FTO Head to Head Battle: Cafe Chicago’s Chiapas v. Trader Joe’s Honduran

 If you know anything about Tony Donutz, then you know I love coffee.  The problem with coffee is that it takes a lot of water and sometimes questionable business practices are used.  There is a solution to some of that silly business and that is where buying Fair Trade Organic helps to ease my white guilt.  Organic doesn’t mean much for some produce, but coffee is a really important one because pesticides and contaminants are always going to seep into soil.  And being Fair Trade is great because it may cost pennies more on our end, but it helps immensely on the other end.  Let’s be honest.  Coffee is a luxury item and isn’t an essential part of any diet.  I decided to do this test because you can get Fair Trade Organic Coffee at Trader Joe’s for just over $9.00/lb.  FTO coffee from Café Chicago is $13.99/lb. My main question here is this: When it comes to coffee, pound for pound, which gives you the better value for your money while remaining socially conscious.


Yummy Beans
Honduran Beans from the Marcala Region

First was the Honduran from Trader Joe’s. This is a Medium Dark Roast from the Marcala Region of Honduras.  Central American Coffees have always been so consistent and have the flavor profile that I desire most in a cup of coffee.  I feel like Mexican and Central American beans make great morning coffee.  The Honduran Medium Roast had a honey roasted flavor reminiscent of nuts with just a cocoa hint. I brewed it in a French press and this coffee came out with less flavor than I really wanted, but at $9.14/lb. I can’t really complain.  The roast on the beans was very consistent and you can tell the coffee buyer for Trader Joe’s takes their job very seriously.  The canister it comes in is very sturdy too and can be up cycled to a dry storage container.  These come in handy when you buy 20 pounds of rice/beans/grains but only need a few cups on hand.  I would say that this coffee for the money is hitting the mark.  Trader Joe’s is known for giving you a lot for your money.  They delivered on that promise here.  It’s not easy finding FTO coffee that is quality under $10/lb. Mariano’s has a bulk coffee section that sells out of FTO and Shade Grown beans in days because of $7.49/lb. price point.   

Up Close and Personal w/ Café Chicago Chiapas
Up Close and Personal w/ Café Chicago Chiapas

The second coffee I tried was the Chiapas by Café Chicago.  These beans were perfectly roasted and the bold flavor that was derived from the French Press was incredible and deep.  This cup tasted like roasted nuts and the darkest chocolate.  Rich earth after notes and buttery mouthfeel made me want to have a piece of chocolate cake.  The people at Café Chicago are also very socially conscious which makes a difference.  Trader Joe’s may treat their employees right, but they are a behemoth in the food retail industry.  Café Chicago gets extra marks for being small. At 13.99/lb. the price is worth it if you want a little some thing extra.  I feel like it’s nice to have a whole pound instead of the 14oz canister you get at Trader Joe’s. The cellophane window in the bag is also a profound statement by Café Chicago saying they believe you should be able to smell and see your product before you buy it. The Honduran Beans from Trader Joe’s may have been in a warehouse for months before distribution and the beans from Chicago are roasted here. 

Café Chicago
Café Chicago

So What is the verdict Tony Donutz? I like Trader Joe’s and the values they give the customer.  The customer service is also second to none.  If you need FTO coffee and love all types of blends from different regions, stick to Trader Joe’s. They have some of the best prices on FTO coffees and Organic Products around.  If you don’t mind spending a little more and want a slightly better made coffee then go for Café Chicago Chiapas. It’s bold and flavorful and tastes great all day.


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