What is Ethical Coffee?

What is Ethical Coffee

Who enjoys a daily coffee at breakfast time, in your break at work, or even on the run?

I think most people will agree that a cup of coffee is their daily go-to for a hot beverage. There are so many reasons why this could be; it’s warm, comforting, dark, and rich-tasting as the caffeine gives you a great hit of get-up-and-go!

However, do we know we know whether the coffee we are drinking is ethically sourced, and does it make a difference in our coffee choices?

When we think of drinking coffee that’s ethical, many of us will be the most familiar with the Fairtrade label, which pays producers a “fair trade” above market price provided they meet specified labour, environmental, and production requirements.

How Do You Know If Coffee is Ethical?

Most ethical brands of coffee will display and proudly announce the fair trade logo on their products and in their shops, so it will be plain to see if you are deliberately looking for fair trade coffee.

The Fairtrade Mark is a symbol of hope and empowerment for producers, traders, and consumers worldwide. The logo consists of a blue sky representing optimism and an arm raised in the air to represent empowerment. It also incorporates the colour green to symbolise growth – which is symbolic for producers, traders, and consumers.

However, this is probably more applicable for large consumer chains.

There are always exceptions to the rule. 

As we find many new and independent coffee houses popping up all over the country and online brands that thrive on their ethical coffee, we can see that most independent brands do not bear the fairtrade logo simply because they do not source their coffee from a registered fairtrade producer, they go independent.

This does not mean that their coffee isn’t ethical; it just means that they haven’t entered into the fairtrade programme for certification.

What is the Most Ethical Coffee?

We see the most ethical coffee as the one that has been sourced from a supplier that has grown each bean from scratch.

These coffee producers are the reason we have coffee. It was finally recognised that these people who cultivate from scratch should not be financially exploited because they may be in a developing world.

The fair trade programme ensures that these growers are offered an adequate and guaranteed income for their precious harvests, ensuring that they can grow as businesses and provide for their communities and families, pay their workers a fair wage, and expand their crops and supplies.

So the most ethical coffee is a coffee that has been grown in the most ethical conditions possible, which includes both growing conditions for the beans and working conditions for the workers and business as a whole. 

Ethical coffee is also recognised where the businesses along the supply chain will give back to the source, ensuring the growers have everything they need and more to carry on producing to a high standard.

Of course, the fair trade programme will ensure that the supply chain from coffee farmer to your cup is the most ethical journey it can be; however, as we mentioned before, many small independent businesses choose to source from ethical coffee suppliers, even though there is no fair trade certification.

This does not mean that their coffee is unethical.

What Coffee Brands are Ethical

While ethical coffee and fairtrade certification is such a significant element to have in a coffee brand, some coffee brands do things above and beyond when it comes to providing us with the most ethical coffee available, including:


Percol is a considerable ethical force to be reckoned with in the UK coffee market as they hold many ethically recognised certifications, including:

  • Fairtrade
  • Rainforest Alliance
  • Soil Association
  • Plastic-Free Trustmark from A Plastic Planet 
  • Certified carbon neutral
  • Many of their coffees are certified organic.

So hats off to Percol! They really are doing everything they can to be the market leaders in ethical coffee sourcing.


Cafédirect invests 50% of its overall profits into their charity, Producers Direct, which works with the coffee farmers directly to improve their livelihoods.

We hail any brand that feeds back into the source of their profit, and Café Direct really is making sure their source farmers and businesses are looked after.

Grumpy Mule

Grumpy Mule coffee has won Great Taste Awards. Each bean is certified as Fairtrade, certified organic, and certified by the Rainforest Alliance. 

So at least we know that fairtrade also means excellent taste! 

The brand sources globally from South America into Africa over to the Far East, supporting multiple coffee farmers in their coffee production.

Taylors of Harrogate

Taylors Of Harrogate actually has a Royal Warrant!

The brand has always been incredibly well known for being the best in British. It operates on its long-founded relationships between the family-run business and its associated farmers. 

Not only are they an ethical brand, but they are also advocates of the relationship growth to sustain the fairtrade elements of their coffee and te in this case!


Leon is a takeaway coffee brand that sources all of its coffee from Puro, which is a Fairtrade coffee company working in conjunction with the World Land Trust.

They actively “buy to protect” portions of the most threatened habitats, so they can be ethical in another way via purchase and protection. 

Of course, there are many ethical coffee brands out there in the UK today.

Giant corporations such as The Co-operative Group, Tesco, Sainsbury, and all other leading supermarket chains all have their own ethically sourced coffee products to be had.

The Final Cup

Ethical coffee can actually come in many different disguises. However, the Fairtrade scheme is one of the best indicators that the coffee you are drinking with your croissants has been sourced from a coffee farmer that has been paid the best and fairest price for their raw product, without exploitation and market influenced prices.

However, ethical coffee can mean many different things, from protecting the environment to giving back to the farming communities through protection and education to secure their businesses.

Ethical coffee, regardless of all the certifications available, is actually what you make it, so have a little search on the origins of the coffee you are sipping in the mornings, and see how ethical your brand really is…it can make it taste just that bit sweeter.

Stacy F

Stacy is a UK Based lifestyle writer who writes in the food and nutrition niches, as well as within the health and wellness sectors. She is a mum of 4 and married to a musician, so sustainability and a pinch of humour are absolutely essential to get over every one of life's obstacles!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like