Misleading Menus

Last week, news surfaced that a Toronto Restaurant was misleading its customers by claiming that dishes and certain ingredients were special in terms of being premium, organic or local when they weren’t.

Factory farmed eggs were sold as “Free Range Eggs”, Farmed Atlantic Salmon was claimed to be “BC Organic Salmon” and Quaker Harvest Crunch was sold as “organic granola”. For more details, see the article from the Toronto Star

Many people are willing to pay a premium for special products such as these and so for the unscrupulous vendor, there’s an opportunity to increase price without increasing their costs by engaging in a little creative menu writing. We find this to be very disappointing and it raises the question of how can you be sure that the claims on a menu or a package are true?

There are two major ways to protect yourself from being a victim of false labels:

1) Look and ask for Certifications

While it is certainly possible to claim that a product is certified when it is not, it is a more deliberate lie and there are checks and balances in the system that help you determine if the claim is correct. In our case, we are a certified Organic Coffee Roaster and we can show you our Organic certificate. If we label a coffee to be organic that is conventionally grown, we would risk losing our certification. We are inspected and our records are checked every year to ensure we are compliant with the Organic regulations. In the case of some certifications such Fair Trade or Bird Friendly, you can look up if the supplier is registered with the Certifier.

Our coffees are Certified Organic by EcoCert.

Our coffees are Certified Organic by EcoCert.

2) Ask about the Origins of the items

If a restaurant claims a product to be Organic or local or heirloom or special in any way, they should be prepared to explain the basis of the claim. So ask your server, if it is local, what farm did it come from? When? if it is organic, is it certified or how do they know it is really organic? The more people ask for details, the more difficult it will be for restaurants to mislead their customers.

Choosing sustainable, local, or artisanal foods can be rewarding in terms of tastes and the food experience and are often well worth the premium price, as long as we are getting the products that are being advertised.

Paris Climate Change Agreement – a Moment of Truth

 “It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement. Today it is a moment of truth.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke these words as he declared that the Paris Climate Change conference known as COP21 had reached an historic multilateral agreement. It is our sincere hope that he is right and that people of all countries see this as a call to action — It is the beginning of a process, and not the end.

The agreement is significant – nearly 200 countries have committed to a goal of limiting temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, rather than the 2 degrees that appeared to be the target just two weeks ago. The agreement is the product of a lot of hard work by many people.  From where I sit it seems that much credit is due to French President Hollande and UN Climate Chief Christiana Figures. As Canadians, we are delighted to see a change in the position of the Canadian delegation from obstructionist to constructive.

Local Children try birding

Delighted children try birding on a Bird Friendly® coffee farm.

As important as this agreement is, it is just the beginning.  The work lies ahead and we will face many obstacles and difficult choices in pursuing it.  To achieve the goals set in Paris, we will need to use the agreement as a framework to help us maintain our collective resolve as we face the challenges of necessary change together. As consumers, we have a big impact on carbon emissions – we make choices with far reaching consequences when we spend our dollars. Consumers reward the behaviors of everyone in the supply chain with every purchase we make:  Participants in the supply chain do what the monetary rewards incent them to do.  To curb extreme climate change, we will have to change deeply embedded common practices by changing the influence of monetary rewards.  Taxing carbon will help with this and it can work more quickly and more effectively if we understand it and if we consciously support behaviors we want to encourage in supply chains.

2 ways to grow coffee

Coffee grown upslope provides habitat versus downslope sun coffee farm.


At Birds and Beans our founding mission to preserve biodiversity directly supports climate objectives: preserving habitat is preserving forests.  And preserving forests has been identified in Paris as a critical component to achieving climate objectives.

The Guardian

Many of the world’s companies pay no attention to how their supply chains are damaging forests, the Prince of Wales has warned as he urged action to stop deforestation.

Sadly, during the decade and a half that we have offered this climate and habitat friendly coffee, we have seen an explosion in demand for unrecyclable plastic single serve pods containing unsustainable sun grown coffee. Single use coffee pods are the source of a great deal of profit (coffee offered in pods nets out to about $50 per pound!) while convenience brands ignore adverse environmental impact of their coffee and other unsustainable food offerings.

We maintain that using a grinder, a kettle and a drip filter holder is just as convenient a method of brewing a single cup of coffee, but has the merit of supporting an entirely sustainable supply chain.  And the superior flavour in the cup is incomparable!  This is one example of the kind of change that we as citizens can make as climate objectives are pursued.  

Our government reached an agreement because they believed it to be an expression of our collective will.  As policy changes result in choosing sustainability over convenience, waste and unchecked growth, we will have to demonstrate our support.  Let us make sure that our commitment runs deep and that no future government will be tempted to break the agreement for their own short term political gain. 

We are the citizens of the world at a the moment of truth.  Collectively, the future is in our hands.

Christmas Blend 2015

Specially packaged for Christmas this coffee blends the gift of coffee with the gift of conservation!

The coffee lovers in your life will love this lovely smooth coffee – and the festive label. The bird and nature lovers in your life will love that each package of coffee conserves 110 sq ft of winter habitat for the songbirds that will return to us in spring.

Giving certified Bird Friendly® coffee triples the giving: give the coffee to your friends and family, give the habitat to the birds, give the birds to the world.

Enjoy definite butterscotch with undertones of coconut on the nose. It is smooth with harmonious combination of chocolate, caramel and nut in the cup. The chocolate remains in the long sweet aftertaste… and, oh my, a hint of berry to top it off.

This coffee shows well brewed at regular or 3/4 strength.

Buy a case of twelve for the price of ten all those on your “little gifts” list!XMAS_Blend_340Beans

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 here to see the trailer:

For more information, visit songbirdsos.com

$3.50 Shipping all weekend from Aug 21 – Aug 23

Our friends at Canada Post are upgrading their web servers this weekend. Must be a pretty big upgrade because they are taking all their systems offline,  including the one we use to look up the shipping costs for our online orders.

Lots of people order coffee on the weekend so we didn’t want to shut down our store for an entire weekend so we decided to offer a Shipping Special – Ground Shipping will be $3.50 for all locations in Canada for all order sizes until 7 PM Sunday evening.

So, if you’re in Toronto – shipping is 3.50, Montreal – 3.50, Calgary 3.50, Kelowna 3.50 … you get the idea. So place your order this weekend and enjoy your Certified Bird Friendly coffee when it arrives next week and say “Thanks Canada Post”.

The Fine Print

We reserve the right to cancel shipments to postal Air Stage Post Offices if the shipping cost exceeds 50% of the purchase price. Sorry about that but we’ll do our best to give you a deal too.

Grow a Tree in Your Cup

One of the best parts of my job is speaking to passionate people – people who are passionate about coffee and also people who are passionate about the environment.  Some people are passionate about both.

A few months ago, I had one of those conversations with Elaine Munro of Progressive Nutritional Therapies. They had been purchasing Birds & Beans Certified Bird Friendly coffee for their office and were using it to raise funds for a tree planting near the source of the Rouge River in North East Toronto.

In the office, they charge by the cup and were also selling jars of beans for brewing at home – and called it “Grow a tree in your Cup”. They are pretty big coffee drinkers over there because when it came time to plant – they had raised enough money to plant 513 trees!

In early May,  24 members of their staff along with family members turned out to plant a selection of native trees and shrubs that were selected to be appropriate for the river side site by Ontario Streams.

IMGP3525

Planting on the banks of the Rouge River

This is amazing – through this simple, yet creative program, they were able to both protect habitat in South and Central America by supporting Bird Friendly coffee growers, and improve habitat here at home in the Rouge River valley. Congratulations to all involved!

For the complete story see the Progressive Nutritonal Therapies Blog and for more information.

 

Coffee Bird Photo Post

As spring returns and our beloved migratory songbirds make their way back to Canada from their wintering grounds in Central and South America, we urge you to support them by purchasing certified Bird Friendly® coffee!

American Redstart

American Redstart

 

Our friend and supporter Vincent Falardeau would like to remind us of the beauty of the birds.

Indigo Bunting _web II

Indigo Bunting

 

And we would like to remind you of the beauty of the coffee.

Black-throated Green Warbler_web

Black-throated Green Warbler

 

Lets do one simple act that sustains these beautiful birds and enriches our lives with a simple pleasure.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

 

Help us help the birds.  Buy our certified Bird Friendly® coffee.

Black-throated Blue Warbler_1_1

Black-throated Blue Warbler

 

I Witness

(Warning…This poem is not for the faint of heart.)

the horror runs through my arms and legs
the ache fills my heart
the reality fills my mind
the finality pulls my gut
as the mass extinction ticks onward
largely unacknowledged and unnoticed
the tremendous specialty of form and of life
unappreciated
gasping in the loneliness of last pairings
doomed and hopeless
habitat consumed by unsustainable food and junk
hopeless and final in a way we do not conceive
not just death, but death of species, of kind
termination of lines of being
the final end of the rise from the muck
the endless creation that brought animation to matter
the interplay of mutually sustaining diversity
the dance of procreation
dying
while we decorate the packaging of our wasteful crap with their images
tasting not, feeling not, seeing not, living barely
and watch a horror movie to feel something
while failing to notice the life that yet is
in its intricate and living beauty
dying at our hand, utterly squandered

I witness
unshrinking
open heart experiencing
the “Sixth Mass Biological Extinction Event”

© yourCountess 2014

Birds and Beans is Palm Oil Free

Birds and Beans is Palm Oil Free

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

Help Monarch Butterflies by planting Milkweed

Although it doesn’t have anything to do with coffee or birds, we are happy to see the David Suzuki Foundation’s current #GotMilkweed program aimed at planting more Milkweed to act as host plants for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. We like it because it points out that helping to save a species (and in this case the phenomenon of the Monarch Migration) is all about habitat.

Milkweed plants are an essential part of the Monarch’s lifecycle but it has been eradicated from much of the butterfly’s range – in cities and in the country thus destroying the butterfly’s natural habitat. The #GotMilkweed campaign’s goal is to replant a milkweed corridor in Toronto to help these insects increase their numbers. If the project succeeds, we would see patches of milkweed plant around us in the place of dull, boring grass.  A new generation of children will learn the pleasure of playing with Milkweed pods and releasing the seeds and we will see more of these beautiful butterflies in the summer and fall.

A Monarch Butterfly visiting a Bergamot plant in our patio garden.

A Monarch Butterfly visiting a Bergamot plant in our patio garden.

It is a small thing that can make a big difference – we see a future where we look for places to plant milkweeds and other plants to provide habitat and food for insects and birds. Imagine, for example, how nice it would be to drive down a highway and see milkweeds and other wildflowers making the scenery much more beautiful than the boring grass monoculture that has become the standard road side treatment.  In the same way, we see a future where people ask for their Fair trade coffee to be Bird Friendly too, so every cup provides habitat for Migratory Songbirds in addition to providing a fair deal for farmers.

More information: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2014/04/got-milkweed/

On a related note – we add our voice to support the proposed changes to Ontario’s Weed Control Act that would remove Milkweed from the list and make it legal to grow. About time! http://www.farms.com/ag-industry-news/ontario-proposes-an-amendment-to-the-weed-control-act-560.aspx About time.