Direct trade

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Direct trade is a form of sourcing practiced by certain coffee roasters and chocolate makers who build direct relationships with the farmers and processors who sell them coffee or cocoa beans.[1] There is no single set of direct trade standards, and specific trade practices vary as a reflection of business and ethical priorities of the roaster or maker.[2] Generally speaking, however, direct trade practitioners view their model as one of mutually-beneficial and transparent trade relationships.[3] Some advocates explicitly define direct trade as an alternative to fairtrade certification,[4] and they seek to address perceived limitations of fair trade by:

  • Paying higher premiums to farmers than those mandated by fair trade;[5]
  • Tying these premiums to specific quality standards that create a sustainable economic rationale for higher prices;[6]
  • Allowing participation by individual farmers and processors, regardless of size or membership in a cooperative;[7]
  • Eliminating the fees involved in being a certified fair trade company (e.g. fees, dues, and surcharges);[8]
  • Generating additional supply chain trust and transparency through personal relationships, price negotiation, and information sharing.[9]

While such practices are common among self-identified direct trade coffee roasters and chocolate makers, there is no single definition of direct trade nor set of common standards. A lack of third-party accountability is a frequent criticism leveled by direct trade critics, which include former proponents frustrated by what they perceive as a trend of large, marketing-savvy roasters "who bombard consumers with the term despite not offering any clear definition of its meaning, any evidence of an actual direct trade scheme or the slightest shred of transparency regarding sourcing."[10]


Original direct traders including coffee roasters Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and Counter Culture Coffee, and chocolate makers Taza Chocolate and Askinosie Chocolate, have sought to counter perceived misrepresentations of direct trade through increased transparency[11][12][13] Counter Culture Coffee and Taza Chocolate pioneered annual Transparency Reports for the specialty coffee and craft chocolate industries,[14][15] respectively, and each have their direct trade practices audited annually by an independent third-party.[16] Whether these and other efforts to ensure the integrity of direct trade will succeed is the subject of ongoing debate.[17][18] A company in the UK that implements Direct Trade coffee under their banner of Farm Direct is Ethical Addictions.[19]


  1. ^ Meehan, Peter (2007-09-12). "To Burundi and Beyond for Coffee's Holy Grail". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Direct Trade". Lexicon of Food. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  3. ^ "What is Direct Trade coffee?". Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  4. ^ "Contrasting Direct Trade and Fair Trade Coffee". Lexicon of Food. 2014-10-02. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  5. ^ "Transparent Trade Coffee". Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  6. ^ "Learn & Do | Community | Direct Trade | Intelligentsia Coffee". Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  7. ^ "Direct Trade | Quest Coffee Company". Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  8. ^ "Fairtrade certification: benefits, fees, how & why to apply". FLOCERT. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  9. ^ "Sustainability – Counter Culture Coffee". Counter Culture Coffee. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  10. ^ "Direct Trade is Dead, Long Live its Founding Principles". Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  11. ^ "Direct Trade is Dead, Long Live its Founding Principles". Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  12. ^ Leissle, Kristy. "What's Fairer than Fair Trade? Try Direct Trade With Cocoa Farmers". YES! Magazine. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  13. ^ "Chocolate—Sweetened by Direct Trade". RELEVANT Magazine. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  14. ^ "Transparency Report". Counter Culture Coffee. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  15. ^ "2016 Transparency Report". Taza Chocolate. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  16. ^ "Taza Direct Trade". Taza Chocolate. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  17. ^ "Direct Trade is Dead, Long Live its Founding Principles". Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  18. ^ "Is Direct Trade Fair?". Sprudge. 2017-02-08. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  19. ^ Ethical Addictions

External links[edit]

  • Direct Trade Coffee Club – organization promoting and offering monthly subscription coffee via roasters who have pledged to use Direct Trade sourcing