Lifestyle * Travel * Food

Mar 15, 2019

What is the Difference Between Organic, Fair Trade, and Direct Coffee?

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with 1 in every 2 Americans over the age of 18 report consuming coffee each day.

Of course, as any coffee consumer knows, not all coffee is created equal. The Keurig K-cups you purchase at your local store tastes drastically different than the premium coffee you can enjoy at your favorite coffee shop.


The type of coffee beans, the location where the beans were harvested, and even roast date all play an important role in the quality and taste of your coffee.

For example, Tradecraft suggests using coffee beans no more than three weeks after they are harvested to get the most out of the coffee.

While the quality of the ingredients of your coffee is a big part of the final result, the type of coffee you consume is also a crucial factor to consider.


In this brief guide, we’ll be exploring the differences between organic, fair trade, and direct coffee.

Organic Coffee

An increasingly popular type of coffee to consume, coffee that is labeled organic must meet a certain standard of guidelines.

While the requirements can differ slightly depending on various country regulations, organic coffee uses coffee beans where the beans are grown in organic conditions. Organic coffee is produced without any chemicals -- like pesticides.

Because of the unique standards in which the coffee must be produced, organic coffee often costs more than non-organic. Many health-conscious coffee drinkers believe the alleged health benefits and improved taste are worth the price premium.

Fair Trade Coffee

Fairtrade International is a nonprofit organization that works to ensure that corporations and producers of common goods are able to establish a mutually beneficial and ethical relationship with their production partners. 

Coffee produced under the Fair Trade USA label requires that the farmers, importers, and exporters all operate within a set standard of rules, with the intention of promoting equality and growth for everyone involved in the coffee production process.

Fair trade coffee is considered to be one of the more ethically sourced types of coffee as it prohibits its partners to use child and forced labor. Additionally, producers who have a Fair Trade certificate must pay their workers a fair and living wage as well as commit to healthy and ethical business practices. 

If you’re looking to consume coffee that is ethically sourced, fair trade coffee is a great option to consider.

Direct Trade Coffee

Unlike fair trade coffee, which operates under a single organization, direct trade coffee involves coffee production where the coffee roasters and coffee producers have a direct, ideally mutually beneficial relationship. Direct trade coffee is not overseen by any one person or organization.

Because the distributors work directly with the coffee farmers, they are often able to have a more significant say in the quality and price of coffee beans in which they purchase.

The direct relationship also allows distributors to offer a higher price to the farmers for their coffee beans than when additional importers and exporters are involved. Direct trade coffee is also often beneficial for the farmers as they can invest their higher profits into building a sustainable coffee production farm.

Though there are many other types of coffee other than what we explored today, understanding the difference between organic, fair trade, and direct trade coffee can help you decide which types of coffee you feel good about investing in.
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