When discussing ethical coffee, it is crucial to talk about where coffee comes from and how it gets from the coffee tree to a brewed cup of coffee. Many people and hands are involved in the coffee growing, producing, and selling process. Two important concepts to understand in this process are Fair Trade Coffee and Direct Trade Coffee.
Fair Trade Coffee
Fair Trade is a third-party certification that organizations can get to ensure that coffee producers are paid fair wages for their coffee products. A few organizations can certify coffee, like Fairtrade America, Fairtrade International, and Fair Trade Certified. On the package of coffee that is Fair Trade, there will be a logo certifying that it is, in fact, Fair Trade.
You can learn more about Fair Trade coffee here: https://www.drinktrade.com/learn/fair-trade-coffee.
Direct Trade Coffee
Direct Trade coffee is when a coffee roaster works directly with the coffee producer to buy coffee. This is done to have the roasters build strong relationships with the coffee producers and provide fair wages. Direct Trade coffee can also be preferred since the coffee goes through fewer hands before getting to the final cup, which some believe equals a better final cup of coffee.
You can learn more about Direct Trade coffee here: https://www.ethicalcoffee.net/direct.html.
Which Do I Choose?
There are pros and cons to both Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffee. One argument against Direct Trade coffee is that there is no regulatory system or guidelines, so the caliber of the coffee and roaster/ producer relationship could change. However, the impact roasters could make on coffee producers and their communities through Direct Trade can outway the lack of a regulatory system.
Fair Trade provides a regulatory system; however, coffee producers need to jump through more hoops to get the certification. This might be difficult for coffee producers and might not be entirely equitable to great, small coffee producers.
Overall, I feel striving to do better when choosing coffee products matters. Whether it is Direct Trade of Fair Trade, just picking one makes a difference.