Fair Trade Cafe: integrating coffee and art ‘with a conscience’

Have you ever wondered where your coffee comes from? Do you know if the farmers cultivating your espresso beans are given adequate working conditions and decent wages? At Fair Trade Cafe, they take that sort of thing seriously. Located on Central and Roosevelt, in front of the light rail, Fair Trade opened about five years ago and has remained loyal to its founding values.

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Top left: The outside view of Fair Trade Cafe, found on Central and Roosevelt. Top right and bottom: Inside views of the coffee shop.

“The scope of the cafe is found right in its name,” barista Beau Feger-Owsley said. “It’s a company that makes fair trades to ensure that workers get paid well and that all of our coffee is locally roasted so customers know exactly where their product is coming from.”

Fair Trade’s ideology is advertised in their motto as well. The idea behind “Coffee with a Conscience” is displayed on their home page, http://www.azfairtrade.com, and there’s also a wall dedicated to the painting of the slogan right when you walk into the cafe.

Aside from their commitment to sell only fairly-traded products in their store, a number of other things set this cafe apart from others. Not only do they serve coffee and provide free Wi-Fi, their menu ranges from pastries and freshly-made sandwiches to smoothies, teas and even an ice-cream bar.

My friend got the original hummus and vegetable plate, and we both enjoyed iced Americanos. (photographed below) Both items were delicious!

The cafe also hosts special events such as independent movie premieres and shows by local bands. It stays open during First Friday art walks and since it includes an art gallery, it attracts people especially on those nights, according to Feger-Owsley. When asked about all the art hung up around the cafe that is available for purchase, he explained that Fair Trade is also a company that supports artists and their work.

“Art’s good,” Feger-Owsley replied. “It’s good for a city, and it’s good for people to be expressive. Why wouldn’t we want to be a part of that? It makes the shop look cool too.”

The coffee house is open until 10 p.m. every night and is just a light rail stop away from ASU downtown, but the walk there isn’t too bad if you choose that mode of transportation instead. There’s also another Fair Trade Cafe located in Civic Space Park right next to the downtown campus; however, its times vary and they don’t stay open after 7 p.m. The atmosphere and menu in both locations is quite similar though, there’s just more of a variety of customers at the Roosevelt one from what I’ve experienced.

Downtown ASU professor, Rosemarie Dombrowski, goes to the Civic Space Park location almost weekly. I first heard of the cafe when she suggested we meet there to go over one of my English papers last year, and it was obvious she was enthralled by it.

“I love the underground entrance, the patio and the water feature,” she said. “It’s visually interesting and has a relaxing, intellectually stimulating feel. They also have the best vegan cookies and donuts!”

The “Coffee with a Conscience” motto blended together with the artwork also keeps Dombrowski a Fair Trade regular. She wishes that “every business operated on that principle,” but feels that downtown Phoenix does a good job of mixing art into our everyday lives otherwise.

Finally, when asked to explain her absolute favorite thing about the coffee shop, Dombrowski stated it was their products and seating.

“The former are fresh, healthy, delicious and ethical,” she explained. “The latter is comfortable, fosters discussion and provides excellent spaces for workshops. I suppose that combination of elements coupled with art is very ‘college.'”

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Top: Some of the artwork displayed and available for purchase in the cafe. Bottom: The wall depicting Fair Trade’s motto, “Coffee with a Conscience.”