee is the result of the partnership between Thanksgiving Coffee and the American Birding Association. For every bag of Songbird Coffee purchased, a portion of the proceeds (10-25%) is donated directly to the ABA, benefiting their efforts to promote birding and environmental stewardship.

Every coffee in our Songbird lineup is Certified Bird-Friendly by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, a program put in place to protect the Neotropical Migratory Birds that live in coffee growing countries during the winter months. Coffee farms that are certified by the SMBC use a combination of foliage cover, tree height and biodiversity to provide quality habitat for birds and other wildlife. Keep an eye out for that gold seal to make sure that your coffee is doing the most for our birds!

Songbird Coffee

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Thanksgiving Coffee Company
2017 Roaster of the Year
Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup

Sing a Song of Bird Notes

Song Bird Coffee supports the arts

Do you have a favorite bird? Is it the bold blue jay, or the striking red cardinal? Perhaps it’s the mischievous raven, or the sweet singing sparrow? Maybe you don’t know what it’s called, or even what it looks like, but you know its song as it fills your ears with a familiar refrain. Birds connect us to nature, regardless of where we live; from city dwelling pigeons to dramatic California Condors, birds are an ever-present aspect of our lives, but their numbers are dwindling. You don’t have to be an avid birder to enjoy their presence, but if we fail to appreciate them in our everyday lives, then we risk taking them for granted and losing them forever.

Fostering a love of the natural world can take years, especially now when more of us live in cities than ever before. Programs like BirdNote cultivate a love of nature with a wide audience, helping to bring the outside into our homes and deliver the delights of nature in small, auditory morsels.

The BirdNote radio program has been engaging listeners of all ages for over ten years, sharing daily two-minute stories about birds and the environment with audiences all across the country. These uplifting little vignettes are just the right length for everyone to enjoy, and the perfect remedy to ‘news fatigue’.

BirdNote and Song Bird Coffee

Song Bird Coffee has been partnered with the American Birding Association for 20 years and together we have raised over $150,000 in support of the ABA and Partners in Flight, which funds ornithological studies of migratory birds in Central America. Together, we are making a difference by promoting citizen science, ecotourism, and sustainable Bird Friendly farming practices, and now we are proud to be reaching new audiences by sponsoring BirdNote.

Birdnote Sponsorship

By working together, Song Bird Coffee, the American Birding Association, and BirdNote are committed to making the world a better place, for us and for the birds.

Give BirdNote a listen here.

Learn more about the American Birding Association and Partners in Flight.

For the Birds: Altamira Oriole

For the Birds is a blog series from Thanksgiving Coffee Company, highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. In January, we featured the Cedar Waxwing, in February, the Magnolia Warbler, March was the Blackburnian Warbler, and to celebrate the re-release of our Song Bird Decaf, we are featuring the Altamira Oriole!

Altamira OrioleSongbird Decaf Coffee

Song Bird Decaf Medium Roast Coffee

The striking orange and black plumage of the Altamira Oriole (icterus gularis) graces the label of our newly re-released Song Bird Coffee Decaf, and with good reason. This delicious Smithsonian Migratory Bird Certified coffee is decaffeinated with a clean, all-natural mountain water process in the Chiapas region of southern Mexico, home of the Altamira Oriole.

The Altamira is a large oriole and builder of the longest nest of any bird in North America. In the United States their range is limited to the Rio Grande Valley of southern most Texas, but their nests are a common sight throughout Mexico and Central America.

The female bird uses the inner bark of trees, retama leaves, various grasses, and occasionally Spanish moss and plastic twine to create one of nature’s architectural marvels. Over the course of several weeks, she painstakingly weaves a two-foot long basket that hangs over an open space, road, or river, suspending her fragile eggs thirty feet above the ground.

While many species of birds specialize in hiding their nests from the eyes of predators, the Altamira Oriole takes a different approach by building a home that is wildly conspicuous, but impossible to reach.

Songbird Decaf CoffeeAll of Thanksgiving’s organically certified coffees are shade grown, and a select few carry the Bird Friendly gold seal of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This certification ensures that tropical “agroforests” are preserved and migratory birds can find a healthy haven to eat and rest as they travel the hundreds of miles from your backyard to the coffee farms producing the beans you so enjoy every morning.

You don’t need binoculars to find a coffee that protects forests, helps wildlife and supports the efforts of the American Birding Association; just look for the Songbird Coffee with the Altamira Oriole on the front.

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Flight Beyond Borders

A celebration of International Migratory Bird Day

Early one morning in 1992, a local Mendocino sculptor by the name of Howard Wheatley Allen was shaking in his boots. He had just been informed that he would be presenting a gift to a world leader on behalf of the United States, and the recipient was none other than Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. With a steadying hand, he held his bronze sculpture before the President and said, “Mr. President, this is a snow goose that migrates between our two countries.”
“You mean a living link,” Gorbachev replied, understanding the significance.

Gorbachev later recalled that, “During the nuclear arms race, I was given a gift by an American, a little figure of a goose in flight. I still have it at my dacha. It is a goose that lives in the north of Russia in the summer and in the winter migrates to America. It does that every year regardless of what’s happening, on the ground, between you and us.”

It was one year later, in 1993, that International Migratory Bird Day was established. While IMBD is celebrated from Canada to South America to support the hundreds of Neotropical migratory bird species that travel across the continent, Gorbachev’s goose is a beautiful reminder that birds will always rise above our imaginary borders, transcending beyond the cultural or political boundaries of the time.

Here in the United States, we sometimes claim a cultural ownership of beautiful birds like the Baltimore Oriole, perhaps forgetting that the very same species could just as easily be named the ‘Panama Oriole’, or the ‘Nicaraguan Oriole’, as it spends half it’s life in Central and South America. IMBD is a reminder that the health and abundance of these birds that are so much a part of our heritage does not stop at our own backyard feeders. If we wish to enjoy their beauty and their songs for generations to come, we must care for them and their well being across all borders.

The growing demand for coffee, and the rise of the mono-cultured full sun coffee plantations, has demolished much of the wintering habitat for iconic birds like Orioles. In fact, many of these species are now referred to as ‘Coffee Birds’ because the only forest home left to them are the shade-grown coffee farms that preserve the jungle canopy.

For over 20 year, Song Bird Coffee has been a leader in supporting the farmers who protect their native forests by growing delicious coffees under the jungle canopy, preserving priceless habitat and biodiversity. This year, on International Migratory Bird Day, we hope you will join us in protecting our precious songbirds, just by enjoying a great cup of shade-grown coffee. Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup.

For the Birds: Blackburnian Warbler

For the Birds is a blog series from Thanksgiving Coffee Company, highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. In January, we featured the Cedar Waxwing, in February, the Magnolia Warbler, this month we’re focusing on the Blackburnian Warbler – the bird featured on our dark roast Songbird coffee.

Blackburnian Warbler

Dark Roast CoffeeSongbird Coffee Dark Roast from Colombia

With their bright colors and trilling songs, it’s no surprise that a group or flock of vibrant warblers is often called a ‘bouquet’. However, one of the most striking members of the warbler family would rather not join the bunch.

Common along the eastern region of the United States during their migration, the Blackburnian warbler can be easily identified as the only orange-throated warbler in North America. Named after botanist Anna Blackburn, the Blackburnian warbler is territorial on its breeding grounds, solitary in the winter, and only forms flocks during migration. In fact, this little bird is such a loner that even though both parents feed and care for the chicks, the parents separate when the young are old enough to fledge and leave the nest, each taking part of the brood with them.

But even the most solitary parent needs the support of a group every once in a while. After going their separate ways, the parents will sometimes join foraging flocks of kinglets and nuthatches with their begging young, the cries of which have been known to also attract chickadees.

Blackburnian Warbler

Of the over 50 species of New World warblers to be found in North America, perhaps it is the colorful Blackburnian that stands out as a lone bloom, refusing to join the colorful assemblage of other warblers.

Help protect the winter habitat of Blackburnian warblers by buying SMBC Song Bird Colombian dark roast shade-grown coffee.

Migratory Bird Map, Blackburnian Warbler

Dark Roast CoffeeDark Roast Colombian Coffee

Toasted • Spicy • Dark Chocolate

A rich coffee with flavors of toasted nut and dark chocolate followed by a smooth lasting finish, making this a clear winner for dark roast coffee enthusiasts.

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For the Birds: Magnolia Warbler

For the Birds is a blog series from Thanksgiving Coffee Company, highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. In January, we featured the Cedar Waxwing; this month we’re focusing on the Magnolia Warbler – the bird featured on our medium roast Songbird coffee.

Magnolia Warbler

Songbird Coffee medium roast from Nicaragua

If you live east of the Mississippi river, you might be familiar with the Magnolia Warbler. This brightly-colored little songbird can be seen in the spring and fall as it passes through on its annual migration. Despite the name, these bird is rarely seen in magnolia trees. In 1810, ornithologist Alexander Wilson collected a specimen from a magnolia in Mississippi. At the time, he gave it the species the more accurate name of “Black-and-yellow Warbler”, but he used “magnolia” for the Latin name, and it stuck.

Like many warbler species, it can be hard to imagine how such a tiny bird, weighing little more than a quarter, can make a 3,000 mile journey, but they do it every year; from their summer breeding range in the Canadian Boral forests all the way down to Central America.

When the “Maggies” head south for the winter, they can often be found on shade grown coffee farms along with other migratory birds such as Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Western Tanager.

Although the population of Magnolia Warblers is thought to be stable, the birds are often victims of collisions with towers and other man-made structures, especially during migration. Habitat loss on their nesting and wintering grounds is also a threat. Supporting Bird Friendly coffee is an important way to keep Magnolia Warblers and other “coffee birds” common.

Medium Roast Nicaraguan Coffee

Nutty • Smooth • Milk Chocolate

Sweet without sugar, mellow without cream. This Smithsonian Bird Friendly Coffee is fruity, nutty and chocolaty with hints of dried mango. Sweet without sugar, mellow without cream, it is a great breakfast coffee. This coffee is roasted to a light milk chocolate color where its bright and complex flavors explode into life.

Shade Grown Coffee Trees

How are migratory birds and shade grown coffee trees linked?

The coffee industry has an enormous impact on migratory birds: when they fly south in the cold months, these birds rely on the trees that shade coffee farms throughout the tropics. When coffee plantations clear cut land to grow coffee in direct sunlight, not only does the loss of forested lands contribute to climate change, but our precious migratory birds lose their winter homes.

If we want to continue enjoying these birds, we have to preserve their winter habitat – and choosing to purchase only shade grown coffee is an integral part of that habitat preservation. Our SongBird Coffee is Organic and Fairtrade, and certified Bird-Friendly by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

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A Shade Grown Coffee Tree

“In this picture of shade grown coffee we see the lower level, dark green coffee trees. On the second level there are banana trees and on the overstay third level, native trees. From the mottled bark I can see that the tree is Inga, a tree with nitrogen setting qualities in the root system. It shades the coffee trees from above while providing leaf litter to refresh the thin topsoil layer, while at the same time adding Nitrogen to the soil with its roots.

This was taken on a trip to Jinotega, Nicaragua. Altitude is 5,000 feet ” – Paul Katzeff

For the Birds: Cedar Waxwing

January 5 is National Bird Day and to celebrate we are going to kick off a new monthly blog post – For the Birds – highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. We will start off by getting to know the birds representing our Songbird Coffee lineup:

Cedar Waxwing

Songbird CoffeeSongbird Coffee light roast from Guatemala

The Cedar Waxwing is the perfect representative for our light roast Guatemalan coffee because the ripe cherry sweetness of the coffee reflects the fruity diet of these strikingly beautiful backyard favorites. As social birds, you can usually see them in large flocks around fruit trees such as juniper, cedar, and mulberry, passing berries from one bird to another before swallowing them whole. In fact, the Cedar Waxwing is the only bird in North American whose diet is comprised primarily of fruits and berries.

Cedar Waxwing

Unfortunately for the birds, their fruit based diet means that eating overripe or fermented berries can leave them visibly tipsy. For those Waxwings who have had ‘a few too many’, some rescue groups have made ‘holding tanks’ to keep them safe while they sober up before flying home.

All of Thanksgiving’s organically certified coffees are shade grown, and a select few carry the Bird Friendly gold seal of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This certification ensures that tropical “agroforests” are preserved and migratory birds can find a healthy haven to eat and rest as they travel the hundreds of miles from your backyard to the coffee farms producing the beans you so enjoy every morning.Songbird Coffee

You don’t need binoculars to find a coffee that protects forests, helps wildlife and supports the efforts of the American Birding Association; just look for the Songbird Coffee with the Cedar Waxwing on the front.

How do you take your coffee?

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