Drink Coffee, Save Birds?
What does coffee have to do with birds? We hadn’t really thought much about it either until we met Dana Siedem, who is offering the first ever “Bird Friendly®” certified coffee in the Czech Republic with her brand Birdsong Coffee, which she founded with her sister Linda.
Three years ago Dana, a Prague native, was a student at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague writing a paper on agricultural certification systems, when the Bird Friendly® label caught her eye.
The one-of-a-kind Bird Friendly® certification scheme was developed by the US-based Smithsonian Institution, given to coffee grown in wild, shady forests where birds — rather than chemicals — act as the pesticides. The result? Purer, better tasting coffee (we tasted it – yum!), that helps preserve the biodiversity of migratory bird habitats and provides a stable livelihood to small-scale farmers.
Why is this important? Because research by the Smithsonian Institution has showed that the extensive cutting down of tropical forests for coffee plantations has resulted in increasingly fewer migratory birds returning to the North in the spring. So in other words, going fair-trade and organic just isn’t enough to stop ecosystem loss and eventual species extinction.
A bird- and coffee-lover herself, Dana fell in love with the philosophy and taste of Bird Friendly® coffee, but was frustrated that it was only available for sale in a few countries in Europe. To drink it she had to have friends and family bring it to her from Belgium or the Netherlands. Her dream was born: to be the first to import Bird Friendly® coffee to the Czech Republic.
“If you keep doing something that you believe in, maybe it can really turn into something… At least try it”. – Dana Siedem, Founder of BirdSong Coffee
Now, after three years of hard work – and some strokes of good luck – it’s finally becoming a reality. In August 2014, Dana received her first shipment of Bird Friendly certified coffee from a forest-farm in Western Ethiopia that she visited personally while living and working in the country – and where she had the chance to meet the farmers and pick coffee with her own hands. It was the first farm in all of Africa to have the certification, and now its coffee is available for anyone in Prague to buy online from BirdSong.cz, and hopefully soon from a number of cafes in the city.
We had a nice chat with Dana about coffee, green entrepreneurship and green living in Prague — see below for some highlights!
Tells us something special about BirdSong Coffee
“There are a lot of people importing coffee [in Prague], but I haven´t come across anyone involved in the whole process chain . Me and my sister are really doing everything. We went to the farm, I made contact with them, I went to visit the farm, we bought the coffee, we imported the coffee, now we are actually assisting in the process of roasting [in the Czech Republic], we sought advice on roasting profiles and brewing and now we are offering it and selling it while trying to raise the awareness about the ecological issues and the benefits of shade-grown coffee, and we also will have an e-shop, hopefully very soon. And that’s not the end: we also go to the farmer’s market ourselves where we brew the coffee! So I think it’s really like we are there at the beginning and the end. I even picked some of the coffee beans with my own fingers. So that’s quite nice.”
“There are a lot of people importing coffee [in Prague], but I haven´t come across anyone involved in the whole process chain . Me and my sister are really doing everything.”
Do you have any tips for other people interested in social/environmental entrepreneurship?
“When we first got the coffee in August , I just saw the palette full of the coffee and I was thinking how two years ago I was still at University and had just found out about this whole certification, and I didn’t know how to import it, where to buy it, how to roast it… and suddenly now I have it here in front of me. It really took a just a few steps and of course some good luck and life coincidences, and that maybe doesn’t always happen. But If you keep doing something that you believe in, maybe it can really turn into something… At least try it. We’ve been working really hard, and with every kilo sold, you know this helps achieve your environmental and social goals. Knowing that makes a big difference, especially when things are difficult.”
Do you have any personal favorite green lifestyle tips for people living in Prague?
“I really like the zero waste blog Trash is for Tossers. I like to read what she does. I don’t follow everything, but since I started reading her blog from time to time I try to think more about how to reduce my waste and when I go shopping I try to buy products that don’t have that much packaging. Recently I just started to go to a shop that doesn’t sell packaging [Bez Obalu] – so you bring your container and they sell you exactly the amount you want. I think people don’t realize how much time it saves you. Whatever packaging you buy, you throw it away , so then you have to go down to the garbage or go to the recycling bin, which is somewhere in the street. So you’re creating waste and you actually lose more time than just bringing the container once a week when you go shopping. And I think it also would be good if people would think every time they go to buy some bread that you don’t need to use that plastic bag but you can maybe use something you use all the time. It’s the small things that you do.”
Dana’s Green Tip: Dana usually brings a reusable silicon or cloth bag to the supermarket for bread, fruit and vegetables, and no cashier has ever given her a problem. She also tries to avoid buying food — even “organic” — that comes with lots of plastic packaging. In doing so she saves plastic, reduces waste and saves herself a trip to the recycling bin!
What’s your favorite place in Prague to get into nature?
“In Prague 5, Lipence – there you can find some areas of forest and it’s quite calm, except for the occasional wild boar. Or Kavčí hory, because I walk my dog there almost every day.”
Search “Bird Friendly coffee” on our site for more tips and info!