This overview article examines the various dimensions of sustainable coffee as well as the actors involved and their perceptions of how to advance the market from niche to mainstream. The issues at hand are very complex, with different types of coffee producers, manufacturing/roasting companies and consumers, and a variety of standards, all with their own peculiarities and views on what is the best approach, and characterized by a divergent potential for ‘scaling up’. Policymakers, managers and NGOs thus face difficult choices as to which path to pursue as there is no clear consensus on a concrete ‘solution’ to this ‘wicked problem’. The article analyses the market for sustainable coffee, the different types of certified coffee available and their peculiarities considering production and supply perspectives, in relation to consumers who buy the final product. Implications are discussed as well, in the context of complexity and confusion, and the need for more complementarity. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.