Homegrounds is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home » Direct Trade Coffee: What Is It And Why Does It Concern You?

Direct Trade Coffee: What Is It And Why Does It Concern You?

Have you ever wondered about the road your precious java travels before ending up in your favorite cup? This trip is amazing in itself, but direct trade is about making it as simple as possible.

Direct trade means exactly what it sounds like — a roaster buying coffee directly from the farmer. Here’s everything you should know about direct trade, how it’s different from Fair Trade, and the best direct trade brands.

image product details
Spirit Animal Coffee Spirit Animal Coffee
  • Single origin and blends
  • One time purchase and subscription options
  • Honduras beans
IMG_0458-1 Driftaway Coffee
  • Single Origin
  • Subscription
  • 91 coffees from 26 countries
click to check price

What Is Direct Trade Coffee?

Direct trade coffee is a way of sourcing coffee whereby roasters buy directly from the coffee farmers. No middleman buyers, sellers, or other organizations control coffee certifications.

At its core, direct trade is a way of connecting the coffee consumer and coffee grower.

The direct trade supply chain is shorter, which means coffee producers get more money for their crops, and consumers get quality specialty coffee.

A promising approach for, at least, the specialty coffee sector is to foster direct relationships between growers and roasters.

The roaster can build a beneficial relationship with individual coffee producers. They get a chance to be more involved in quality control and work with the farmers to implement good farming practices to keep their coffee sustainable and of better coffee quality.

Note: Direct trade is an approach, not a certification. When you see a direct trade label on a coffee package, it doesn’t strictly mean there was no intermediary. It only means the roaster has some kind of direct communication with the coffee producer.

Direct Trade vS Fair Trade

fair trade vs direct trade

The biggest direct trade vs. fair trade difference is how coffee is bought. 

  • Fair-trade coffee is bought through a cooperative, which takes care of all transactions with roasters and coffee buyers. Farmers are paid at or above the Fair Trade minimum price
  • Direct trade is when a roaster buys coffee straight from the farmer. The farmers usually get a better deal than Fair Trade because they get a larger amount of the transaction.
Direct Trade and Fair Trade similarities:Direct trade and Fair Trade differences:
Both aim to provide coffee farmers with larger wages.
They want to end harmful coffee farming practices and work on sustainable coffee-growing practices.
Both promote fair labor and healthy working conditions.
They want to eliminate poverty for farmers and workers.
Direct trade sourcing is done directly by the roaster. The intermediary between the farmer and the roaster does Fair Trade sourcing.
Fair Trade’s main objective is to improve the lives of farmers. Direct trade’s main objective is to have higher-quality coffee.
Fair Trade brands have an official label on coffee packaging. Direct trade has no official certification or label.

Best Direct Trade Coffee Brands

A coffee addict is always looking for the best coffee they could get their hands on. Here are the best direct trade coffee brands you can find.

1. Spirit Animal Coffee


  • Type: Single origin and blends

  • Model: One time purchase and subscription options
  • Bean origin: Honduras

Spirit Animal Coffee works with small-scale farmers who own two hectares or less. There are no middlemen, which ensures the farmers get a fairer share for their work, and you get specialty-grade coffee at an affordable price.

All of their coffee is roasted on-site and shipped by air, which means the coffee doesn’t travel for weeks in ship containers where beans go stale and lose flavor. Instead, you’ll always get freshly roasted coffee. 

2. Driftaway Coffee


  • Type: Single Origin

  • Model: Subscription
  • Bean origin: 91 coffees from 26 countries

Driftaway Coffee is a sustainability-focused coffee roaster that buys coffee directly from small-scale farmers. Their coffee has a luggage tag-like label that features a producer story, so you’ll always know where the coffee comes from. Moreover, they have a Farmer Feedback program where you can send a thank you to the farmer and let them know exactly what you think of the coffee. 

Final Thoughts

Direct trade is coffee bought straight from the producer. Making a verdict on direct trade vs. Fair Trade is extremely difficult. Direct trade points out the lackings of the Fair Trade system, but it has a long way to go. Still, the next time you see a Direct Trade label on the coffee packing, you know you’re making a change for the farmer by buying these beans.


Yes, direct trade is better than fair trade because it results in higher coffee quality, and the farmers are paid more. Fair trade gives the farmer a fixed price. The quality of the product doesn’t affect the price. Direct trade incentivizes farmers to grow better crops, as better coffee means they get paid more.

Direct trade is important because it cuts out the middlemen in the coffee-sourcing process. There’s better support across the entire supply chain length. The farmers generate a higher income, the roasters understand the product better and have more quality control, and the user gets better coffee. Overall, there’s a more optimized production model, and it’s a win-win situation for the farmer, the roaster, and the coffee user.

A certification that ensures the coffee has been audited through the entire supply chain makes coffee Fair Trade. This certification ensures sustainability and labor standards have been met. The farmers used sustainable growing methods and were paid a fair wage that covers the average costs of sustainable coffee production.

Marina Maletic
I grew up surrounded by people who drink Turkish coffee. This was the only kind of coffee I knew for a long time, and wasn’t a fan of because it was too strong. It wasn’t until I started uni that I delved more into the world of coffee by trying out my classmate’s Aero Press. Nowadays, I can’t imagine starting a day without my espresso machine. If I’m not drinking or writing about coffee, I’m connecting with fellow coffee enthusiasts and looking up ways to perfect my dialing in technique.

Leave a Comment