The Fair Trade Benefit - The positive impact the Fair Trade Movement has had on the lives of small farmers, through increased market access, community project premiums, and support of organic production, is inspiring to say the least.

Founded in 1977 in Boulder, Colorado, Allegro Coffee Company is built on a commitment of providing the world’s best coffees to their customers. Today Allegro is widely recognized as one of the finest coffee roasters in the country. They select only the finest 100% arabica beans which best express the flavors of each of the world’s great growing regions. Each of these regions produces coffee with a unique personality. Allegro calls this the “Taste of Place.” To entice each bean to deliver its peak flavor, they custom roast them in a wide range of styles to accentuate their unique characteristics.

Coffee Sourcing Report

Allegro Coffee Company currently sources coffee from 27 origins around the world, many of which are in Mexico and Central-South America. Because of this, in 2008 Allegro hired a Farm Relationship Manager based in Nicaragua to help build more direct partnerships with their farms and cooperatives in Latin America. The idea behind this new position is to create a more consistent dialogue with their coffee suppliers and assist with farm projects focused on quality, social, and environmental improvements. Allegro’s new FRM will work with their growers to select projects that will have the greatest impact on the sustainability of their farms and communities.

There is a growing demand for high quality coffees around the world, and maintaining partnerships with our farmers and importers is essential to our future as a specialty coffee roaster. These relationships help ensure that our contracts cover the cost of production on farms and provide an equitable profit margin for all. We insist on transparency throughout the coffee chain and partner with suppliers who share our values of equitable and traceable sourcing.

Allegro also supports third party certifications focused on both environmental growing practices and social responsibility.

Allegro’s Coffee Sourcing Principles:

  • Coffee must be of exceptional quality, representing the best of a particular growing region or microclimate
  • Source from small family-run farms or grower cooperatives
  • Farms and co-ops must follow sound environmental practices
  • Sound social programs and labor practices on farms and co-ops
  • Negotiate with the farmers on the contract price, which uses their individual cost of production as the baseline, not the commodities market price
  • Often sign multi-year contracts with their long-term suppliers
  • Transparency clause written into their contracts
  • Offer pre-financing to many of their growers to cover harvesting costs
  • Quality incentives written into many contracts based on cupping scores
  • Annual visits to farms by coffee buyers



Allegro was one of the very first roasters in the country to go organic back in 1986. Their purchases have ebbed and flowed between 20% and 30% most years since then due to quality considerations, but over the last five years we have consistently grown their organic line. Now, nearly 60% of their green coffee beans are sourced from certified farms. This positive shift is due to growing focus on the side of the small farmers towards on-farm production of organic compost materials for fertilization, the use of biological methods for both pest and disease control, and a return to more traditional coffee varieties that are better adapted to this type of production. They seek out farmers that fundamentally believe in the sustainability of organic production because of its positive benefits to the environment and the people it affects. Their roasting facility is certified by Quality Assurance International (QAI), a registered third party certifier under the USDA’s National Organic Program.

What is Certified Organic Coffee?

Organic coffee production is a method of growing coffee that sustains the health of the ecosystems, the soils, and the communities in which it is grown. It supports biodiversity and organic farming practices rather than inputs like chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Practices are adapted to the local ecology and traditional methods, but are continually evolving with progressive innovations to increase the yields and health of the coffee plants. Organic farms are inspected and their soils are tested yearly by a third party certifier to ensure these practices are being upheld. For more information, please visit:



Allegro became a licensed Fair Trade certifiedTM roaster in 2007 and introduced four coffees initially under the Fair Trade label. They have grown in 2008 to nine coffees totaling 16% of their coffee purchases. They made the move to certify Fair Trade after years of sourcing coffees from many of the best FT grower groups acknowledging that FT doesn’t have to mean low quality. It often times takes more work to find the best lots from FT cooperatives, which can range from hundreds to thousands of grower members, but the positive impact that the movement has had on the lives of these farmers through increased market access, community project premiums, and support of organic production is inspiring to say the least. Allegro will continue to grow their FT organic offerings as demand and quality availability increase. Allegro is licensed by Transfair USA and pays a licensing fee to use the Fair Trade label on their bags.

What Is Fair Trade Certified Coffee?

Fair Trade Certified coffee comes from democratically run farmer cooperatives, which are guaranteed a minimum floor price for their coffee that includes a social premium and an additional premium for certified organic. Currently the Fair Trade floor prices are $1.31 for conventional and $1.51 for organic. The cooperatives must follow strict principles around labor conditions, transparency and democracy in the management of the co-op, community development projects, and environmentally sustainable growing practices. The Fair Trade Labeling Organizations (FLO) of which Transfair USA is a member, audits and sets the criteria for coffee associations. For more information, please visit:



In 2008, Allegro aggressively increased their supply of Rainforest Alliance coffee to 19% of total purchases after encouraging and supporting many of their relationship farms into transitioning into the RFA certification over the last three years. Allegro currently offers two coffees that carry the Rainforest Alliance label, and will be adding additional offerings before the end of the year. They believe in the Rainforest Alliance certification because it is a well-rounded program that ensures compliance with the Sustainable Agricultural Network’s standards for the sound environmental practices, protection of wildlife, improved labor conditions, and provides education around farm management.

What is Rainforest Alliance Certification?

The Rainforest Alliance Certification ensures that coffee is grown on farms that meet minimum standards for the protection of forests, water and soil conservation, wildlife protection, labor practices including wages, safety standards, and access to education and medical care. The standards are set and audited by the Sustainable Action Network (SAN), an international coalition of leading conservation groups. Rainforest Alliance works with farmers directly to ensure compliance with the SAN standards and in development of farm management techniques. Farms that meet these rigorous standards are awarded the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal. For more information, please visit:



The first coffee plants came out of the forests of western Ethiopia. Therefore, coffee is a product of the forest, and it makes sense that growing traditional varieties under the shade best mimics the ideal conditions set forth by mother nature. Allegro believes shade-grown coffee is both better for the earth and better tasting in the cup. Because of this, they seek out farmers that follow traditional methods of growing coffee, including the cultivation of heirloom varietal coffee trees, which do not typically tolerate full sun exposure. These varietals tend to express their flavors more intensely, which has a lot to do with the varietal itself, but also due to the fact that shade slows down the maturity process of the cherries resulting in more flavor complexity. The soils are naturally richer due to leaf litter lowering the need for chemical fertilizers. Shade trees also help protect against soil erosion from water run-off, provide habitat for many bird, animal, and insect populations, and have the potential to provide for alternative crops like fruit trees and medicinal plants.

What are Shade Grown Coffees?

There are many definitions used to describe shade-grown coffee:

Rustic Shade: coffee is grown in the existing forest with little alteration of native vegetation other than undergrowth clearing.

Traditional Polyculture: a variety of shade trees and other plants including fruit and vegetables, which provide farmers with alternative cash and subsistence crops.

Commercial Polyculture: fewer shade trees and alternative plants used to make the canopy resulting in more reliance on fertilizers due to lower leaf litter benefits.

Specialized Shade: shade usually focused around one or two species that are pruned to adjust shade levels according to the coffee’s annual growth cycle.

Keep in mind that coffee farms are extremely diverse in their shade levels depending on tradition, climate, and the influence of “technified” practices over the years.



Because of our commitment to quality coffees, sound social conditions in origin countries, and support of sustainable farming practices, many of our coffees carry the Whole Trade Guarantee™ within Whole Foods Market stores. For more information, please visit:

Back to Top