Over the past decade, various strategies have emerged to address critical habitat losses through agricultural expansion. The promotion of shade-grown, premium-priced coffee has been highlighted as one alternative. Our research, based on interviews with farmers in Chiapas, disputes some of the assumptions made by shade coffee campaigners. Results revealed a predisposition to converting forest to shade coffee production due to the socioeconomic challenges farmers face and the potential for increasing incomes. To ensure that their well-being is improved at the same time as reducing environmental impacts, there is clearly a need to provide more detailed information on who is responsible for enforcing certification criteria and how this should take place.