7 Best Fair Trade Coffee in 2021

Best Fair Trade Coffees
Image by Canva Photos

In this article, we’re going to showcase the best fair trade coffee on the market. 

Coffee is by far the most popular drink in America, beating out water, juice, even soda. With millions of people drinking it every day, it’s no wonder there’s an infinite number of brands to choose from. But you don’t want coffee from just any old company. You want fair trade!

What Is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is a label given to companies from developed countries who are in an equitable trade agreement with producers from a still-developing country. The agreement outlines a minimum price for products, ensuring that the workers from the developing country are paid fairly for their work regardless of market value and the differences between the two parties. 

In short, fair trade means that a company is dedicated to paying a reasonable, equitable price for the product they get from less privileged countries. Awesome

Our Top Picks: Best Fair Trade Coffee

Short on time? Here are our top picks.

  • Best Overall: Café Direct CoffeeWith bold flavor, ethical business practices, and a great price, you can’t go wrong with this 30-time award-winning coffee.
  • Best Eco-Friendly: Larry’s Coffee. With an operation running on biofuels, rainwater, and solar power, Larry’s Coffee has nearly eliminated their carbon footprint (and they make great-tasting coffee to boot)!
  • Best Eco Runner-Up: Higher Ground Roasters Coffee. This Alabama-based company aims to support women-owned and women-operated farms, and partners with local non-profits to protect and preserve wildlife and the environment.
  • Best Budget: Verena Street Coffee. Whether money is tight or you’re just a frugal shopper, Verena Street Coffee offers delicious, organic beans with fair trade ethics at a reasonable price.
  • Best Flavors: Grumpy Mule Coffee. This funny-named company is dedicated to long-term relationships with their farmers and has earned the coveted Rainforest Alliance certification. The real appeal of the Mule is their great-tasting brews in all kinds of flavor combinations — like the one that features buttered toast. 
  • Best Outreach: Pura Vida Coffee. Pura Vida’s established non-profit organization, the Create Good Foundation, supports children in at-risk communities and partners with churches and other non-profits to assist those in need. They make delicious coffee that is available in bulk with their coffee and water programs.
  • Best Cold-Brew: Wandering Bear Coffee. Last but not least is the Wandering Bear, with the world’s only on-tap cold-brew that can store in your fridge for weeks without losing an ounce of flavor.

1. Café Direct Coffee

The best fair trade coffee overall

Cafe Direct Coffee

Brand: Café Direct / Organic: Yes / Noteworthy Certification: B Corporation / Price: 💰💰

Café Direct wins the best overall coffee, thanks to their award-winning, amazing flavor and fair trade, ethical practices. With over 30 Great Taste Awards earned in the last eight years alone, you can rest assured that every single cup of Café Direct will be as flavorful and delicious as the last.

The London-based coffee company hosts face-to-face meetings with all their farmers every year, making 90% of those farmers shareholders in the business. One-third of all profits go back to their producers and communities, funding a wide range of outreach programs and ensuring all workers involved in the coffee process are taken care of. 

  • No bitter aftertaste
  • Strong taste with bold, rich flavor and plenty of “depth”
  • Reasonably priced for those on a budget, and available in bulk

  • Packaging isn’t biodegradable, though it can be recycled
  • Some reviewers didn’t like the strong flavor and wished a lighter option was available

2. Larry’s Coffee

The best eco-friendly fair trade coffee

Larrys Coffee

Brand: Larry’s Coffee / Organic: Yes / Noteworthy Certification: B Corporation / Price: 💰💰💰

Larry’s Coffee wins as the most environmentally-friendly fair trade coffee company thanks to their dedication to environmental activism and sustainable practices. Their entire operation runs on biofuels, rainwater, and both active and passive solar construction. Moreover, they’ve nearly eliminated their carbon footprint by utilizing natural methods of production. To top it off, they practice composting and use sustainably-produced packaging that is easily recyclable!

With 15 coffee flavors to choose from, all of which are slow-roasted and uniquely blended, you’re sure to find a favorite!

  • Small-batch production means near-unmatched quality
  • Smooth, delicious flavor across all blends with no bitterness
  • Sustainable practices go above and beyond to protect the environment

  • One reviewer noted that Larry’s Coffee “might as well be decaf” thanks to its low caffeine content
  • A few customers complained about receiving “bad” batches, but Larry’s Coffee customer service was happy and swift to offer replacements and/or refunds

3. Higher Ground Roasters Coffee

The best eco-friendly fair trade coffee runner-up

Higher Grounds Coffee

Brand: Higher Ground Roasters / Organic: Yes / Noteworthy Certification: B Corporation / Price: 💰💰💰

Higher Ground Roasters is based right here in the USA — Alabama to be exact — and uses only shade-grown, 100% organic coffee beans. The fair trade company is dedicated to establishing personal, equitable relationships with all their growers from around the world, and specifically aims to support women-owned and women-operated farms. 

In addition to fair trade practices, Higher Ground Roasters partners with non-profits like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Black Warrior Riverkeepers, and the Cahaba River Society to support wildlife and environmental preservation locally. They won ROAST Magazine’s Micro Roaster of the Year award a few years back, and do everything they can to reduce their impact on the environment and protect the planet.

  • Same bold, delicious flavor no matter how you brew
  • Additional cost of coffee goes to non-profits and great causes
  • Visually appealing packaging with hand-written thank-you notes inside

  • One reviewer noted the coffee loses some of its aroma once ground
  • As a locally owned, family business, there is sometimes a delay between online order and arrival

4. Verena Street Coffee

The best fair trade coffee on a budget

Verena Street The best fair trade coffee on a budget

Brand: Verena Street / Organic: Yes / Noteworthy Certification: Rainforest Alliance / Price: 💰 

Verena Street Coffee is a specialty brand steeped in nostalgia, pun fully intended. The name comes from the street two of the founders grew up on, one that no longer exists in Eastern Iowa. A privately-held and family-owned organization, Verena Street Coffee proudly roasts every small batch of the freshest, highest quality beans to the specific level that best highlights the coffee’s natural flavor.

And the best part? All their beans are sourced sustainably from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, ensuring that environments and farmers alike are protected throughout every step of the process. 

  • Affordable coffee that doesn’t taste cheap!
  • Robust, flavorful coffee with no bitter aftertaste
  • Distinctive blend flavors are pronounced before, during, and after brewing

  • Some batches are roasted inconsistently and therefore aren’t great for espresso drinks
  • Some reviewers noted that the whole beans are a bit “oily” and may clog your coffee grinder

5. Grumpy Mule Coffee

The best fair trade coffee flavors

Grumpy Mule Coffee The best fair trade coffee flavors

Brand: Grumpy Mule / Organic: Yes / Noteworthy Certification: Rainforest Alliance / Price: 💰💰💰

Grumpy Mule is a fun, eclectic brand with a great marketing schtick and even greater coffee. They have dozens of blends to choose from, each with a unique combination of flavors that we’d never think to put together. Take the Pico Pijol FT, for example. It boasts flavors like dark chocolate, molasses, and buttered toast! Yep, buttered toast. Then there’s the Las Mercedes Kenia Black Honey, with dark chocolate, blackberry, and stewed plums. 

They’ve earned both their organic and Rainforest Alliance certifications, meaning that their coffee is 100% natural and sourced from farms that preserve the environment. Grumpy Mule focuses on long-term relationships with producers and long-lasting, sustainable practices to protect the planet while also caffeinating it. 

Plus, they have some excellent online guides for different brewing methods to make sure you get the best of your beans!

  • Unique flavor profiles with bold taste and a smooth finish
  • Consistent roast across all beans in a batch, and consistently good batches
  • Great taste whether you use a French press or good old-fashioned coffee pot

  • A little pricey
  • A few reviewers mentioned the espresso wasn’t “full-body” and left something to be desired

6. Pura Vida Coffee

The best fair trade mission and policy

Pura Vida Coffee

Brand: Pura Vida Coffee / Organic: Yes / Noteworthy Certification: Shade-Grown / Price: 💰💰 

Pura Vida Coffee sells exclusively fair trade coffee on a national basis, and has both shade-grown and organic certifications. The Create Good Foundation, their established non-profit organization, uses its resources to help children in at-risk communities, partner with churches and other non-profits, and generally support those in need. Partners include Funda Vida, the YMCA, and Sister Schools. Pura Vida is committed to environmentally-friendly practices, such as biodegradable or recyclable packaging, paperless offices, and fuel-efficient delivery systems. Every batch of handpicked beans is slow-roasted and then packaged and shipped from the same location. 

Pura Vida Coffee also offers coffee and water programs for businesses, churches, and fundraisers, allowing a wide range of organizations to succeed with great-tasting coffee!

  • Rich, smooth flavor across all blends and flavors
  • Non-profit collaboration means your money is going to a great cause
  • Shade-grown beans roasted in small batches ensure consistent quality

  • Only the house blend is available in decaf
  • There are only about seven different coffee blends, though they offer teas and related supplies as well

7. Wandering Bear Coffee

The best fair trade cold-brew coffee

Wandering Bear Coffee

Brand: Wandering Bear / Organic: Yes / Noteworthy Certification: USDA Organic / Price: 💰💰💰💰 

Wandering Bear Coffee is the first cold-brew-on-tap producer in the market. What started as two guys just trying to make it through college has evolved into an eco-friendly company dedicated to giving you the best-tasting cold-brew available, with the caffeine you desperately need, all in 100% recyclable packaging. 

Each Wandering Bear blend is available in single-serve bottles that are re-sealable for on-the-go boosts and built to prevent any kind of contamination. Blends are also available in larger, on-tap boxes stored in your refrigerator and similarly re-sealable. The bag-in-a-box concept isn’t unique to Wandering Bear, but they certainly wear it well, promising a long shelf life with preserved flavor until the very last drop. 

  • Full of flavor with low acidity and little bitterness
  • On-tap box fits easily in fridge and has a no-drip spout for mess-free pouring
  • One reviewer boasts that the recyclable packaging stores cold-brew in their fridge for up to a month without any adverse effects on flavor!

  • Exclusively available as cold-brew
  • Pricier than other cold-brew options, though most reviewers think it’s worth the extra dough

What to Look for in Fair Trade Coffee

What to Look for in Fair Trade Coffee
Image by Antonuk / Canva Photos

Now that you’ve got an idea of all these coffee companies — how do you choose? 

1. Eco-Friendliness

Well, since every company we’ve showcased in this article is Fair Trade Certified, they’re all on equal footing there. You’ll need to look at some of the other labels to gauge their environmentally-friendliness. Shade-grown coffee means that the coffee plants are grown in the shade of surrounding forests, which in turn means those forests aren’t cut down or cleared to make more farmland. There’s also the Rainforest Alliance certification that specifically contributes to the continued existence of rainforests. 

Many of these companies also partner with non-profits or donate to organizations that support environmental and community outreach programs, so you might want to look into what you would be supporting if you purchase a particular brand. 

If you recycle (and you should), check to make sure the brand offers biodegradable or recyclable packaging. 

2. Coffee Quality

Then there are the actual coffee considerations. Are you up for grinding your beans, or are you looking for something pre-ground? Are you a die-hard cold-brew enthusiast? Do you drink your dark roast black, or do you prefer a light roast with infused vanilla chai? Whatever your preference, make sure whichever company you’re interested in offers the kind of coffee you like to drink!

And if organic is an essential qualification for you, you’ll want to look for brands that are certified as organic to ensure their product is 100% natural. 

No matter which company you decide to go with, know that these fair trade coffee brands mean you can drink your morning wake-up call and your afternoon pick-me-up with an environmentally-supportive smile on your face. 

Our Process

For this guide on fair trade coffee, our team spent 4 hours researching the most popular options from over 25 brands and manufacturers big and small. We then read about a hundred user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each coffee. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 7 fair trade coffees on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.

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