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13 Best Sustainable Coffee: What Is It And Why You Need To Try It

sustainable coffee

Sustainability. You’re probably heard the word, you have guessed that it’s a good thing but you don’t know exactly what it is. 

Well, sustainability can be tricky to explain but the bottomline is this: if there were not any farmers cultivating coffee plants you wouldn’t be drinking coffee and so for coffee to have a future we all need to support the farmers.

This is a very simplified answer to what sustainable coffee means because there are of course other parts of the coffee chain that can be sustainable such as roasting, brewing, waste management, packaging, re-using coffee grounds etc. 

However, today we are going to talk about how you can check if the coffee beans you are buying are supporting the farmers’ livelihoods. 

The good news is that there are a number of coffee certifications that can help you with this and we are going to let you know all about them.

Here’s what we are going to cover:

  • Why sustainable coffee matters
  • How can coffee be sustainable
  • What are coffee certifications 
  • Different types of coffee certifications
  • What’s your role in this

Why sustainable coffee matters

Climate change and low coffee prices are continuing to have a negative effect on coffee farms. While the planet’s climate is changing, the cultivation conditions on coffee farms are changing with it, making them unwelcoming for many varieties of coffee.

At the same time, the farmers earn very little income from coffee production, sometimes not even enough to support their livelihood, let alone purchasing coffee varieties that will be more resilient against climate change. 

If you choose to buy certified sustainable coffee you are effectively helping these farmers and securing the future of coffee.

How can coffee be sustainable

According to Quiñones, it’s commonly accepted that sustainability is built on three pillars: 

  1. Economic:  Incomes, productivity, and cost production management
  2. Social: Social investment, rural education, and health insurance
  3. Environmental: Natural resources management and sustainable agronomic management

There are NGOs, organisations and certifications that exist to make coffee more sustainable through many actions. Some such actions are:

  • Building schools for rural communities
  • Teaching women how to farm to achieve gender equality
  • Designing sustainable agronomic infrastructure 
  • Working on economic plans to secure a better income for the farm workers
  • Promoting the cultivation of beans that are sustainably grown

Some certifications you might recognise yourself, maybe you even noticed them on your own bag of beans. I am going to briefly cover them for you so you know exactly what the label says when you’re about to buy those coffee beans. 

What are coffee certifications 

Have you ever seen the words “fair trade certified” on a bag of coffee beans? Well, that’s a type of certification! Coffee certifications are actually very important for promoting a sustainable coffee industry because:

  1. They guide the farmers on ways to be more sustainable
  2. They help the farms sell their harvest at a much better price
  3. They ensure you can buy coffee that is not only tasty but also sustainably grown

Let’s have a look at the most common coffee certifications, what their goal is and most importantly, what does this have to do with you.

Different types of coffee certifications

Fair Trade

Fair Trade USA is an NGO with a focus on improving farmers’ livelihoods, building safe working conditions, developing sustainable farming practices and helping farmers pay higher wages to workers, all in exchange for a certification that allows them to sell their harvest at a higher price.

Direct Trade

Direct Trade is a business practice that bypasses the middleman, eg. the importer. Coffee roasters buy their beans directly from the farm, thus building long-lasting relationships of trust over the years. The roasters usually search for the best coffee beans and pay a higher price that helps the community. 


Certified organic coffee is a brilliant way to promote coffee sustainability as it pertains to farming practices that focus on the impact on biodiversity. This means a reduction on the use of pesticides, herbicides, and GMO crops.

This might be news for you but farming practices produce agro-chemicals that often end up in the water supply around the farm, thus affecting the biodiversity and the local communities. Growing organic coffee puts a stop to these chemicals!

Rainforest Alliance 

The last certification I am going to cover is focusing on encouraging farmers to plan their farming and resources effectively as well as improving sustainable practices. What’s good about this certification is that if the farm doesn’t yet meet all the criteria to get it, they still get the reward if they can show they are taking steps towards sustainability. 

What’s your role in this

Well, if you’ve read this far we both know you are looking to try sustainably grown coffee beans and for that you should be proud because you’re making a difference to the lives of these farmers and communities. Coffee is often their livelihood and we owe our favourite daily habit to them. 

We’ve put together a list of coffee beans that have one or more of these certifications to help you with choosing: 

Tanzania Peaberry Coffee, Mount Kilimanjaro, Whole Bean, Fresh Roasted, 16-ounce
  • 100% Pure Tanzanian Peaberry Coffee from the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro that is wonderfully acidic, has a rich body, an intense flavor and a fragrant aroma coupled with mellow winy overtones.
  • Medium roasted whole beans allowing the true flavor characteristic to come through for a remarkable taste.
  • Fresh roasted then immediately packed and sealed to assure freshness.

All of Volcanica Coffee beans packaging is committed to be sustainable and Compact by Design. With the removal of excess air and water, products require less packaging and become more efficient to ship

Verena Street 2 Pound Whole Bean Coffee, Medium Roast, Julien's Breakfast Blend, Rainforest Alliance Certified Arabica Coffee
  • 2lb. medium roast whole bean (32oz.); rich and bold with a smooth body and clean finish
  • Our signature coffee blend; exhibits a rich coffee flavor with low acidity and a smooth after taste
  • Sustainably sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms to protect farmers, wildlife and environment
Tiny Footprint Coffee - Fair Trade Organic Nicaragua Segovia Dark Roast |Whole Bean Coffee | USDA Organic | Fair Trade Certified | Carbon Negative | 16 Ounce
  • The world's first carbon negative coffee: For every pound that’s sold, we donate a portion of the proceeds to fund reforestation in Ecuador’s Mindo cloud forest. Over time, these trees will remove 54 lbs. of CO2 from the atmosphere as well as provide habitat for native plant and animal species
  • WHOLE BEAN COFFEE: 100% Organic Shade-Grown Arabica Coffee
  • PRODECOOP uses its proceeds to bring improved living standards to its growing membership and fund programs in medical care, education and environmental sustainability
Subtle Earth Organic Coffee - Medium-Dark Roast - Whole Bean Coffee - 100% Arabica Beans - Low Acidity and Non-GMO - 2lb bag
11,364 Reviews
Subtle Earth Organic Coffee - Medium-Dark Roast - Whole Bean Coffee - 100% Arabica Beans - Low Acidity and Non-GMO - 2lb bag
  • ORIGIN - Subtle Earth Organic Coffee features beans sourced from Honduras that gives the coffee a full bodied, deep, rich, chocolatey flavor with a clean finish and low acidity.
  • AROMATIC NOTES - This whole bean coffee blend tastes of smooth milk chocolate with notes of honey, caramel, and cocoa. The slight caramelization of the natural sugars in the bean gives this Medium-Dark coffee a touch of roastiness, while retaining its natural flavor character with a sweet and pleasant aftertaste.
  • EXPERTLY ROASTED - We artisan roast our coffee beans in small batches just prior to shipping to ensure peak flavor and optimal freshness.
Larry's Coffee Flavor Pack 3 count 12oz, Bold Variety
  • Pack of three 12-ounce vacuum bags (total of 36 ounces).
  • A variety of blends for all tastes and preferences.
  • USDA Organic; Fair Trade; Shade Grown for bird safety; Kosher
Counter Culture Coffee - Whole Bean Coffee - Fresh Roasted, Sustainably Farmed (Kosher) - Hologram, 12 oz (1 Bag)
  • FRUITY | MILK CHOCOLATE | SYRUPY. Hologram is a medium-dark roast comprised of washed and natural coffees from Latin America and Africa. The components change over the seasons, but the coffee always tastes fruity, chocolatey, and complex.
  • CERTIFIED KOSHER whole bean coffee. We source only exceptional coffee beans that are sustainably farmed and environmentally sustainable. We maintain detailed relationships with each of our partners.
  • We don't just find good coffee, we put in the work and commitment to develop great coffee.
Lush Ethical Bean Coffee: Medium Dark Roast Ground Coffee - USDA Certified Organic Coffee, Fair Trade Certified - 8 Ounce Bag (227 g)
  • 8 oz GROUND COFFEE: Our Ground Lush Medium Dark roast premium coffee is a crowd favorite. A full bodied cup, alive with fruit, smoke, and earth tasting notes. The perfect wake up call for any coffee lover.
  • ARTISAN ROASTED: Every delicious cup of Ethical Bean Coffee has been crafted with one simple objective in mind - to make the best fairtrade coffee on the planet. Artisan roasted in Vancouver, Canada, we test it, slurp it, and stamp it with an “e” – so that you’ll love it with the same passion that went into creating it.
  • FAIRTRADE, ORGANIC, KOSHER, B CORP CERTIFIED: We’ve got you covered with credible third party social and environmental certifications. Better for farmers and their families, better for the planet, and of course, better for you.
Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast Grounds -16 Oz, The World's Strongest Coffee - 2 Packs of Bold & Intense Blend of Arabica & Robusta Beans - USDA Organic Ground Coffee - Double Caffeine for Daily Lift
  • DAY STARTER GROUND COFFEE: Get a pound of power & energy every morning with our dark roast coffee ground. This dark coffee is made of robust bold flavors. Wake up your senses with our dark coffee ground that's rich, intense, black and bold coffee.
  • QUALITY BREW COFFEE GROUNDS DARK: Transform your basic cup into an intense & delicious coffee. One sip of this best coffee will make you say yes to more of our coffee grinds. Choose premium artisanal coffee ground dark roast & feel alive every day!
  • STRONG COFFEE GROUND: Enjoy the best ground coffee you'll ever taste! Made with premium arabica & robusta beans that are roasted to perfection. Every ground dark roast coffee is bold with notes of dark chocolate & black cherry.
Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso Medium Dark Roast Fairtrade Organic Whole Bean Coffee (12 oz Bag)
  • WHOLE BEAN COFFEE: One 12 oz. bag of ETHICAL BEAN Sweet Espresso Medium Dark Roast whole bean coffee
  • During the season of giving, feel good about enjoying our fair trade coffee
  • Warm up your winter with our organic whole bean espresso coffee
Wandering Bear Extra Strong Organic Coarse Ground Coffee for Cold Brew, 1 lb Bag - Dark Roast, Organic, Smooth, Delicious
  • DARK ROAST, COARSE GROUND COFFEE: Make Wandering Bear Extra Strong Cold Brew at home. Dark but not burnt, full-bodied and chocolaty. Coarse grind is perfect for cold brew, French press and works well in drip machines. Makes 20 glasses per pound.
  • 100% ORGANIC COFFEE: Carefully ground coarse specifically for cold brewing (also perfect for French press).
  • ROASTED IN BROOKLYN, NY: Small-batch roasted and packed fresh in one-way valve bags to preserve freshness until opening.
The Original Whole Bean Coffee, Medium Roast, 3 Pack - 12 Oz, Bulletproof Keto 100% Arabica Coffee, Certified Clean Coffee, Rainforest Alliance, Sourced from Guatemala, Colombia & El Salvador
  • Medium Roast Whole Bean Coffee: Caffeinated coffee with distinct notes of cinnamon, plum, and orange with a cocoa hazelnut finish
  • High Quality Beans: Expertly-picked by hand to provide the highest quality beans and maintain maximum integrity and flavor, following organic practices without the negative financial impact a certification has on local farmers
  • Certified Clean: Tested for impurities to help to keep your coffee pure and clean; Keeps you jitter free
Monkey Business Coffee - Wild Kopi Luwak Coffee Ground Beans - Sustainably Sourced (from Indonesia) - 500 Grams
  • Wild Ethically Sourced Premium Kopi Luwak Ground Coffee
  • Roasted Ground Coffee Beans - 500 Grams
  • Imported From Indonesia
Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Medium Roast Whole Bean Coffee - Hair Bender 12 Ounce Bag with Flavor Notes of Citrus and Dark Chocolate
  • Contains one (1) 12 Ounce Bag of Stumptown Hair Bender Whole Bean Coffee
  • Hair Bender: The sweet and balanced coffee that started it all. Hair Bender is our most celebrated blend with a flavor profile that shines no matter how you brew it
  • Flavor: Hair Bender relies on coffees from Latin America, Indonesia, and Africa to achieve a complex flavor profile with notes of sweet citrus, dark chocolate, and raisin. 100% Arabica coffee
Moon Organic Coffee Medium Roast Ground Coffee 10 oz
  • MAX FRESH small batch, roast date hand stamped
  • CERTIFIED ORGANIC because it's the right way
  • SUSTAINABLY SOURCED locally roasted in NYC

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