When we reported on coffee 10 years ago, none of the biggest companies had any Fairtrade brands. Things haven’t changed much in that respect, but most are now trying to attach some kind of sustainability story to at least some of their products.
Starbucks does sell some fair trade beans, and Taylors of Harrogate some fair trade and organic ground coffee. Lavazza has a ‘Tierra’ range which is Rainforest Alliance certified and Douwe Egberts says about 25% of the coffee it buys is certified by Utz. Other companies have their own form of direct trade, such as Union Hand Roasted. Illy too has not bought green coffee from international commodity markets since the end of the 1980s, but has gone directly to source.
Some of the fair trade brands on our table have been going since before the Fairtrade label began in 1994, and many of their coffees are organic too. Fairtrade and organic certifications fit well together says Cafédirect, as many fair trade producers are smallholders who are already concerned about maintaining the natural fertility of their land. Double-certified brands now dominate our Best Buy advice. Coffees from 100% Fairtrade companies Cafédirect, Clipper, Equal Exchange and Traidcraft; worker’s co-operatives Suma and Essential; well-known Fairtrade brand Percol; and, more recently, Grumpy Mule are all widely available from wholefood shops, with some brands also carried by Oxfam shops, and supermarkets.
Fair Trade Coffee
- Many of the 25 million smallholders who grow 80% of the world’s coffee fail to make a reliable living from it, say the Fairtrade Foundation.
- In 15 of the last 25 years, the global price of arabica coffee has often fallen well below that guaranteed by the Fairtrade Minimum Price.
In our Coffee Shops report, we compared different certification standards and touched on problems around low wages on smaller Fairtrade farms. Direct trade and value-added models can only be judged on a case-by-case basis, but we have given Solino and Traidcraft a positive sustainability mark for their practice of locating higher value stages of processing in countries in the Global South, in a sector in which the usual practice is to export raw materials to rich countries for processing. Union Hand Roasted explained that while they roast to order in London, they have sponsored members of producer co-operatives in Rwanda and Colombia to roast and pack coffee for domestic consumption.