What’s All The Buzz About Fair Trade Coffee?

Abby Henderson
6 min readDec 23, 2020

If you’ve spent any time at all around a coffee shop, you may have heard the terminology “fair trade coffee”. Maybe you passed it off as just another fancy word us coffee drinkers say to sound like an even fancier coffee drinker. “Grande, half caf, macchiato.” You know, that coffee lingo. We all know it’s just a different way to say you want your coffee bigger, sweeter, decaffeinated, etc. But they sound fancier.

Fair trade coffee is not one of those phrases.

What Is Fair Trade Coffee?

Fair trade coffee is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards. It tells you the farmer who grew that coffee received a fair price for it. This benefits not only that farmer, but the communities involved as well as the environment. Buying fair trade coffee supports a better life for farming families because it pays them fairly for their work or product. It also puts systems in place to ensure responsible use and protection of the natural environment the coffee is grown on through sustainable practices and land conservation.

Fair trade coffee farmers are empowered because they are able to market their own products through direct international buyers. These farmers are able to manage their businesses and set their own prices and business practices in order to compete in the global fair trade coffee marketplace. Since they are paid a fair price for their product they then have the resources to invest in their families’ health and education, invest back into their business as well as continue to protect the environment with their environmental stewardship practices.

Fair Trade Coffee Benefits

  • It tastes great!
  • Fair trade coffee production is more balanced and sustainable
  • Ensures fair pay to the farmers and workers producing the coffee
  • It encourages men and women to be empowered in the coffee farming industry
  • Improves economy in locations where coffee is grown
  • Working conditions are held to a safer standard
  • Puts into practice measurements for land conservation
  • Helps slow and decrease effects of climate change

The Price of Fair Trade Coffee

You may be thinking, “Okay, sounds great. Who am I to turn down something that is so great for the earth and my fellow man… but how much is this going to cost me?”.

Does fair trade coffee cost more than regular brands?

You might assume that if something is fair trade certified it comes with a higher price tag. And yes, pound per pound you may pay more for a fair trade certified coffee. This depends largely on the brand you buy from. But don’t feel like you need to choose between supporting a worker’s rights to fair pay and giving yourself a fair purchase price on your beloved beans.

For example, imagine you buy a one pound bag of non fair trade coffee beans for $9.00. The coffee farmer or producer gets, let’s say, $0.60. And the rest goes to the retailer and the supply chain. But a fair trade coffee brand ensures that every certified coffee organization earns at least $1.40 per pound, which is about 40 percent more than the current market price.

If we look at it like this, we can see fair trade does not mean the consumer pays an extra fee, it just ensures the farmers or producers of the coffee get their fair portion of that final sale. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Fair Trade Coffee Companies To Buy From

“Ok, you’ve convinced me. Fair trade coffee is the way to go. But where do I buy this stuff?”

No, you won’t have to go to an ultra luxurious and expensive all natural food store. You may be surprised that you can find a fairtrade certified coffee brand at your local grocery store most of the time. Ever heard of a little store called Costco? Their brand Kirkland sells a certified Fairtrade coffee.

Maybe you’ve seen that humble coffee shop on the corner, with the green mermaid logo? What’s their name? Oh that’s right, Starbucks. Did you know, Starbucks was the first private enterprise to invest in the Fairtrade Access Fund in 2012 and has funded more than $14 million in farmer loans to Fairtrade cooperatives?

Or perhaps Trader Joe’s is more your scene. Can you find some fair trade coffee there? You bet you can! Trader Joe’s offers a wide variety of different fair trade coffee blends and flavors, depending on the season.

The point is, finding fair trade coffee brands or wholesalers is not nearly as hard as you think. The next time you are at your local grocery store, take a second look at the labels and you will find one to choose from quicker than you can say “Extra hot, no foam, soy milk, cappuccino with extra cinnamon.”

What About Coffee Shops Near Me?

We all have those days where we would rather someone else makes our cup of Joe, am I right? Or maybe you just want to get out of the house. Maybe you love the thrill of waiting in line and placing your order, hearing your name called and seeing that beautiful little swirl of steam coming from your very own cup.

Well now that you are all for fair trade coffee, where can you go locally that serves it? If you have a favorite shop, ask them. You may be surprised to know that they already do serve it. And if they don’t, perhaps they can. You can be the one to open that conversation up and let them know that their consumers want them to start serving fair trade coffee.

If you would like to find other coffee shops that serve fair trade coffee, you can do a quick google search for “coffee shops near me that serve fair trade coffee”. Hopefully that gets you some great places to choose from! (Side note: I just tried this and found a few in my own local area that I want to go check out now. An excuse to go have coffee?… Yes, please!)

Now you know what fair trade coffee is, who sells it, and where you can find it locally. Arm yourself with this knowledge the next time you are buying a bag of beans or getting that tasty iced latte. Someone once said, “Humanity runs on coffee”. Fairtrade coffee really backs up this claim. The truth is most of humanity starts their day with coffee. How much better it is when you know you are making the most humane choice in the coffee you are drinking. However fancy you choose to be about it.

Coffee connects us in so many ways — to each other, to our senses, and to the earth that supports the coffee trees.” Rohan Marley