Buying Direct Trade Coffee?

The day has finally come.  My pre-Lent-bought Trader Joe’s cuppa fair trade joe has run out, and I need to find a coffee source.  I’m not embargoing the world here!  I mentioned in the comments of this blog that I plan to buy fair trade for some of my non-New-England staples (coffee and coconut oil).  BUT I don’t really know anything about fair trade, and if you do a little searching on the interwebs, there is some understandable skepticism about it.  Coffee, in particular, is super complicated…

Here are some of the things I read:

I was getting pretty discouraged… Still am a little.

Enter a new term: Direct Trade [Coffee].

It is what it sounds like.  Small independent passionate coffee roasters buy from the small independent passionate coffee growers.  The fair trade middle man is no longer necessary.  Check out what Chicago-based Intelligentsia does, as far as I can tell, they coined the term.

Right now, there isn’t any sort of official certification process.  There isn’t anyone checking up on these buyers, but I can’t help but feel like, there is something good here, because there is passion here.  Good practice came/comes out a good passion for coffee.  So for now, it’s not just a consumer tool offering me an ethical placebo effect.  It’s genuine love in every bean.

Enter this guy: George Howell.

Look at that adorable frenchy!

How can you not buy coffee from this guy?!?!  About 10 years ago Starbucks bought out George’s popular Boston-based cafes: The Coffee Connection.  Part of the deal was that he couldn’t open another cafe, or sell coffee, for 10 years.  Now, like the Terminator, he is back.  He basically spent the past 10 years travelling the world to find the best coffee and planning his coffee empire in the coffee death star (I feel like I’m somehow getting away from the ethical parts of this, but I can’t resist the analogies!).  You can read more about him here and here and here.  Here are his thoughts on fair trade, but his thing is direct trade coffee.

Seriously, how can you not buy from this guy?!

Whether you buy into this direct trade thing or not (it’s pretty new), coffee connoisseur,  good luck to you in finding your perfect, happy, ethical, cuppa joe.  George’s stuff will be mine.


Author: Paige

Explorer. Healer. Eater. School counselor, teacher, party planner. Personal passions are holistic healthcare education, spirituality, food, and writing.

3 thoughts on “Buying Direct Trade Coffee?”

  1. Hi and thanks for linking to our class blog. You may have noticed our topic was in reference to Fair Trade as an effective means to economic development. In other words, do Fair Trade schemes really pay a fair wage to farmers/growers in developing countries and is this a viable solution to long-term development? I’m not really sure what you were looking for in the way of alternatives (alternatives to Fair Trade or alternative arguments for/against Fair Trade?) but I hope you found our discussion useful.

    1. In arguments against fair trade, I was trying to figure out what is a better option for buying? In particular, coffee. If I can’t trust fair trade as a scheme, who can I trust?!?! Thanks for the feedback 🙂

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