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5 Best Fair Trade∙Direct Trade Coffee Shops in Orange County, California

Getting to know a destination's coffee shops, roasters and baristas is one of our favorite ways to immerse ourselves in understanding a travel location. And if ever the coffee story of a locale has given a look behind the curtain at something deeper, it is the coffee story of the otherwise-touristy Orange County, California.

Third wave coffee arrived late, but hit hard in Orange County, California. Check out our five top picks for fair trade / direct trade coffee in this part of Southern California.

The arrival of Chicago's Intelligentsia Coffee to Los Angeles in 2007 sparked an explosion of the "third wave coffee" movement in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. Connoisseur-level coffee shops popped up in markets previously catering to commodity-style coffee drinkers. (info)

Just under a decade since The Great LA/OC Coffee Awakening, Orange County is home to 15+ artisanal coffee shops, each specializing in expertly roasting their own fair trade and/or direct trade coffees.

We've jittered our way through coffee houses all over the county, and found these five, listed alphabetically, to be the top:


Cafecito Organico

Third wave coffee arrived late, but hit hard in Orange County, California. Check out our five top picks for fair trade / direct trade coffee in this part of Southern California. Cafecito Organico, one of our picks for The Top 5 Fair Trade/Direct Trade Coffee Shops in Orange County, California - by Open Wide the World

The Coffee

Cafecito Organico has direct relationships with small family farms and cooperatives in Guatemala and Ethiopia. Coffee is roasted in-house (at their LA location). We love the chocolate nuttiness of Cafecito's La Voz pour over, and their La Voz cold brew is the favorite we've had anywhere to date.

What's to love besides the coffee?

We appreciate how the Latin American rustic décor of most Cafecito locations pays tribute to their coffee's homeland, as well as to the ethnic group that consumes coffee at the highest rate. (stat) Plus, it's a nice deviation from the industrial chic décor that predominates today's coffee house scene.

Food & non-coffee beverages:

  • pastries & cookies
  • small lunch menu of various panini and grilled cheese sandwiches

Locations:

  • 2930 Bristol St. (in The Lab Anti-Mall), Costa Mesa 92626
  • 440 S. Anaheim Blvd. (in the Anaheim Packing District), Anaheim 92805
  • Also in Los Angeles County in the cities of Malibu & Silver Lake, with more locations pending

Kéan Coffee

Third wave coffee arrived late, but hit hard in Orange County, California. Check out our five top picks for fair trade / direct trade coffee in this part of Southern California. Kéan Coffee, one of our picks for The Top 5 Fair Trade/Direct Trade Coffee Shops in Orange County, California - by Open Wide the World

The Coffee

Fair trade and organic coffees are roasted in small batches on site at Kéan (with the exception of espresso, which they need too much of, thus roast off-site and bring in).

We love the full roast of Kéan's deep bodied Sumatra Tano Batak.

What's to love besides the coffee?

The social implication of a former coffee chain mogul going back to his roots by opening two coddled coffee houses makes it hard to do anything but love Kéan.

Food & non-coffee beverages:

  • pastries & cookies, plus savory pastries
  • gluten-free & vegan options
  • fruit, yogurt & granola
  • teas (some of which are organic and/or fair trade) & chocolate drinks

Locations:

  • 2043 Westcliff Dr. #100, Newport Beach 92660
  • 13681 Newport Ave. #14, Tustin 92780

Portola Coffee Roasters

Third wave coffee arrived late, but hit hard in Orange County, California. Check out our five top picks for fair trade / direct trade coffee in this part of Southern California. Portola Coffee Lab, one of our picks for The Top 5 Fair Trade/Direct Trade Coffee Shops in Orange County, California - by Open Wide the World

The Coffee

Coffee is direct sourced from families and cooperatives in Africa, Central America and South America, then roasted in house at Portola Coffee Roasters.

We love the chocolate and almond full body of Portola's Trifecta-brewed Alchemistic.

What's to love besides the coffee?

Portola pays farmers and cooperatives 25%-50% more than Fair Trade regulations mandate. Drinking this coffee truly changes lives.

Food & non-coffee beverages:

  • pastries
  • light breakfast & lunch fare
  • tea and hot chocolate
  • lavender & rose lemonades

     Locations:

    • 3313 Hyland Ave., Ste. B2 (at The Mix in SoCo), Costa Mesa 92626
    • 2493 Park Ave. (inside Union Market in The District), Tustin 92782
    • 201 E. 4th St., Space 103 (in The Fourth Street Market), Santa Ana 92701
    • 143 N. Glassell St. (in Old Towne Orange), Orange 92886
    • 21058 Pacific Coast Highway, Space 170 (in Lot 579), Huntington Beach 92648
    • Coming soon: a Mission Viejo location

    The Lost Bean

    Third wave coffee arrived late, but hit hard in Orange County, California. Check out our five top picks for fair trade / direct trade coffee in this part of Southern California. The Lost Bean, one of our picks for The Top 5 Fair Trade/Direct Trade Coffee Shops in Orange County, California - by Open Wide the World

    Fair trade, organic coffees are small-batch roasted on site, then packaged in hand-decorated bags at The Lost Bean. We love The Lost Bean's rich, earthy Sumatra as a freshly roasted pour over.

    What's to love besides the coffee?

    It's a toss-up what we love more: the use of fluid bed roasting (which gives coffee a more subtle flavor, and can even minimize coffee's usual stomach upset factor), or Bodie, the owner who will actually take the time to sit and chat about it.

    Food & non-coffee beverages:

    • pastries & quiche
    • gluten-free frittata
    • cut fruit
    • light breakfast and lunch fare, including egg scrambles, burritos, cheese plate, tapas
    • organic teas
    • seasonal beers and wines, sangria

    Locations:

    • 13011 Newport Ave., Tustin 92780
    • Coming soon: an Anaheim location

    Tru Bru Coffee

    Third wave coffee arrived late, but hit hard in Orange County, California. Check out our five top picks for fair trade / direct trade coffee in this part of Southern California. Tru Bru Coffee, one of our picks for The Top 5 Fair Trade/Direct Trade Coffee Shops in Orange County, California - by Open Wide the World

    Mostly fair trade -and all organic- coffees are roasted in small batches on site at Tru Bru. We love the full body of Tru Bru's medium roast Guatemala.

    What's to love besides the coffee?

    There's something special about looking out a coffee shop window to see riders trotting along a horse trail, especially in the otherwise human-congested Orange County. Bonus points to Tru Bru for being just yards away from a hitching post!

    Food & non-coffee beverages:

    • pastries
    • a small breakfast and lunch menu including eggs, a cheese plate, sandwiches, soups
    • vegan & gluten-free options
    • organic teas
    • local beers, California red wines, imported white wines, mimosas, sangria

    Location:

    • 7626 E. Chapman Ave. Ste. D, Orange 92868

    Third wave coffee arrived late, but hit hard in Orange County, California. Check out our five top picks for fair trade / direct trade coffee in this part of Southern California.

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    What did we miss?

    Do you have another favorite fair trade / direct trade coffee shop in Orange County? Let us know in the comments!


    Our favorite gadgets for at-home coffee brewing:

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