A Simple Guide To Buying Ethical Coffee


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Despite the rising number of coffee drinkers all over the world, it’s a fact that not too many coffee farmers are reaping the benefits from the popularity of this beverage. According to UK charity Oxfam, which helped establish Fair Trade, big roasters are getting about 40% of the value of each cup of coffee consumed. Meanwhile, farmers and labourers are getting a measly 12%, despite the backbreaking labour and effort that it takes to produce quality coffee beans. As a result, it is likely that coffee farming will no longer be viewed as a viable livelihood, and farmers may be forced to leave the industry in search of something more profitable.

To keep the world’s coffee culture alive, it is imperative to support responsible farming and consumption of the beverage. Some local coffee shops in Africa are now serving coffee made from ethically sourced beans. As an individual, you can certainly help to keep the coffee industry intact by choosing ethical coffee. To know whether the bag of coffee beans or cup of coffee that you’re buying is ethical coffee, consider the following tips.

Look for the “Fair Trade Certified” label

Any coffee shop or coffee brand can claim to be “fair trade”, but it’s not the real thing unless it carries the “Fair Trade Certified” label. The certification scheme is run by Fairtrade International, and coffee brands have to pay Fairtrade a fee for the right to use its logo. Look for the label whenever you’re getting coffee. So whether you’re drinking coffee at your favourite coffee shop or making your own brew without a coffeemaker at home, choosing a brand that carries the logo ensures that you’re acting ethically each time you have a coffee break.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Expensive coffee doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s ethical

It’s easy to assume that buying expensive coffee beans means that most of the profit will be passed on to farmers. A high price doesn’t automatically translate to good working conditions or getting a fair profit unless it is explicitly indicated by the brand. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, make sure to do some research on your preferred brand to ensure that it’s the farmers who are getting paid well and not the retailer.

coffee plant

Watch out for fancy labels

Some coffee labels claim that they do “direct trade” with farmers or that the coffee is “shade-grown.” However, there’s no way to determine if this is accurate as these terms are not regulated at all. As these labels can be misleading, you may need to dig a little deeper to find out if the coffee that you’re buying is ethical. For now, the Fair Trade Certified label is your safest bet to ensure that you’re drinking coffee that comes from a sustainable farm.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Being aware of the kind of coffee that you’re drinking can help ensure that the coffee industry is here to stay. Follow these tips to support coffee farmers while enjoying your favourite beverage.

I just have to mention that I found this beautiful coffee imagery from a photographer called Nathan Dumlao on a website called Unsplash. Some gorgeous free images are available here. (This is not a plug)

Article by contributer Jane Sandwood.
Related: Go here for some of the best halaal coffee spots in Cape Town.


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