Off the shelf: Ethical coffee

Where have your beans been? Just Fair allows you to track the beans' journey from farm to cup.
Where have your beans been? Just Fair allows you to track the beans' journey from farm to cup. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Fairtrade – improving the livelihoods of poor coffee farmers, or just a feelgood marketing scheme for first world consumers? Maybe a little bit of both.

Supporters say it guarantees farmers a minimum price and minimises child labour; critics say the minimum price encourages people to grow coffee rather than other crops, keeping prices (and quality) down; and hurts farmers who can't afford certification.

Also in the ethical mix is Rainforest Alliance. This scheme seeks to protect rainforest habitat, provide education for farm workers' children, enforce minimum pay for farm workers and ensure sustainable use of water and agricultural chemicals in coffee farming.

Jasper Femenino

Grown and processed on farms owned by women in Peru, with money going back to community projects. Earthy and dry spice aromas in the grounds, and some honeycomb aroma in the cup. Quite clean, with hints of marzipan and a striking bitter alkaloid finish.
250 grams, beans, $16.99 ($67.96/kg)

Griffiths Just Fair Espresso

Just Fair comes from cooperatives of fair trade-certified farmers in Peru and Honduras that deliver benefits such as equal pay for women farm workers and local environmental campaigns. Every can carries a code, which you can use to track the beans' journey from farm to cup at Earthy, clove-spice aromas in the grounds. Mildly spicy aroma in the cup, bitter dark chocolate flavours and a nice kick to finish. 250 grams, ground, $11.99 ($47.96/kg)

Grinders Crema Fair Trade blend

Grinders' Fairtrade coffee is sourced through broker W. H. Bennett. This blend won a bronze medal at the recent Australian International Coffee Awards. Rich earthy and fruity aromas in the grind. Clove-spice aromas in the cup with an earthy bitterness in the mouth, quite creamy mouthfeel and a smoky finish.
200 grams, beans, $8.49 ($42.45/kg)

Bunn Rainforest 100% Shade Grown Rainforest Coffee

Roasted in Byron Bay with beans from farms certified for a range of sustainable practices, including water use and application of agricultural chemicals, as well as treatment of farm workers and their children. Earthy, slightly funky aromas when ground, bold and bitter and quite rich in the cup – a dark Sydney-style roast.
250 grams, beans, $10.99 ($43.96/kg)

Oxfam World Blend Fairtrade Organic

Beans from certified Fairtrade producers in Ethiopia, Indonesia and Honduras, roasted by The Bean Alliance in Melbourne. Sweet chocolatey bean aromas with a hint of caramel. Bitter roast flavours tended to overpower other flavours in the cup. Profits aid Oxfam generally, too.
250 grams, beans, $8.99 ($35.96/kg)

Vittoria Rainforest

Rainforest Alliance certified green beans. Dark roast aromas in the grounds and some honeycomb aromas in the cup. Whisky-ish liquor flavours, very mellow and round with a mild finish.
200 grams, ground, $5.99 ($29.95/kg)


Bean Ground & Drunk Organic Fairtrade

Toasty roast aromas in the beans and the grind. Smooth caramel aromas and burnt almond flavour in the cup and an ashy finish.
250 grams, beans, $9.49 ($37.96/kg)

Lavazza Tierra

The Italian giant produces this "relationship" coffee in a sustainable development project with coffee-growing communities in Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Africa and India. A little sniff of floral sweetness in the grounds, smooth and clean in the cup, very mellow – lacking a little bite.
200 grams, ground, $8.99 ($44.95/kg)