Safe Decaf, and Why Choose Shade-Grown Coffee

You can help protect migratory birds’ winter home habitat by buying coffee made from shade-grown beans.

Usually organic, the coffee comes from farms that use the traditional under-tree growing style, rather than the more recent, pesticide-intensive sun-grown method that destroys bird habitats. Shade-grown coffee provides habitats for migratory birds in Central and South America and Indonesia, as well as providing the fuller flavor of beans that have been slowly ripened.

There are four ways to decaffeinate coffee. Two methods use solvents, one of which is a carcinogen and small amounts of which will remain in the beans.

Guide to decaffeinated coffee

There are four ways to remove the caffeine from coffee.

One way is “Swiss water processed,” using pure water, and is the purest method available.

Two methods of decaffeination use the solvents methylene chloride and ethyl acetate. These are the two solvents that have been approved for use in the United States by the FDA. Methylene chloride is a carcinogen. Ethyl acetate doesn’t pose any risk to the consumer.

The fourth method of decaffeination is water and carbon dioxide.

If the label says “naturally decaffeinated” it will mean it was decaffeinated by either the Swiss water processed method, or the water and carbon dioxide method. The only way to find out which method was used is to call the company. Decaffeinated coffee manufactured in the United States is, for the most part, done through water processing.

Note: Avoid bleached filters, which may contain small amounts of dioxin. Buy unbleached coffee filters or a rusable gold filter instead.

By Annie B. Bond


William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. Cabout a year ago


Monica D.
Monica D6 years ago

Thank you for this helpful information.

Vicki P.
Victoria P6 years ago


Harriet J. B.
Harriet B6 years ago

I don't drink de-caf. I don't know if my coffee is shade grown. But, It is Arabica, usually.

Pirjo Ho
Past Member 6 years ago


Linda O.
Linda Owen6 years ago

Very good advice. I had no idea about decaf coffee possibly having carcinogens. Wow, thanks.

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago


Angela N.
Angela N6 years ago


Christine S.

I always buy organic fair trade coffee, and I try to get it shade grown as well- please consider Heifer Hope coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roaster, or the Birders' Blend from Thanksgiving Coffee. I was amazed that shade grown coffee provides very good habitat for migrating birds.