The term “ethically sourced coffee” carries a pretty broad definition and can be measured in many different ways. Typically the term will refer to coffee that's grown, processed, and sold in a manner that considers long term environmental, financial, and social effects. We'll cover this particular topic in more detail later in this article. In the meantime, if you want to buy the best ethically sourced coffee but don't know where to start, we've compiled a list of the best responsibly harvested coffee on the market.
Volcanica Coffee Tarrazu
Lifeboost Light Roast
Bean and Bean Coffee
The Best Ethically & Sustainably Sourced Coffee
Costa Rica Original Tarrazu by Volcancia
Volcancia is a coffee brand known for producing excellent coffee that is ethically sourced through its long-standing family business.
They source premium single origin beans produced at high elevations in volcanic soil. They are cultivated in shade-grown farms, so there is no deforestation to make way for their plants.
Volcancias’ beans come with three separate official seals confirming that they are fair traded, shade grown, and follow the requirements of the Rain Forest Alliance certifications.
Their Costa Rica Original beans are medium roasted, allowing the origin flavors to really show through. The brightness of the beans is interlaced with dark chocolatey undertones, creating the ideal mix of light and dark.
Lifeboost Coffee Light Roast
Lifeboost Coffee, with their certified organic and mountain shade grown beans is another prime example of ethically sourced coffee. Speaking from experience, their coffee is phenomenal and delivers a supremely clean and pure coffee experience. The company uses zero pesticides in the growing of their coffee, a fact that's reflected in the taste of their coffee. While we specifically chose the light roast for this list of ethically sourced coffee, all of their coffees fall under the category of being ethically sourced. We just happened to appreciate how much this light roast expresses the natural flavors of their unadulterated bean.
Bean and Bean Coffee Downtown Blend
Moving forward with our list of the best ethically sourced coffee is Bean and Bean. Known for their impressively high standards, their Downtown Blend is a delicious blend of African, Asian, and Latin America beans that are Certified USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified. Beyond the actual quality of their coffee, Bean and Bean works tirelessly to establish equal opportunities for female coffee producers and under-represented players in the coffee supply chain. They've identified four specific areas that they're looking to improve to help achieve their goals: transparency, agency, fair trading deals and prices, access to training and resources.
The company has gone the extra mile in making their packaging eco-friendly as well. It's made from plant-based materials and is completely compostable and recyclable.
Ankkrd Coffee's tagline is a fitting one: Coffee with a Purpose. 2% of all of their profits go toward the actual coffee growing regions from which the company sources their high-end coffee. As a faith-driven coffee company, they focus on delivering excellent coffee while living out the “golden rule” of treating others the way you'd want to be treated. Ankkrd Coffee offers a variety of single origin brews and intriguing blends.
Ethical Bean Coffee- Medium Classic Roast
Ethical Bean Coffee takes pride in being open and honest in their business practices. Transparency is the name of their game.
They get their beans directly from the growers and only work with farms that cultivate shade-grown coffee beans. They also ensure that no harmful pesticides or chemicals are used in the treatment of the plants.
Aside from fair-trade farming, they have teamed up with “Bullfrog Power,” a sustainable energy provider, to power their roasters. This means that practically every step of the process is friendly to the environment.
They also sell coffee pods that are completely biodegradable.
These 100% Arabica beans have a mildly bright balance with tobacco aromas. It has a pleasant aftertaste with just the right amount of sharpness to please the pallet.
Larry’s Coffee: Mightier Mocha Java
Larry's Coffee, also known as Larry's Beans, has been a leading force in pushing environmentally responsible coffee for the past 30 years.
Not only are their flavors exquisite, but they also take pride in developing tight relationships with their producers. They build partnerships that go above and beyond, as they treat their farmers as teammates rather than just suppliers.
Their coffee is acquired and imported directly from the farmers, eliminating the need for a middleman.
Even their line of coffee pods are 100% recyclable, demonstrating their commitment to environmentally sustainable operations.
Larry's Coffee comes in so many excellent varieties that it's tough to choose just one. But Mightier Mocha Java is a personal favorite that deserves to be mentioned.
It's a full-bodied coffee with crisp and fruity characteristics, spiced chocolate notes, and silky caramel, all beautifully balanced in your cup of coffee.
Legado – Byron’s Maracaturra Washed by Salt Spring Coffee
For over 25 years, Legado has been producing ethically sourced coffee and has developed strong partnerships with farmers and growers.
They do not have the “Fair-Trade” stamp, but they do have the “Fair for Life” accreditation. This means that all of their coffee supports regional farms while also promoting safe and fair working conditions throughout the whole process, from farm to roast.
Salt Spring Coffee now provides eight distinct roasts and blends, but this specific roast stands out.
It's the perfect combination of sweet and fruity. Crisp zesty orange blossom notes blend effortlessly with the dark richness of brown sugar.
What is Ethically Sourced Coffee?
Coffee is undoubtedly the most popular beverage on the planet second only to water. In the United States alone, over 150 million Americans consume coffee every day, accounting for roughly half of the population. The sourcing of this immeasurably popular drink has many implications on many levels of life.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, there are many ways to define the term “ethically-sourced”. Many coffee producers approach this concept by trying to minimize their environmental footprint while improving the quality of life for the communities and economies within which their coffee is grown.
Why Shade Grown Coffee matters
Coffee is traditionally produced at high altitudes in tropical and subtropical climates under the shade of Canopy Trees. This is what would be considered “shade-grown” coffee and you may have noticed this designation on the packaging of certain coffee brands.
What is the significance of this?
Shade grown coffee is desirable because farming coffee in this manner considerably reduces the level of disturbance to natural settings. It promotes biodiversity and works with the environment rather than against it.
The natural canopies offer a suitable habitat for all types of indigenous wildlife, assisting in nature preservation while also avoiding the need for pesticides and other environmentally destructive chemicals.
Essentially, it allows coffee to be farmed while protecting the environment and maintaining conservation efforts. Such is the reason why “shade-grown coffee” is a distinction within the coffee production world that carries weight.
In the 1970s, the demand for coffee continued to rise, making traditional methods of coffee cultivation difficult to keep up with.
This is when “sun-grown coffee” became established.
Despite producing a greater and more diverse crop of coffee beans, it is considered more harmful to the environment than shade-grown coffee as clearing the way for large coffee plantations usually involves damaging the natural habitat of local fauna and plant life.
To make room for new “sun-grown” coffee plantations, large swaths of trees and other plant life must be destroyed.
Why is Organic Coffee Better for the Environment
Being that coffee is one of the most sprayed crops in the world, the issue of chemicals and pesticides is often a concern for millions of coffee drinkers around the world. It's no surprise that overuse of such chemicals has a big impact on not only the resulting coffee yield, but also the ground and dirt itself. Although most experts agree that any potential contaminants are burnt off the coffee bean during the roasting process, coffee lovers understandably still feel better about drinking organic brews.
From both a short and long-term environmental perspective, using chemicals and pesticides can have devastating effects on the soil and the surrounding environment. Organic coffee farming, which forgoes the use of chemicals, prioritizes the preservation of soil health and forest well-being. Instead of using chemical fertilizers, the organic approach to farming uses natural organic matter as fertilizer. This creates a natural growing environment that strikes a harmonious balance between yield, quality, and environmental longevity.
What is Rain Forest Alliance Coffee?
You may have spotted the Rainforest Alliance seal on some high-end coffees and wondered to yourself what the seal actually means. Farmers that produce coffee with this seal have been recognized for their certifiable efforts to support three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental. These farmers are subject to third party auditors that ensure their farming practices are consistent with the long term sustainability goals of the Rainforest Alliance.
The Rainforest Alliance focuses on the following themes which have natural implications in the coffee industry with its multi-layered supply chain.
- Preserving forestry
- Promoting responsible land management to preserve climates
- Promoting human Rights
- Promoting sustainable livelihood and economic stability within rural communities
What is Fair Trade Coffee?
When coffee is labelled “fair trade,” it signifies that the farmers who grew the coffee were fairly compensated.
Large corporations and mass-producing roasters can occasionally undercut farmers in other nations, taking advantage of their labors. However, fair traded coffee ensures that the farmers who cultivate the coffee are paid properly for their services. This naturally has large financial implications for the communities within which the coffee is grown.
Fair Trade Coffee also guarantees that these farmers operate in safe and fair working conditions, ensuring that no one is exploited along the way.
Furthermore, roasters who utilize fair trade beans frequently buy directly from farmers, eliminating any middlemen who would undercut them. Ultimately, this means more money in the hands of the farmers and the communities in which they reside.
Final Thoughts on Ethically Sourced Coffee
It might be difficult to find coffee that is not just environmentally sustainable, but also fair-traded and does not undercut the growers. Hopefully this article has given you a good place to start along with knowledge about why its important to source coffee ethically. I've found that coffee companies and roasters that show a genuine care for others and the environment typically make the best coffee. I don't have any scientific data to back up that notion but such has been my experience as a long time coffee lover and self professed coffee snob.
Shopping the best ethically sourced coffee gives you not only better coffee, but also a peace of mind knowing that you're directly supporting the many players involved in making your cup of magic brew possible.