Fair trade coffee is coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards.

Fair trade organizations create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. These partnerships contribute to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to coffee bean farmers. Fair trade organizations are engaged actively in supporting producers and sustainable environmental farming practices. Fair trade practices prohibit child or forced labor.

Fair trade certification was then introduced in 1988 following a coffee crisis in which the supply of coffee was greater than the demand; since no price quotas had been reimplemented by the International Coffee Act, the market was flooded. Launched in the Netherlands, fair trade certification aimed to artificially raise coffee prices in order to ensure growers sufficient wages to turn a profit. The original name of the organization was "Max Havelaar", after a fictional Dutch character who opposed the exploitation of coffee farmers by Dutch colonialists in the East Indies. The organization created a label for products that met certain wage standards.

Quotas remained a part of the agreement until 1989, when the organization was unable to negotiate a new agreement in time for the next year. It was decided that the 1983 agreement would be extended, but without the quotas because they had not yet been determined. A new agreement could not be negotiated until 1992.

From 1990 to 1992, without the quotas in place, coffee prices reached an all-time low because coffee price quotas could not be decided.

Certified Fairtrade coffee is normally exported by secondary or tertiary cooperatives, marketing this coffee on behalf of the cooperatives the farmers belong to with arrangements that may be complex. There is not enough demand to take all the certified coffee produced, so most has to be sold as uncertified. In 2001 only 13.6% could be sold as certified so limits were placed on new cooperatives joining the scheme. This plus an increased demand put up sales of certified to around 50% in 2003 with a figure of 37% commonly cited in recent years. Some exporting cooperatives do not manage to sell any of their output as certified, and others sell as little as 8%.

The exporting cooperatives incur costs including certification and inspection fees, additional marketing costs, costs of conforming to standards, and additional costs of cooperative operation, costs which are incurred on all coffee production, even if little or none is marketed as certified, with a higher price, so the cooperatives may make a loss on Fairtrade membership. Weber reports cooperatives not able to cover the extra costs of a marketing team for Fairtrade, with one covering only 70% of these costs after six years of Fairtrade membership.

Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic agriculture continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today. It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost, manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. For instance, naturally occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin and rotenone are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited. Reasons for advocation of organic farming include real or perceived advantages in sustainability, openness, self-sufficiency, autonomy/independence, health, food security, and food safety, although the match between perception and reality is continually challenged.