The Trade Coffee Review
Having trouble finding a coffee you love? Do the dozen or so beans you usually choose from seem tired and all too familiar? Are you ready for a wider playing field?
Okay, how about 400+ amazing coffees from 50 of the best roasters in the U.S.? If that sounds like a caffeine-fueled dream come true, read on.
Trade Coffee Subscription
Unlike many subscription providers, Trade isn’t a coffee roaster (1). Instead, they partner with 50 high-end roasters across the U.S., giving you the opportunity to select from more than 400 individual coffees, divided fairly evenly between blended and single-origin coffees.
Trade has a quiz that matches you with the kind of coffee you like, and then suggests which of their offerings is the closest to your responses. So while you can browse their roasters and coffees individually, the match function is a real time-saver.
- One of the largest selections we’ve reviewed – 400+ beans
- Roasted and shipped to order for optimum freshness
- Whole bean, some varieties pre-ground
- 200+ blends, 200+ single origins
- Relatively affordable – prices start at $12.50
- Trade isn’t a roasting company, but a broker for 50 roasters
- Exact coffees may vary according to roasters’ inventory
- Prices vary, depending on the roaster
How to Choose The Right Subscription Service
Subscription coffee services can be surprisingly varied. Here are four points to ponder while you’re making up your mind:
Frequency. How frequently do they ship? Can you choose how often and how much? Make sure your beans won’t get stale – or worse yet, run out before the next shipment (2).
Ground or whole beans? Grinding fresh beans just before brewing is our recommendation. However, you may prefer to have ground coffee delivered. Be sure you can choose the option that serves you best.
Coffee preferences. Do you have a favorite coffee you never tire of? Do you love the thrill of the chase for new beans? Be sure you know how the service lets (or helps) you choose the coffee you receive.
Overall cost. What does a typical order cost? How much are shipping and handling? Can you control the frequency of your shipments? Consider the cost of the entire package. With those questions out of the way, let’s take a look at the details of the Trade subscription!
The Full Trade Coffee Review
With a Match function that recommends coffee to your specification and a trio of subscription types that give you some flexibility, Trade focuses on pairing coffee lovers with beans you might never otherwise be exposed to.
It’s like having a personal coffee sommelier — I can explore coffee from far corners of the world that would not otherwise be available.
You can browse individual coffees (427 at press time) or browse roasters by name or by region. But it’s the thoughtful and simple Match that is really the recommended point of entry.
Coffee Selection: 5/5
400+ coffees. Do you need to know any more?
Well, okay, you should probably also know how you can arrange to get your selected coffee delivered. Trade offers three subscription packages:
The Hookup: After you brew a few cups of the beans selected by the Match, you have a chance to rate them. Trade will then select your next coffee based on your feedback. This lets you try new coffees within a similar palette of flavors and aromas.
The Classics: based on your Match result, you’ll get a single bag as a “calibration” to make sure it’s what you’re looking for. If it is, you’ll automatically receive two bags of this on the cycle you choose.
Auto-Reorder: if you know exactly what beans you want, Auto-Reorder will ship them to you on your selected frequency. You can pause delivery as necessary, and you can have as many coffee selections on Auto-Reorder as you want.
Now, as to how Trade helps you select your coffee? Their Match process asks you about the way you brew your coffee, how you drink it, and what kind of characteristics you like.
Never has a coffee buying experience ever led me through six web pages of consultative questions in order to pair me with a bag of coffee.
They’ll choose the coffee that best represents your answers, and then they’ll suggest one of their three subscription options. You can also order a single bag if you’re not ready to commit.
One potential negative: Because Trade deals with individual roasters, coffee selection can depend on what the roaster has on hand. We went back to look for the Peruvian Huabal a few weeks after the initial shipment, for example, and found it was no longer available. Just as with that perfect vintage of Romanée-Conti, once it’s gone… it’s gone.
Overall Experience: 5/5
We took the Match quiz twice and gave very slightly different answers. The two coffees we received were very similar: both from Caturra trees (3), both of high quality, yet with subtle differences.
The Peruvian Huabal from Merit in San Antonio, Texas presented aromas of milk chocolate and roasted nuts on the nose, with a full but light body on the palate. As it cooled and the more delicate nuances came forward, the tartness of white peach and yellow plums dominated.
Our second choice, the La Familia Guarnizo from Joe Coffee Company in New York, represented the same Caturra varietal as the Huabal, but from its more familiar origin in Colombia, from 1600-1800 meters above sea level on the eas6tern slopes of the Andes.
This was a great opportunity to experience the effects of what the French call “terroir” in wine growing.
We could taste how the soil type, regional conditions, elevation, and other characteristics affect the finished product from the same plant variety. The Guarnizo is a more classic “coffee that tastes like coffee (4),” but still with bright fruit acidity in the finish. Caramel and honey in the aroma gave way to subtle notes of clementine, leaving a bright, clean aftertaste, served either black or with milk and sugar.
Membership Options: 4.5/5
You’re in control of how often you receive your beans, though there are two different frequencies. If you select The Hookup or The Classic, you can choose to have your coffee shipped to you on a 14, 21, or 28-day cycle. If you select Auto-Reorder, the shipping options are every 7, 14, or 21 days.
In either case, you can pause your shipment (for travel, vacation, or any reason), and you can adjust it at any time.
Every roaster that Trade offers has its own schedule, which is listed under the description of each bean. Shipment is handled by the individual roaster, and is expected to occur within 24 hours of roasting. You can expect to receive your coffee within 3 to 5 days.
The packaging was about as good as it gets. The airtight zip-lock seal is fitted to a wide-mouth, lightproof bag. It’s not as good as a proper coffee storage container, but it will keep your beans fresh for a week and maybe a little longer. Just be sure to roll it up tight and squeeze out the air. (Don’t forget to press your nose against the seal as you squeeze.)
Here we can see a Trade coffee unboxing:
Per-bag prices range from $15-$22, a spread that fairly well covers the upper end of the spectrum from a little below average to a little more. The price spread reflects the nature of Trade as a broker, rather than a roaster.
Shipping is included in The Hookup and The Classics, which avoids any unpleasant surprises when your card statement arrives. Otherwise, shipping costs a reasonable $2 per bag of coffee. If you order $30 or more, shipping is free.
Even more appealing is the Trade15 program: if you order anything – coffee beans or brewing equipment – within 15 days of your last order, shipping is free.
Not For You? Here Are Some Other Options
While many find the 400+ coffee selections thrilling, others are simply overwhelmed by the magnitude. If that describes you, here are a pair of subscriptions that our readers and staff choose again and again:
Atlas Coffee Club – Atlas is our current choice for Best Coffee Subscription. It gives you a “world tour” through your coffee cup, connecting you to the farmers and varietals that you’re passionate to know more about. Customers love Atlas because it feels like an educational experience.
The coffee subscription service connects drinkers with beans from all over the world, from Rwanda to Congo to Kenya.
The Angels’ Cup Subscription – If you’re the adventurous type, look into an Angels’ Cup subscription. They ship blind tastings of various coffees, then you use their app to record the details and personal notes of each tasting. You also get to participate in a growing coffee-loving community.
Angels’ Cup’s system of sending out blind samples and then using an app to share notes makes it a completely unique offering.
The 400+ coffees available really make Trade unique, and their Match does a decent job of analyzing your preferences and connecting you with the coffee you’ll love. If you find exactly the beans you want, you can have them shipped on a flexible schedule. If you are looking for variety, the Hookup will present you with subtle differences in each shipment.
And as always, you can read our full review roundup of coffee subscriptions to find exactly the right fit for your coffee desires here.
You rate your coffee by going to their My Coffee page and review coffee you’ve ordered. Trade’s coffee algorithm will then record your preferences (as well as anything you didn’t like) and will make improved suggestions in the future.
If there’s an issue with your coffee, Trade’s home page has contact information by phone or chat. If you received the wrong product or it was damaged during shipping, let them know and they’ll do the right thing.
Trade currently ships to the continental U.S., via either the USPS or UPS. They currently do not ship internationally.
- What’s Your Type? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drinktrade.com/
- Grinding Coffee Beans. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.coffeeresearch.org/coffee/grinding.htm
- World Coffee Research. (n.d.). Caturra. Retrieved from https://varieties.worldcoffeeresearch.org/varieties/caturra
- Brushett, D. (2014, October 23). Why Your Coffee Tastes, and Smells, So Good (Op-Ed). Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/48411-why-your-coffee-tastes-and-smells-so-good.html