College Coffee Fix: 5 affordable fair trade coffee brands

If students are the heart of college, then caffeine is the life blood. And while many will jump at the chance to score a cheap cup of joe, cost isn’t the only factor. College students rank sustainable business practices as an important factor in where they buy their coffee. A 2016 study conducted by S&D Coffee & Tea Inc. found 40 percent of millennials “ think more positively of places that offer coffee with features like local, sustainable, fair-trade certified, single origin, etc.”

While some millennials are willing to pay extra to get fair trade products, that’s not realistic for everyone. Here’s five fair trade coffee brands that won’t break the bank:

Silver Bridge
  • Specifications: Fair trade, organic
  • Roasts: Variety, all made from Arabica beans
  • Prices:  $11.99 for a 12 oz. bag

Lorraine Walker founded Silver Bridge Coffee Company in 2008 after experimenting with making specialty blends in a popcorn popper. Not only is this Ohio-based business a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of American and Fair Trade USA, Walker also is a strong supporter of women in business. Silver Bridge sells Cafe Feminino blends, a foundation that “provides grants for women and their families in coffee-producing countries such as Peru, Columbia and Guatemala.”

If that’s not enough to sell you on Silver Bridge, consider this: It is the only Ohio company to offer 100 percent recyclable disposable coffee pods.

Find Silver Bridge Coffee online or in Ohio supermarkets. For a price break, find the coffee blends at the Athens Farmers Market during the summer and fall.

Equal Exchange
  • Specifications: Fair trade, organic,
  • Roasts: Variety
  • Prices: starting at $9.95 for a 10 oz. bag

Equal Exchange co-op prioritizes small business owners. In promoting fair trade practices, it connects consumers in North America with South American growers. Their coffee is made from organic beans and comes in a variety of blends, from dark to light roasts.

All products are available at the website, and can be purchased in a variety of forms, from 10 oz. bags to environmentally-friendly pods. There’s even a wholesale option for those looking to buy in bulk. Now: Get 10 percent off and free shipping when you sign up for the mailing list.

Grounds for Change
  • Specifications: Fair Trade, organic, shade grown, carbon free
  • Roasts: Variety, including specialty and seasonal
  • Prices: $10.95 for a 12 oz. bag

Grounds for Change is a certified organic and fair trade coffee company in the Pacific Northwest. Its mission: “To support social equity and environmental sustainability through fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee.”

Shade grown coffee beans grow under a tree canopy and are not exposed to chemical fertilizers. Grounds for Change says this helps its coffee — brewed only in small batches — be as fresh as possible. The coffee is available in dark, medium and light roasts, with limited availability for seasonal flavors. You can also join the Coffee of the Month club and receive a different blend every month for up to a year. A three-month subscription starts at $69. 96 and ships free!

Buy Grounds for Change online here. 

Archer Farms
  • Specifications: Fair trade, direct trade
  • Roasts: Variety, as well as seasonal
  • Prices: $8.99 for 18 pods, or $6.69 for a 12 oz. bag

You already purchase many of your college essentials at Target, so why not add fair trade coffee to the list? In August 2016 Target’s Archer Farms brand launched its fair trade coffee line. Amanda Irish, VP of Target Owned Brands, said in an AOL article the company overhauled its coffee production to give customers not only better options, but more sustainable ones.

Both the beans and 95 percent recyclable pods are available at Target stores and online. Don’t miss their specialty brews as well, like hot buttered rum and apple cider donut.

Pura Vida Create Good
  • Specifications: Fair trade, organic, shade grown
  • Roasts: Variety, from bold to mild (also decaf)
  • Prices: $10.95 for a 12 oz. bag

Available both for individual and wholesale purchase, Pura Vida Create Good coffee is locally roasted in small batches to guarantee freshness. The company is also doing its part to educate consumers about the fair trade process. Its Create Good Foundation is a public charity that funds projects for at-risk children in coffee-producing countries.

Pura Vida’s unique coffee blends range from spicy and full-bodied to delicate and sweet. With flavors and names from all around the world, these roasts are sure to please.


College Coffee Fix is a weekly newsletter that seeks to educate and connect college students about fair trade products.

At Donkey Coffee, you can add a dash of politics to your fair-trade coffee

“Would you like a side of politics with that?”

Athens, Ohio is abundant in businesses that mix their service to customers with political discourse. From Avalanche Pizza’s caricatures of presidential candidates to Little Fish’s “No Fracking Way” beer brewed with all Ohio ingredients, Southeast Ohioans are accustomed to seeing politics on the menu.

A politically-minded Athens business that stands out to me is Donkey Coffee, who stirs a little social justice into your otherwise average cup of fair-trade joe. Donkey continues to be a leading coffee joint in Athens not only for their comfy couches and cozy ambiance, but because of their devotion to community outreach and promotion of political discourse.

Their website bares a list of organizations who they support that “fundamentally positively influence people.” The list includes groups such as Amnesty International, Fair Trade USA, Pregnancy Resource Center and My Sisters Place. continues:

“We are committed to promoting social justice and the arts in our community and throughout the world through public awareness, serving, and financial giving. This is the heart of what Donkey is about.”

They took their loyalty to the enrichment of the community one step further this week by having customers rattle off their favorite part of the Constitution in trade for a drink on the house.

Yesterday, Donkey Coffee started the work week by observing an all-American event that took place on September 17, 1787. Baristas celebrated the signing of the Constitution by trading a customer’s favorite constitutional right for a free coffee drink.

This was a part of Donkey’s recent “Free Drink Monday” event.  After I recited Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution (which provides some much-needed accountability to Congress), Michael, one of the baristas, told me the story of the couple that inspired the weekly freebie.

You can thank two Donkey frequenters Steve and Janet for your free power chai latte each Monday. Michael said the couple were such loyal customers that they accrued upwards of 4,000 points on their Donkey Coffee rewards card. Each drink equals one point (and after 10 points, you receive a free drink) so you can definitely say they were regulars.

Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.
Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.

They never spent their points and eventually moved out of town, so they donated the thousands of points to the customers of Donkey. So each week, Donkey asks their customers to recite a poem about Donkey Coffee, or dance for 10 seconds or like yesterday, share their favorite constitutional right of theirs, to use Steve and Janet’s donation.

Donkey continues to be my go-to spot to sip on an iced latte over statistics homework, not only for their plentitude of power outlets and couches, but because you might get into an interesting discussion over the patriarchy or systemic racism with your barista.

And has anyone else thought about the fact that the name of their coffee shop just so happens to be the symbol of a major political party? Maybe it’s just me.

Regardless of political preference, Athenians will continue to get their coffee fix from Donkey for years to come.