Why Buy Fair Trade Coffee

Coffee is a massive international commodity. Because of the extraordinary demand for coffee in the West, the coffee bean industry is one of the largest sites of forced labor around the world. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 250 million child slaves working to produce many of our everyday purchases such as coffee and cocoa.

As you might imagine, forced laborers have little or no rights. They are exploited for their work, forced to work long hours with little or no pay. These workers are also often exposed to dangerous chemical fertilizers and pesticides that have been banned in the US, causing them to contract lifelong health conditions.

When we choose to buy Fair Trade, we are casting a vote for the ethical treatments of the laborers around the world who are responsible for our daily coffee fix. These 15 Fair Trade coffee brands have made it an integral part of their mission to develop lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships by employing Fair Trade and Direct Trade practices with the farmers who cultivate their crops. Here’s to drinking world changing cups of coffee. 

You might also like our guide to healthy and organic meal kit delivery services and fair trade chocolate

1. Cafédirect

Ethics | Fair trade, re-invests ⅓ of profits
Location | London, UK
Where to Buy | Online

Cafédirect tops our list for their holistic commitment to quality. Their quality coffee blends have won them more than 30 Great Taste Awards in the last 8 years and quality relationships have been built on face to face meetings that they conduct with every farmer each year. That same drive for quality has earned them Fair Trade and Gold Standard certifications for their treatment of people and planet. We also love the fact that Cafédirect has made almost 90% of its farmers shareholders in the business and has committed to re-invest 1/3 of their profits back into their producers and communities.

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2. Equal Exchange

Ethics | Worker owned, fair trade
Location | St. Paul, MN
Where to Buy | Online

Equal Exchange has been brewing great coffee for over 25 years. Their business was formed through what, at that time, seemed like a novel idea: what if food could be traded in a way that is honest and fair, in a way that empowers both farmers and consumers? Their answer to that question was to start a business that was worker-owned. Their co-op has over 100 worker/owners and each holds an equal share and voting rights in the business. This structure has created a unique focus on ethics and Equal Exchange consistently gets top marks for its care for people and planet.

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3. Higher Ground Roasters

Ethics | Fair trade, organic, shade-grown
Location | Leeds, AL
Where to Buy | Online, cafes throughout Alabama

Higher Ground Roasters is dedicated to providing the finest coffees the world has to offer, fresh, to everyone. To ensure that farmers and the environment are protected in their search for the world’s best beans, they roast exclusively 100% Certified Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade Grown Coffees. They're creating positive relationships from the Farm to the Cup and beyond by establishing partnerships with non-profits such as The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Black Warrior Riverkeepers and The Cahaba River Society. Customers can enjoy sustainable coffees from around the world while supporting the preservation of our wild areas close to home.

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4. Grumpy Mule

Ethics | Fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, organic
Location | London, UK
Where to Buy | Online

Grumpy Mule is stubborn when it comes to their ethics. While short term sustainability is easier to achieve, The Mule has opted for long term standards that drive their roasting and sourcing practices. They’ve worked to earn Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and Organic certifications for all of their products to ensure that every brew has a conscious story. These guys are really coffee nerds and you’ll see that passion throughout their playful brand. Check out their top notch online guides to various coffee brewing methods.

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5. Wandering Bear Coffee

Ethics | USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified
Location | New York City, NY
Where To Buy | Available in stores in NYC and online

Wandering Bear operates from the fundamental belief that we all deserve great coffee—and they deliver. Their cold brews are both smooth and strong, meaning that you can jumpstart your morning with a café-worthy brew in the comfort of your own home. Their single-serve cold brews are great for on-the-go mornings, or try their cold brew on tap—with this innovative way of storing coffee, you’re always going to get the freshest cup.

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Ethics | Fair trade, organic
Location | Post Falls, ID
Where to Buy | Online

As member of Cooperative Coffees, DOMA has made a commitment to place their farmers, their identity, and their product front and center. DOMA coffee is certified organic and fairly traded through direct relationships. DOMA has shown their commitment to the planet throughout their roasting methods. Most notably, they use an eco-friendly roaster, which conserves 80% natural gas over traditional roasters. As DOMA has grown, its footprint it has also formed partnerships with several community organizations and non-profits to give back to local communities.


7. Stumptown Roasters

Ethics | Direct trade, organic
Location | Portland, OR
Where to Buy | Online, cafes in LA, NYC, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans

Stumptown has helped shape Portland as a coffee Mecca for their purist approach to quality. This same attention to detail has also driven their approach to ethics. Stumptown employs direct trade sourcing which means they put their focus on developing relationships and transparency (you can read about their producers online). Stumptown isn’t a bootstrapping coffee startup anymore, but their product and attention to detail carries the commitments of a company that is making the world a better place.

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8. Rise Up Coffee Roasters

Ethics | Fair trade, organic
Location | Easton, MD
Where to Buy | Online, cafes in Maryland

Rise Up Coffee was founded by Tom Cureton after a caffeine-inspired trip home from Peace Corp service, and has grown from a small coffee truck to a team of over one hundred people. Rise Up's coffee is rooted in their love for their farmers, and they roast their organic and Fair Trade beans in small batches in the USA for the perfect artisanal brew. You can visit the home of Rise Up for a cup in a few personality-packed locations throughout Maryland.

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9. Pura Vida Coffee

Ethics | Fair trade, organic, shade-grown
Location | Tukwila, WA
Where to Buy | Online

Pura Vida was one of the first brands to sell exclusively Fair Trade coffee and has since added certifications for Shade Grown and Organic practices across its products. This is coupled with a strong commitment to reducing their environmental footprint from farm to cup. Pura Vida takes all of this a step further through their non-profit organization dedicated to supporting at risk children through education and health initiatives.

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10. Larry's Coffee

Ethics | Fair trade, organic, shade-grown, B Corporation
Location | Raleigh, NC
Where to Buy | Online  

Larry’s Coffee is a member of Cooperative Coffees and holds organic, Fair Trade and B Corporation certifications. Larry’s brand and products have the homegrown personality that you would expect from a Raleigh, NC company, but also a quixotic activism that has fueled them to run their operation on bio fuels and rainwater. They explore sustainable packaging options and invest in renewable energy practices to make their delicious brews.

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11. Café Mam

Ethics | Fair trade, organic, shade-grown
Location | Eugene, OR
Where to Buy | Online

Café Mam sources Fair Trade and Organic beans grown by cooperatives of native Mayan farmers living in the highlands of Chiapas. Over the years, the family owned brand has built a cult following with customers that swear by both quality and consistency in their products. Cafe Mam thrives on the idea that Coffee doesn’t need more glossy brands, it needs more authentic passion for quality and care.

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12. Allegro Coffee

Ethics | Fair trade, organic
Location | Thornton, CO
Where to Buy | Online, Whole Foods

Allegro's Fair Trade blends ensure that the farmers and workers responsible for are given fair pay and work under fair labor conditions. Allegro also promotes organic growing methods which guarantees that beans are grown without toxic chemicals. Alongside their commitment to people and the planet, Allegro Coffee Company has continued to perfect the time-honored, artisanal traditions that make their coffee one of the most flavorful you can find. As the in house brand for Whole Foods, Allegro is also easily accessible in stores nationwide.  

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13. Conscious Coffees

Ethics | Fair trade, organic, B Corporation
Location | Boulder, CO
Where to Buy | Online

Conscious Coffees is a certified B Corporation that buys only certified organic Fair Trade coffee grown on small family farms that are collectively self-organized into cooperatives. Their mission is to create long-term relationships with their growers, customers, and the environment. They are also committed to educating consumers about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of growing, harvesting, processing, roasting, and trading coffee. From detailed coffee descriptions and brewing tips on their site to public coffee cuppings at retail locations, they always upholdt their obligation to complete the circle from farmer to consumer, giving credit where credit is due.

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14. Salt Spring Coffee

Ethics | Fair For Life, B Corporation, 1% for planet
Location | Richmond, British Columbia
Where to Buy | Online

Salt Spring is a family-owned company of pioneering entrepreneurs. It has cultivated lasting partnerships with farmers and is Fair for Life certified - which ensures that human rights are guaranteed at every stage of production, that workers enjoy good and equitable working conditions, and that small family farmers receive a fair share. Salt Spring is also a B Corporation and does extensive work to care for the planet by recycling, composting and pushing the limits of efficiency. In addition to their ethical practices, Salt Spring selects and roasts only the most delicious beans so you can brew standout coffee in a way that gives back to the world.

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15. Kickapoo Coffee

Ethics | Fair trade, organic
Location | Milwaukee, WI
Where to Buy | Online

Fair Trade at Kickapoo Coffee goes beyond just fair pricing to building lasting relationships and partnerships with growers. Because Kickapoo imports its own coffees, they communicate with growers directly, not through a middleman. Visiting their growers is also a very important part of what they do. Annual visits to producer groups are focused on mutual benefit. They want to make sure farmers are treated fairly and that in turn they are getting the best quality possible.

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