Fair Trade vs Direct Trade Coffee: All You Need To Know

The world of coffee is more complex than many people realize. Coffee beans are sourced from all over the world and there are two main ways to go about sourcing them: fair trade or direct trade.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding these two terms, so we’re going to break it down for you in this blog post!

Direct Trade

fair trade vs direct trade coffee

Direct Trade coffee refers to when a company buys its coffee directly from producers. This means that producers have direct contact with the company buying their coffee.

The benefits of this are two-fold: producers receive a higher price for their product, and the company sourcing it is able to build a more direct relationship with producers.

Fair Trade

fair trade vs direct trade coffee

Fair Trade, on the other hand, refers to when coffee is traded through a third party. Fair Trade organizations oversee this trade, and they are paid premium prices for the coffee they sell.

The price that is determined by the Fair Trade International Organization is based on a variety of different factors, including the price of coffee in that region and the living wage. This ensures that producers are paid fairly for their work.

Fair Trade vs Direct Trade Coffee

fair trade vs direct trade


Coffee grown through direct trade is likely to make use of environmentally friendly procedures. This means that coffee trees are more likely to be planted in areas that have already been developed, using techniques like shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee farming and more.

Fair Trade coffee farms will also be committed to producing environmentally friendly coffee. As part of the Fair Trade certification process, producers are required to commit to environmental sustainability.

This means that coffee trees are only planted in areas that have not been deforested, and they must be cultivated using environmentally friendly methods.

Farmers Living Wage

Direct trade is all about building relationships between coffee sellers and buyers, which can be a highly personal experience in some cases. This can help companies ensure that producers are being treated fairly and that they’re paid a good living wage for their work.

Fair Trade, also guarantees that producers are receiving a living wage for their work, ensuring that they are compensated for the hard work that goes into their coffee.

Social Fairness

Fair Trade and Direct Trade both support social fairness by rewarding producers for their work, ensuring that workers are treated well and paid a fair wage.

Fair Trade goes another step further than just ensuring fair prices but also includes health insurance coverage requirements and doesn’t allow any employee under 18-years-old.

Coffee Quality

One of the main concerns with fair trade is that it can drive down the quality of the coffee.

Direct trade ensures high-quality coffee production. By working closely with producers, companies are able to maintain a direct line of communication which allows them to ask questions about different growing practices and monitor how production is going. This helps ensure that they receive only the highest quality coffee beans.

Most often, fair trade producers are working with a larger organization and don’t have the same access to their buyers, which means there is less opportunity for direct communication. This can result in lower-quality coffee beans being sold.

The Price You Pay For Your Coffee Beans

Direct trade coffee beans are likely to be more expensive than fair trade, but this is usually due to the relationship the coffee bean buyer has with producers.

Direct trade producers receive higher prices for their products than they would through a fair trade organization, so companies that buy direct trade coffee will also need to charge their customers more.

However, this type of price hike is worth it. Supporting farmers directly means paying them good prices for their products.

Fair Trade certified coffee costs less, but the price is determined by Fair Trade International.

This isn’t to say that fair trade coffee isn’t a good option. It’s just important to keep in mind that direct trade coffee is usually higher-quality.


You need to be certified to sell coffee that has been produced through fair trade. Every year, Fair Trade International audits fair trade producers and ensures that they’re abiding by the non-profit’s fair trade standards.

Direct trade doesn’t have a certifying organization. However, companies that participate in direct trade are committed to ethical coffee growing. They’re just not officially certified as fair trade producers.

One of the easiest ways to figure out if a company is practicing fair trade is to check the package. Look for the fair trade symbol on coffee products.

Diversity in Coffee Beans

Coffee beans from different areas of the world can have very distinct flavor profiles. The climate, growing practices, and soil can all play a part in determining what flavors end up in each cup of coffee.

As a result, many companies that participate in direct trade focus on a small number of coffee bean growers, which allows them to spend more time getting to know these producers and their growing processes.

Companies that work with fair trade organizations often buy from larger groups of farmers so they can include more coffee beans in their blends and offer a wider range of flavors, which can also affect the quality of the coffee.



Is fair trade coffee fair?

Fair trade coffee is a movement in which producers receive a fair wage for their goods. It’s not just about paying them enough to get by, but also ensures that they are compensated fairly for how hard it is to produce.

Does Starbucks use fair trade coffee?

Yes! Starbucks is committed to purchasing fair trade coffee. All of their Arabica roasts are fair trade certified.

Why fair trade coffee is important?

It’s important because it affects the lives of others. It helps people get paid better for doing what they do best: producing coffee beans!

How do producers benefit from fair trade?

Producers benefit because they get paid fairly for their hard work. This allows them to invest in their communities and live better lives.

Last Thoughts

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both fair trade and direct trade. If you’re looking for a high-quality coffee, the best option is direct trade.

But if you want to support coffee producers who are struggling economically, then fair trade will be better suited for your needs.

To get started with either of these options, check out some of the roasters in your area. Many local roasters will have information about how they source their coffee and you can talk with them to find what’s best for you.