Photo by TJ Turner/Minnesota Monthly
It’s hard to think of tropical sun and berry-picking as you sip your venti latte du jour. After all, it’s easy enough to forget that your coffee was once a plant, and that the people who grew it are far away, along the equator.
But for some local coffee shops, this isn’t good enough—they’ve dedicated themselves to supporting these farmers by serving Fair Trade coffee. While Fair Trade is notoriously difficult to define, at its heart it is a social and economic movement to ensure living wages for workers in developing countries, transparency in business dealings, and environmentally sustainable farming practices. (Fair Trade, capitalized, refers to products that have undergone a certification process through Fair Trade USA; fair trade, lowercase, refers to the larger social movement.) Here are five Twin Cities coffee shops that serve Fair Trade coffee, where you can get your caffeine fix while supporting the people who make it all possible:
Up Coffee Roasters
Where: 1901 Traffic Street Northeast, Minneapolis
This northeast Minneapolis café and roastery is off the beaten path, known for its selection of Fair Trade and organic-certified coffees. The kitchen offers an assortment of pastries, paninis, and gelato for breakfast, lunch, or snacking, and coffee choices range from the classics to the “Lumberjack” (coffee with bacon and maple syrup flavoring). If you’re lucky enough to show up at the right time, customers are invited to participate in daily “cupping” sessions, where coffee roasted onsite is tested for quality and consistency. Learn more.
Where: 225 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis; 3262 Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis
Peace Coffee is known for its commitment to building sustainable partnerships with small-scale coffee farmers, and the “map my beans” section of its website lets you read about the farming communities that grew your coffee as you’re drinking it (communities including farms in Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Indonesia—Minnesota-grown coffee beans don’t exist due to our harsh winters). The downtown location offers both a ground-floor café for larger meetings, as well as a bright, window-lined skyway café with local pastries and a range of espresso concoctions. The standalone Minnehaha Avenue shop is impossible to miss with its bright red storefront. There’s even a training lab space if you want to up your coffee-brewing game with classes for using specialized home-brewing equipment and barista drink-making techniques. Learn more.
Where: 53 Cleveland Avenue South, St. Paul
Blending the English word for coffee with the Italian word for “well” or “good,” hangout spot Coffee Bené has also become a popular study location for students in the St. Thomas-Macalester area. The shop’s own organic, Fair Trade coffee blends are available bagged or brewed in-store, and they also offer alternatives, such as smoothies, baked goods, wine, and Fair Trade teas. The fireplace, leather armchairs, and rustic décor make this shop a cozy place to warm up in the winter. Learn more.
Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Company
Where: 2451 Nicollet Avenue South, 2404 Hennepin Avenue South, 945 Broadway Street Northeast, 907 Washington Avenue North, Minneapolis
With four Minneapolis cafés and a fifth St. Paul location that just opened, Spyhouse Coffee serves a rotating selection of both Fair Trade and non-Fair Trade blends from around the world. The cafés themselves have taken up residence in historic buildings and embrace the industrial-chic vibe known for attracting hipsters (no judgment here). Popular drinks include the “Spygirl” (latte with lavender and honey) and the “Caramella” (latte with vanilla and caramel). Learn more.
The Coffee Shop Northeast
Where: 2852 Johnson Street Northeast, Minneapolis
This unassuming coffee shop with a straightforward name serves only organic, Fair Trade coffee. Specialty drinks include the “killer chai” (chai with almond and chocolate), the “liquid tryptophan” (only described as “warm and comforting with a hint of spice”), and a no-guilt version of the modern classic, the pumpkin spice latte. Learn more.