Coffee, grown in relatively poor countries and largely consumed in richer ones, is well-suited to partnerships between producers and consumers aimed at achieving a variety of ecological, economic, and social goals.
Organic coffees are certified by various international monitoring agencies as having been grown without the use of potentially harmful chemicals, thus supporting the health of consumer, producer and environment. Shade-Grown and Bird-Friendly are epithets for coffees, particularly coffees from Central and South America, that are grown under canopies of native trees that provide shelter and sustenance for migrating birds. Fair-Traded coffees are purchased (usually from small holder farmers) at a “fair” price, one that should permit farmers to adequately sustain their families and their farms. This price is determined by international formula, and is always higher than the typically brutally low prices paid small holders by the local market. Eco-OK coffees are certified by an arm of the Rainforest Alliance to meet a range of balanced environmental and economic criteria intended to assure the long-term health of both land and people. An even broader set of criteria are in process of being defined under the general term sustainable, although at this writing that term, like shade grown, is not distinguished by any mechanism for definition and certification. In other words, it currently means whatever the user wants it to mean. Finally, individual roasting companies have developed their own social and economic programs. A percentage of the retail purchase price of a given coffee may go directly to support projects that help the growers of that coffee, for example.
Such organic and cause coffees should be identified by origin and roast like any other single-origin coffee.