Any coffee lover has most likely come across the term “fair trade coffee” at some point while shopping for their magic brew. You may also have noticed that this coffee is more expensive than most. As you may have guessed from the title, this article will answer two questions related to this specially-labeled coffee: What is fair trade coffee and is it worth the extra money?
What is Fair Trade Coffee?
Fair trade coffee is defined by the World Fair Trade Organisation as ‘a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.' Essentially fair trade-labelled products work to ensure that the farmers receive a greater share of the cost of the coffee you buy. This, by it's very nature, means that Fair trade coffee tends to be more expensive. Fair Trade actually came about in 1988 when world coffee prices collapsed and Mexican coffee farmers were in need of support.
Fairtrade ™ currently works with 812'000 small scale coffee farmers, with the highest concentration in Colombia. It's biggest benefit is, obviously, that the small coffee farmers are paid a higher amount than non-fair trade farmers. This allows both farmers and the surrounding communities to have a dramatically better quality of life. I don't think the significance of that alone can be put into words so I won't try.
However, this is not the only reason why fair trade coffee is important. 85% of the fair trade coffee produced is also organic. This has two main benefits; the plantations will have better environmental sustainability and the soil will be more dense in nutrients without the addition of chemicals, leading to better quality plants and beans. Having more fertile land leads to a domino effect of benefits. Many fair trade coffee producers see these benefits and value the long-term implications of going natural.
Some might think this to be purely psychological but there are many coffee drinkers out there that think fair trade beans simply taste better. While you have to consider the many other variables that could affect taste, it's worth noting that up to 25% of the extra income from the fair trade premium (a higher level of contribution to the coffee harvesting community) is spent on improving production quality. Higher quality beans equal better tasting beans especially when compared to the mass-produced cheaper alternatives. As a testament to this fact, in 2013-2016 saw fair trade coffees win 28 Great Taste Awards, not an easy feat.
As you can see, the answer to the question of “What is Fair Trade Coffee” has some layers to it. If you're looking for some recommendations, check out our list of some of the best fair trade coffee on the market.
Is it Worth the Extra Money?
In all honesty that's kind of a loaded question (yes, I'm aware we asked it in the first place.) Whether fair trade coffee is worth it will really depend on the things you value and the budget you're on. Doing good for others, especially ones you don't even know, is nothing but a good thing. Fair trade coffee has become a major pillar within the global coffee community. The tenants and principles behind promoting fair trade is something that everyone can and should benefit from. Additionally, whether it's from the better quality beans, fewer chemicals, happier coffee farmers, or just psychological effects on the taste buds from doing a good deed, there are many coffee lovers that think fair trade coffee just tastes better and that's a good enough reason 🙂