While most roasters and cafe owners credited Fair Trade with revolutionizing how people see the relationship between coffee and its sources, many suggested direct trade relationships — which bypass third parties, including Fair Trade USA — with coffee growers represent the future of specialty coffee.
From Express reporter Jesse Hirsch:
The reasons for this DIY ethos largely come down to sourcing a higher quality product. By developing a direct relationship with growers, some roasters feel they can incentivize the production of better beans.
That said, Hirsch did cite sources who acknowledged some fringe benefits of Fair Trade certification:
Every pound of fair trade coffee also comes with an extra 20-cent fee that goes toward community development projects (schools, roads, etc.) and an additional 30 cents goes to promote organic farming practices. Fair trade proponents argue that these fees can make a significant impact on impoverished communities and their natural environments.
The Fair Trade association is perhaps even more important in Oakland, the official home of Fair Trade USA, than it is in other markets, and several sources said it remains valuable:
Brooke McDonnell, co-owner of roaster Equator Coffee in San Rafael, said that while most of her coffee is direct trade, some clients demand fair trade certification based on its “goodwill association” as a symbol. Her other clients prefer the quality of the direct trade beans, trusting that they have been sourced equitably.
The full story: East Bay Express