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Choose your coffee carefully

In these blog posts we’ve mentioned several things we can all do to help song birds. In February we provided a list of ten things we can do for the birds. Then in April, Nick Knutson reminded us of the importance of keeping our cats indoors and of participating in citizen science so that researchers can track the numbers of birds. We wrote about how our backyards can benefits birds if we allow the wildflowers to grow instead of mowing them off to create a uniform lawn. And last week Bev Wigney explained that good forestry practices are essential to protecting birds, especially migratory birds. This week we’re going to learn how our morning brew can make a big difference to the birds. To explain the connection between coffee and birds, we turned to Jonathan Welch at Sissiboo Coffee Roasters in Bear River, Nova Scotia. Sissiboo Coffee Roasters are micro-roasters dedicated to freshness and to the well-being of those that grow their coffee beans and of those that live in the forests where they are grown.

What’s the connection between our morning coffee and the decline of

North American songbirds?

Songbirds, like most species, require niche habitat to nest, feed and generally survive. Large mono cropped coffee plantations use more chemical fertilizers which remove or greatly reduce the songbird's food source of insects and nectar therefore leading to the inevitable decline in population numbers.

How does your coffee avoid contributing to this problem?

Shade tree plantations filter carbon dioxide, help with moisture retention and require little or no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. This increase in biodiversity allows for better survival rates of song birds and other species of flora and fauna while creating healthier, tastier coffee.

Why did some producers switch to coffee plantations (sun-grown


Producers switch to larger mono plantations to max yields and profits while filling the demand of mass consumer markets.

What other things do you consider when sourcing your beans? Why are these things important?

All our coffee beans are certified Fair Trade which helps to create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect, with the goal of achieving greater equity in international trade.

How did you choose the name and logo for your coffee?

I wanted a name that promoted our region as I find southwest Nova to be a beautiful exotic place. The logo was designed by a friend and is meant to express one of the legends of the Sissiboo water system. (According to Sissiboo Coffee Roaster’s website, “(t)he name Sissiboo, said to be an Acadian word meaning “six owls”, refers to a local river system that borders on one of the largest wilderness areas in eastern Canada—an area rich with rivers and lakes and a favorite outdoor destination for their family.”

Can you tell us a bit more about pencils you sell to promote preserving owl habitat? Whose idea was this and how is the money used?

I hope this fundraiser eventually leads to the creation of owl habitat. First with selectively placed bat houses on public and private lands The longer term goal is to purchase land which can be put aside under covenants protecting the ecosystems within.

Your coffee shop also features an art gallery. Can you tell us more about that and what role it plays in the community?

The gallery idea came from local artists who approached us. Before the coffee shop opened we had used the space as a pop up gallery a few times a year. We expanded on the gallery lighting and added track wall hanging for cleaner displaying. We have an amazing community of artists who were interested in doing short term, often themed shows involving one or two artists at a time. …(A) committee of local artists gather once a year to review submissions of six week rotating shows. Generally each show starts with 6 weeks in Bear River and then moves to Annapolis Royal for another six weeks.

Arlene Dubo is the current featured artist. She lives here in Bear River.

Viewings are generally our regular shop hours though some night openings have happened over the years. Depending on the show art is available for purchase. Sometimes it can be taken then and sometimes it remains hanging till the show is over and is then picked up by the customer.

We've also had regular evening musical performances promoting local and traveling musicians. These are paid and promoted gigs. We have weekly seasonal performances by local musicians every Tuesday afternoon sometimes at both locations which they busk.

We've had readings by local authors and poets over the years and have hosted other special events which help in bringing the community together.

With the addition of the commercial kitchen we have been able to do special pop up meals promoting local chiefs.

We now share the cafe in Bear River with friends who are using it as an incubator space to grow their pizza business.

What is your favourite brew and favourite way to drink your coffee?

Every morning I drink our Night Owl in a stovetop moka pot. In the afternoons I usually enjoy an oat milk latte.

To learn more about Sissiboo Coffee Roasters, their products and their story check out their web page at and their Facebook and Instagram pages. And remember, look for shade-grown coffee to do your part to protect the amazing migratory birds that fly from the coffee groves of South America to our forests every year. We want them to keep coming back.

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