The topic of this thesis is the world coffee economy and its impact on countries of the global South through the extraction of wealth vis-à-vis increasing ethical concerns on the part of traders, roasters and consumers in the global North, including direct trade, CSR and coffee certification. My research question is whether a coffee industry guided by Northern ethical norms and values can have positive effects on the livelihoods of coffee producers. I hypothesize that current efforts such as CSR projects by roasters and retailers or NGO initiatives like that of Fair Trade International fall short of their promises. The latest development in the sector, direct trade coffee, might live up to higher expectations regarding the ethical aspect of the product. The paper is divided into three parts: First, I focus on coffee as a commodity, including the most important historical facts about the emergence of the market, its recent developments and characteristics. I look at how the coffee sector is embedded in the neoliberal capitalist system and how globalization has shaped the industry. The perspective of development theories will help to highlight the inequalities and imbalances involved in the cash crop. Second, I investigate ethics in the coffee economy regarding the livelihoods of coffee farmers and the impact of coffee cultivation on the environment. I will discuss coffee certification and CSR, critically analyzing the idea of ethical consumerism and the so-called Fair Trade fantasies. Third, I present a case study, outlining a direct trade relationship between an Austrian specialty roaster in Graz and a company in Nicaragua. My findings show that direct trade relationships can be very powerful in their effects, surpassing all previous efforts. Yet, true social and environmental sustainability in producer countries will not be achieved on a large scale by ethical consumerism or in times of neoliberal capitalism.