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Best Fair Trade Coffee Brands 2020 — Guide & Top Picks

fair trade coffee beans

Empowering coffee farmers is the motive of the Fair Trade movement. At a time when there was a greater supply than demand in the coffee industry, Fair Trade certification was introduced to ensure that farmers received sufficient wages. Ultimately, the goal was to stabilize the coffee economy while setting a tone of excellence for credibility and compliance for producers, traders, and retailers.

By enforcing standards and putting a marketing system in place, companies now registered with a Fair Trade certification allow coffee farmers and their communities to have a voice in the global industry in which they work. It also supports them in sustainable production with environmental projects, as negative effects of climate change cause coffee plants to die.

More and more companies are getting certified in the Fair Trade arena, meaning you have more options in the coffee you choose to support environmental and humanitarian efforts. To help you do your due diligence, we’ve put together a list of reviews of our favorite Fair Trade coffees.

A Quick Glance at the winners of 2020

ImageProductDetails
Best Overall
Winner
Lifeboost Medium Roast Lifeboost Medium Roast
  • Naturally low-acid
  • Rich and flavorful
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Second place
    Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling
  • Low acidity
  • Smooth flavor
  • Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance and shade-grown certification
  • Third place
    Kicking Horse Smart Ass Kicking Horse Smart Ass
  • Bright aroma
  • Bold flavor
  • Organic, Fair Trade, Kosher, and shade-grown certified
  • Best Decaf
    NO FUN JO NO FUN JO
  • Robust flavor
  • Sweet undertones
  • Swiss Water processed
  • Best Ground Coffee
    Tiny Footprint Tiny Footprint
  • Carbon negative
  • Bold profile
  • Sweet flavor
  • The 6 Best Fair Trade Coffee Brands

    1. Lifeboost Medium Roast — Best Overall

    Lifeboost Medium Roast

    Our favorite Fair Trade coffee is Lifeboost’s Medium Roast, a tasty, well-balanced coffee grown sustainably in the mountains of Nicaragua.

    This velvety coffee is rich, chocolatey, and slightly citrusy. It’s certified Organic, Fair Trade, shade-grown, and pesticide- and mycotoxin-free. Plus, the naturally low acidity won’t irritate your stomach!

    You will have to pay a bit extra for this sustainable coffee, but Lifeboost offers a great 60-day money-back guarantee if you don’t love it.

    Looking for more? Read our full review of Lifeboost Coffee!

    Pros
    • Fair Trade, Organic, shade-grown, pesticide- and mycotoxin-free
    • Rich and flavorful, with notes of chocolate and lemon
    • Naturally low-acid
    • Money-back guarantee
    Cons
    • Somewhat pricey

    2. Volcanica Fair Trade Sumatra Mandheling Coffee Beans

    Sumatra Mandheling Coffee Beans

    Grown at an altitude of 2,500-5,000 feet, Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling Fair Trade Coffee Beans come from Indonesia. These are 100% Arabica beans that are chemical- and pesticide-free. Volcanica is a specialty importer of gourmet coffee that is Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and shade-grown certified.

    This choice has tangy, brown sugar notes with the rich flavor of a medium roast, as well as having a full body with low acidity and no bitter aftertaste. However, it’s on the milder side of medium, and you may find it lacking the bite you crave if you love a more robust intensity.

    While it is quite expensive, this coffee boasts a distinctive Sumatran flavor. You’ll enjoy the combination of caramel, chocolate, and slightly earthy tastes.

    Pros
    • Low acidity
    • Smooth flavor
    • Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance and shade-grown certification
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Too mild as a medium roast

    3. Kicking Horse Smart Ass Fair Trade Coffee

    Kicking Horse Coffee, Smart Ass

    Kicking Horse Smart Ass Whole Bean Fair Trade is 100% Arabica beans from Africa and Central and South Americas. This brand, located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, is committed to social responsibility and community with Organic, Fair Trade, Kosher, and shade-grown certifications. This choice is a medium roast with a bright delivery and a tinge of milk chocolate and sugar cane notes.

    It’s on the pricier side and is also noted as delivering too dark for a medium roast. If you’re looking for a middle-of-the-road profile, this may be too bold for you.

    If you’re looking for a morning power punch to get your day started, however, this hard-hitting choice may be what you need to “wake up and kick ass.”

    Pros
    • Bright aroma
    • Bold flavor
    • Organic, Fair Trade, Kosher, and shade-grown certified
    Cons
    • Slightly pricey
    • Dark for a medium roast

    4. NO FUN JO Organic Coffee Beans — Best Decaf

    NO FUN JO DECAF

    NO FUN JO Organic Decaf Coffee Beans is number three on the list and our top decaf pick. It’s decaffeinated through the Swiss Water Process, which means you can enjoy a cup of pure-tasting coffee without excess chemicals. With notes of blueberry and chocolate, this is a medium-dark roast that lacks the dull expectation of a typical decaf.

    With this choice, you’ll pay more for less caffeine, as it’s slightly expensive. It’s also noted for having a bitter aftertaste and being rather acidic, so it may not work well for the straight black coffee lover.

    As artisan roasters and members of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and The Roaster’s Guild, Jo Coffee is Fair Trade and USDA Organic-certified.

    Pros
    • Robust flavor
    • Sweet undertones
    • Swiss Water processed
    • Organic and Fair Trade-certified
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Bitter aftertaste
    • Acidic

    5. Tiny Footprint Fair Trade — Best Ground Coffee

    Tiny Footprint Coffee

    Tiny Footprint Fair Trade Organic Nicaragua Segovia Ground Coffee comes in next on the list with an interesting story: For every pound sold, this brand will donate a portion of the proceeds to fund reforestation in Ecuador’s Mindo Cloud Forest. Over time, these trees will remove carbon dioxide and provide habitats for native plant and animal species.

    This coffee is defined by its bold delivery with notes of chocolate, fig, and spices. With a slightly sweet flavor, it is recognized as being on the lighter side of a dark roast while having a smoky aftertaste. It is also noted as having an acidity that may not play well with a sensitive stomach.

    Tiny Footprint is Fair Trade, Organic, and shade-grown certified and roasts 100% Arabica beans.

    Pros
    • Carbon negative
    • Bold profile
    • Sweet flavor
    • Aromatic
    Cons
    • Slightly pricey
    • Smoky aftertaste
    • Lighter dark roast

    6. AmazonFresh Organic Fair Trade Peru Coffee

    AmazonFresh Organic Fair Trade Peru

    AmazonFresh Organic Fair Trade Peru Whole Bean Coffee is the most affordable on our list. Amazon delivers a popular choice and has both Fair Trade and USDA Organic certifications. This coffee is 100% Arabica beans grown in Peru. With notes of brown sugar and chocolate, it has an inviting aroma, a sweet flavor, and a smooth finish.

    Identified as having a light flair for a medium roast, this choice may be too weak for the bold coffee connoisseur.

    If you’re looking to dip your toes in the water of Fair Trade-certified coffee, this choice is an economical way to start. Plus, if you like it, Amazon’s “subscribe and save” option will save you a few dollars, and you can feel good about savoring this brew. Otherwise, there’s a money-back guarantee.

    Pros
    • Economical
    • Money-back guarantee
    • Fair Trade and USDA Organic certified
    Cons
    • Simple profile
    • Too mild

    Buyer’s Guide

    If you’re not familiar with Fair Trade certifications, it can be a maze that’s easy to get lost in. What the certification means and the actual organization offering the certification are two different things.

    The first thing to understand is that you will pay more for a Fair Trade-certified coffee because while minimum prices are set, there is also a premium. However, knowing that you’re supporting a better life for farming families is something you can feel good about. As environmental and humanitarian issues gain more attention, consumers are demanding more sustainable options and are making more informed choices.

    If this is important to you, do your research. There is a vast amount of information available on the internet regarding the Fair Trade initiative, current updates, who is affected, required standards, how to qualify, and how each certifying organization is involved.

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    Conclusion

    Hopefully, with this list of our top reviews for Fair Trade coffee, you now have an idea of which one you’d like to taste. Our number-one choice, the Lifeboost Medium Roast, is a delicious, sustainably-grown coffee from the mountains of Nicaragua. Another good option is Volcanica’s Sumatra Mandheling Fair Trade Coffee Beans, which are medium roast beans with smooth, rich flavor and low acidity.

    Our top decaffeinated choice is NO FUN JO with its sweet undertones and robust profile. Lastly, our top pre-ground pick is Tiny Footprint Nicaragua Segovia, which is a brand that cares about having a carbon-negative offering that marries sweet with bold.

    We hope we’ve helped you feel even better about making a Fair Trade choice. With more and more companies seeking to offer better options for a sustainable coffee industry, we hope you enjoy discovering and experimenting. Have fun and keep on brewing!


    Featured image credit: Livier Garcia, Pexels

    Kate MacDonnell

    Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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