I recently watched Black Gold, a documentary about the global coffee trade and it left me feeling enlighted and guilty as hell. Anyone who drinks coffee should see it(while remembering most documentaries show a specific perspective). It focuses on a co-op in Ethiopia and highlights the staggering facts regarding coffee trade and the ridiculously low pay farmers get for their coffee. Even with Fair Trade certification, the contrast in price is obscene.
While I believe direct trade is the best way forward, the number of roasters who acquire their coffee this way is limited, so Fair Trade is the best widespread option available until things change. Intelligentsia (one of my favorite roasters) has trademarked the term “direct trade” and pays their growers 25% more than Fair Trade prices. I’m willing to pay extra for good coffee, especially if I know it’s improving the lives of the farmers who work their asses off to give me something I love so much.