If National Coffee Day (September 29th in the U.S.) got you pumped to brew a strong cup of the dark stuff, October 1st should prove even more exciting. The International Coffee Organization has agreed that October 1, 2015 will be the first-ever International Coffee Day. The declaration of the day is meant to draw attention to fair trade coffee and the plight of coffee growers worldwide. Fair trade practices promote open dialogue between suppliers and sellers, work to eradicate child and forced labor, and help ensure a livable wage for coffee growers. Additionally, fair trade circulates best practices regarding sustainability to help protect both the planet and the livelihood of growing regions.
Fair trade coffee comes in every style and from just about every region. The only decision you’ll have to make is ground or whole bean, depending on your application. You’ll want fine ground for espresso machines, though most ground coffees are medium ground which is suitable for drip coffee makers. Whole bean coffee is the most flexible and stays fresher for longer. Just remember to grab yourself a grinder. Heavy editors have used and recommend the Hario Slim Grinder, which is small enough to be portable for camping.
In anticipation of the inaugural International Coffee Day, we’ve compiled the top 15 best free trade coffees to help you celebrate.
1. Wild Coffee Lumberjack Blend
Wild Coffee is roasted in small batches in Austin, TX. This Lumberjack Blend is a blend of medium and dark roasted organic coffee beans from Timor, Indonesia and South America. Earthy and with notes of dark chocolate, reviewers noted the presence of oily beans in their glowing reviews, which says great things about the freshness of this blend. A good coffee for preparing bulletproof coffee. Sold whole bean and ready to be ground for use as espresso or French press.
2. Kicking Horse Kick Ass Dark Roast
As the name suggests, this is a powerful, smoky dark roast made from a blend of organic Indonesian and Central American beans. This is currently the coffee sitting on my desk and I can happily report that for all the boldness, there is also an underlying sweetness that makes this coffee extremely smooth. The package I bought is ground, which an even greater testament to the quality. I brew primarily in this Black and Decker 5-cup maker — yields about 2 regular-sized mugs worth and doesn’t extract bitterness. Bought in whole bean form, this will be a truly great dark coffee experience. Kicking Horse also offers a medium roast for those who like a lighter taste.
Price: $25.61 (5 percent off MSRP)
3. First Colony Discoveries Organic Rainforest Blend
Nothing fancy here. Just a straight forward, medium roast blend at a pretty good fair trade price. Clean and bright.
4. Koffee Kult Dark Roasted
This rainforest-friendly blend of Columbian, Guatemalan, and Sumatran organically-sourced whole beans is smooth and bright with notes of cinnamon. This coffee makes a great crema for you espresso drinkers. As with any great coffee, the aroma does half the job of waking you up, and this one won’t disappoint.
5. Tiny Footprint Light Roast
Roasted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this light whole bean coffee is shade grown and organic. The company invests in carbon-negative rainforest replanting efforts in the Mindo Cloud Forest of Ecuador. Lighter roasted coffees tend to have just a touch more caffeine than their darker roasted counterparts, so if you want a strong cup with a light flavor (and want to save the Earth while you drink it), this is the one for you.
Price: $32.40 (5 percent off MSRP)
6. Dancing Moon Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Our first African coffee comes from Ethiopia and captures the aromatic, spicy flavors typical of the region. Notes of citrus and sweeter caramel flavors develop as you drink. These are fair trade organic whole beans roasted in small batches like many of the coffees on this list. Five percent of proceeds go to the Semper Fi Fund to benefit wounded servicemen and their families. Another coffee you can feel good about each morning. Dancing Moon is available in five different blends.
7. Dam Good Guatemalan Dark Roast
This spicy, high-altitude organic coffee is bold and dark, but it lacks the bitterness of some dark roasted coffees. Reviewers who favored light-to-medium roasts were able to drink this without any problem. Buy this if you have a household divided on roast lines. Don’t like it? Dam Good Coffee offers a 100% money-back guarantee.
8. Fresh Roasted Coffee Sumatra Decaf
It wouldn’t be fair to go through this whole thing without suggesting a decaf alternative. This is an organic, fair trade medium roast with a light body from the Indonesian growing region. The roaster’s tasting notes include earthy and baker’s chocolate. Fresh Roasted LLC offers a whole line of coffees to try, including other decaf blends.
9. Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee
Billed as the World’s Strongest Coffee, Death Wish uses fair trade organic beans to create a coffee with twice the amount of caffeine as the average blend. Tasting notes include mocha, dark cherry, and toasted almond. This is a dark roast that is certainly not recommended for those sensitive to caffeine. Like Dam Good, Death Wish will refund your money if you’re aren’t convinced.
10. Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend
Sticking with Death Wish and their high-octane ways, this special whole bean blend was created for guitarist Zakk Wylde. Strong enough for rock gods, but won’t give you jitters. Surprisingly smooth for all the muscle, this one is worth your consideration. Try at least once, anyway. You can even buy them in a bundle.
11. Ethical Bean Coffee Decaf Dark Roast
If you need a break from the high-test stuff, this Vancouver, Canada roasted decaf coffee has rich chocolate flavors that far exceed normal decaf. Each Ethical Bean coffee package features a QR code so you can see who picked it, who roasted it, and learn about the growing co-ops.
12. Lifeboost Nicaraguan
This single-origin organic medium roast from Lifeboost is rich and bold with undertones of chocolate and an underlying fruitiness. The company says that the 5,700 foot growing elevation discourages the growth of Mycotoxins.
13. Caffe Vita Queen City Whole Bean
With notes of cocoa, hazelnut, and vanilla, this is a blend of medium and dark roast coffees. I live just down the street from the Caffe Vita location in the heart of Capital Hill in Seattle. I’ve enjoyed several of their drip coffees, all of which are carefully roasted to hold their own in the notoriously competitive and accomplished coffee scene here. The Queen City blend is an excellent everyday coffee. It’ll also suit your Chemex maker, for those who want to elevate the experience.
14. Vermont Coffee Company Medium Roast
This fair trade, organic coffee is my go-to. I buy this coffee more than any other, both for its drinkability and for the mysterious dark magic that does into their bags. The plastic bag they use inside of the rustic paper package keeps beans oily and fresh for far, far longer than should be possible. This is an excellent everyday coffee, with a good spectrum of depth depending on how strong you make it. Comes in whole bean, but they will grind it for you, if you like.
15. Starbucks Italian Roast
Couldn’t leave out the king. This Italian Roast is dark and has a bold, smoky quality. I find that it can come off a little bitter, so this may be a job for the AeroPress, which is the undisputed champ of brewing coffee without a hint of bitterness. Good for dark roast lovers and will make a decent espresso, too.
Price: $30.57 for a three-pack