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The Lie of Direct Trade

The Lie of Direct Trade

Update: 2022-07-12


Have you ever noticed your daily caffeine fix tastes that little bit sweeter when you know the coffee has been ethically sourced?

The term “direct trade” has cropped up all over the place in specialty coffee in recent years and, on the face of it, would seem to imply just that.

But what does “direct trade” actually mean? And has anyone — let alone coffee farmers — really benefited from it?

In the final episode of series 3, James takes Scott and Jools on a journey into how coffee actually gets traded.

Chad Trewick from the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide shares his first hand experience of being in the direct trade vanguard. Chris Kornman, author and Director of Education at The Crown, explains the rise of evangelists with the mantra of cutting out the middle men. And Erica Koss, co-author of the Specialty Coffee Association’s sustainability course and Research Associate at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi in Nairobi, reveals some of the limitations of the direct trade ideal.

And, as a parting gift for the summer, James offers tips on how YOU can identify those roasters who are trying to do right by the farmer.


What do you want to listen to in Series 4? Take five minutes to fill out our survey!

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Go on your own coffee adventures at home with the Siemens EQ700 fully automatic espresso machine:

Find your perfect roast with the Ikawa Home:
In North London? Check out Michaela’s cafe, Bean and Brew:

Find the roasters who are trying to do right by the farmer on the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide:

Learn more about the intricacies of coffee trading with Chris Kornman’s book, Green Coffee: A guide for Roasters and Buyers ( and also by visiting the Royal Coffee blog (

Check out the Coffee Shop Innovation Expo, taking on the 19th and 20th October 2022:

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Chad Trewick (Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide):
Chris Kornman (Royal Coffee):
Erika Koss (Co-author of SCA’s acclaimed Coffee Sustainability course):

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The Lie of Direct Trade

The Lie of Direct Trade

Jools Walker, Scott Bentley, James Harper