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Conscious Consumption: Is fair trade coffee a tradeoff?

The concept of fair trade is simple: give small farmers direct access to international markets so they can compete with larger companies. As the idea catches on, coffee beans branded with the fair trade label are becoming ever-present. But is fair trade coffee as good on your taste buds as it is on your moral compass?We asked Siel Ju-a fair trade coffee aficionado who writes on the web as Green LA Girl-to try a spectrum of six different coffees, and compared her results to those of our own crack panel. Everyone then voted for a favorite and least favorite cofee. Our samples included Folgers, Yuban, Dunkin' Donuts, fair trade and regular varieties from Starbucks, and an organic blend from the Fair Trade Coffee Co. In a blind taste test, we determined if helping family farmers to compete in the world market actually makes coffee taste better.
1. Fair Trade Java Organic$10 / lb.fairtradecoffee.orgSiel says:A yummy fruity aroma. The best tasting of the bunch.good says:The Platonic ideal of coffee. Creamy and thick.favorite votes:GOOD GOOD GOODworst votes:BAD
2. Yuban Dark Roast$4.39 /11oz.yuban.comSiel says:A bit too much smoke. A slightly sour aroma.good says:Good. Strong. Mellow. Like Michael Clarke Duncan.favorite votes:GOOD GOODworst votes:
3. Starbucks French Roast$9.99 / lb.starbucks.comSiel says:Not too acidic. Smooth and earthy.good says:Kind of floral. Kind of spicy. Kind of gross.favorite votes:GOODworst votes:
4. Folgers French Roast$3.99 / 11.5oz.folgers.comSiel says:The aroma isn't too interesting, but it's not bad, though a little acidic.good says:Very mild. Not boring, but unimpressive.favorite votes:GOODworst votes:

5. Starbucks Cafe Estima Blend$9.99 / lb.starbucks.comSiel says:Inoffensive but also uninteresting.good says:Ambivalence comes to mind.favorite votes:GOODworst votes:BAD BAD
6. Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend$7.99 / lb.dunkindonuts.comSiel says:Very sour and acidic. Horrible taste and aftertaste.good says:Strangely pungent swill. Like dirty water, wet leaves, or dung.favorite votes:worst votes:BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD.

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