Trading Up: Just What Is Fair Trade Coffee?

As the buzz on ethically sourced beans grows, we decided to tackle the question: just what is fair trade coffee? In short, it’s a way to help save the world one cuppa joe at a time.

For those of you not up on the general concept of fair trade, it’s a social movement and business practice that aims to create equitable trading conditions around the world, particularly in developing countries. Thanks to the prevalence of coffee plants in developing countries around the equator, the coffee industry has long been a target cause of the movement, and efforts to increase economic fairness in the coffee sector are very much on the rise.

Some of the key characteristics you’ll see in fair trade coffee companies and collectives include:

  • The desire to help coffee growers in developing countries create sustainable business for themselves
  • A link between the growers, producers, and sellers to support and enrich community development
  • The belief that farm workers should earn fair living wages for their work
  • An interest in holding its products and personnel to high social and environmental standards, which is why there is growing selection of organic fair trade coffee on the market

Companies that are committed to fair trade practice may apply and receive certification from various third-party certification organizations to help conscientious consumers identify their products.

And for anyone worried that they might be compromising taste for political correctness, fair-trade coffee options include countless varietals, blends, and aromas. From whole bean artisan roast coffee to your go-to K-cup, it’s usually as much about packing in the quality flavor as it is about creating a more just society.

Fair trade coffee is likely going to cost you a bit more up front than what you may be used to spending, but for many coffee lovers, the feel-good buzz they get from supporting a good cause while enjoying a tasty product is worth the slightly steeper price tag.

Here, a few solid—and eclectic—examples on the market today:

Kicking Horse Coffee Kick Ass Dark Whole BeanKicking Horse Coffee Kick Ass Dark, Whole Bean Coffee: Indonesian and Central American coffees are blended to create a bold dark cup of coffee that’s certified organic and fair trade. Rich aromas are also a guarantee, though there’s no official certification for that yet…that we know of.


Weavers Organic Blend Whole Bean

Weaver’s Coffee, Organic Blend Whole Bean Coffee: This artisan coffee is made with 100 percent certified organic, fair-trade Arabica beans [Could link to Arabica Vs Robusta post] from across the equatorial belt. Incorporating multiple roast levels gives the blend a robust body and a bright, chocolate caramel flavor.


Green Mountain Coffee Fair Trade Organic Sumatran Reserve K-CupGreen Mountain Coffee Fair Trade Organic Sumatran Reserve, K-Cup: This dark Indonesian-grown coffee possesses sugar and spice notes and extra-bold flavor. It comes ready to go for those Keurig lovers out there.



Green Mountain Coffee Fair Trade Colombian Select K-CupGreen Mountain Coffee Fair Trade Colombian Select, K-Cup: Ethically sourced from Colombian beans, Green Mountain’s fair trade Colombian coffee delivers medium balance, a note of ripe fruit, and a nice clean finish straight to your Keurig machine.



And there you have it: It is possible to promote a better world simply by drinking some more of your fave morning beverage.

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