Fair trade coffee.
You’ve heard the term, you know it’s “good”, but maybe you’re not entirely sure why...
Fair trade coffee has been certified by one of a handful of fair trade monitoring and certifying organizations that ensures growers receive a fair price for their coffee, higher than the commodity price and intended to promote a sustainable lifestyle for farmers and growers.
The most common fair trade organizations are Fairtrade America (a branch of Fairtrade International) and Fair Trade Certified, each of which certify coffee and other consumer goods to their own similar fair trade standards.
While fair trade isn’t the end-all-be-all in quality coffee – growing organically and with conservation best-practices is important too – it does ensure that your morning coffee helps provide a sustainable lifestyle for coffee growers around the world who would otherwise deal with challenging growing conditions and market fluctuations well beyond their control.
Fair trade organizations also frequently support sustainable farming practices and environmental best-practices, as well as prohibiting child labor.
Ultimately, fair trade practices aim to make smaller farmers active participants in the world marketplace, less prone to unstable market prices and with more investment in how their product goes to market.
Reason #1: Improving Lives and Communities
First and foremost, fair trade practices improve the lives of farmers and workers.
Fair trade farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee, helping to create a more sustainable wage and lifestyle, and in many cases, lift growers and workers out of poverty.
Fair trade minimum prices are set above the market price for commodity coffee, meaning that farmers are guaranteed to earn a living wage even if the market price of coffee is low. Fair trade also seeks to provide farmers with a premium that they can then redeploy to invest in their farms, their employees, and their communities. For many small growers, this might include buying new equipment, improving infrastructure, or providing education for the next generation.
In addition to paying farmers a fair price for coffee, fair trade practices generally ensure that farm workers have access to safe working conditions, fair employment practices, and child labor restrictions.
Fair trade coffee can also help to promote social justice progress!
For small-scale producers, some fair trade standards require an organizational structure that allows members and even workers access to democratic decision-making processes and broader participation in the activities of the organization, with transparency.
Reason #2: Just As Good (and Better) Than Non-Fair Trade
Fair Trade Coffee is just as good as non-fair trade coffee, and it’s frequently better tasting and higher-quality.
Fair trade has nothing to do with coffee quality or grading, but farmers and producers who committee to fair trade practices generally take their growing and process more seriously. Fair trade coffee just tends to be produced with more care and attention to detail; fair trade coffee farmers tend to be more passionate about their work; and they take pride in producing a high-quality product.
In our experience at Philly Fair Trade, this passion and attention to detail is often evident in the taste of fair trade certified coffee, too.
Reason #3: Fair Trade Can Benefit the Environment
While many fair trade certifications don’t specifically require sustainability practices, some standard-setters (like Fairtrade International’s Fairtrade Standards) require a commitment to sustainable farming practices that protect the environment.
As such, fair trade coffee can benefit the environment in a number of ways. This can include practices such as using less water, avoiding the use of harmful pesticides, soil-conservation to reduce run-off and erosion, and reduced deforestation as farmers are encouraged to plant trees on their land.
And even for those farms that aren’t necessarily adhering to deeper organic standards, the same farms that lean into fair trade tend to also gravitate towards environmental commitments that improve marketability of their product.
Fair Trade Coffee Tips From Philly Fair Trade Roasters
While we’re a little biased (we micro-roast fair trade, organic coffee every day!), here are some tips for finding and buying fair trade coffee:
- Look for the Fair Trade Certified® label. This is a good independent, third-party certification that guarantees that coffee has been produced and traded according to Fair Trade standards.
- Ask your local coffee shop or grocery store if they carry fair trade coffee. Many stores now carry a variety of fair trade coffees, as well as organic options, and chances are your local coffee shop is at the forefront of this movement. If you’re in Central Pennsylvania, look for Philly Fair Trade Roasters, or buy fair trade coffee online directly from our team!
- Consider "direct trade", which while less regulated, is an intent to buy directly from farms where coffee roasters can have a direct channel with their grower.
- Consider organic or chemical-free. While USDA-certified remains the gold standard in organic, more farmers are going pesticide- and chemical-free without the fancy labeling. Knowing your farmer or provider is the first step in a great and honest relationship..
How Philly Fair Trade Roasters Does Fair Trade and Sustainability
For us, fair trade is a starting point, and we strive for organic and sustainability best-practices with every roast.
We source our coffee from fair trade and organic certified cooperatives in Central America, South America, and the Pacific Islands. Through a partnership with Crop to Cup, which encourages fair trade practices in Africa, we also source African coffees direct from farms across the continent.
We’re also a Certified Organic facility, and we limit our landfill-bound waste, compost our biodegradable chaff and grounds, and recycle all possible materials. Our roasted beans are packaged in recyclable or compostable bags made with vegetable-based cello and recycled kraft paper. In as many ways possible, we strive toward being a Zero Waste facility.
By choosing fair trade coffee by Philly Fair Trade Roasters, you can make a difference in the lives of farmers and workers around the world – and here at home!