For countless individuals, coffee is a staple of their ordinary daily routine. Also, its popularity is evident in the worldwide market — worldwide coffee production arrived at 158.6 million 60-kilogram bags in 2018, up from 148.6 million 60-kilogram bags in 2015. Every cup of coffee contains around 70 coffee beans. So where do all these beans come from to fuel this magical substance? Let's have a closer look at the journey of the humble #coffeebean
The Links in the Coffee Supply Chain
Globally, there a basically three main coffee growing regions - Central and South America, Central Africa and the Middle East and South-East Asia. These are known as the Bean Belt due to their locations between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
Farmers in these regions often operate on farms as small as 1 or 2 hectares. In addition to growing, some farmers also harvest and do preliminary processing where they dry or hull the beans.
Processors are simply farmers that have machinery to process their coffee from beginning to end. Sometimes it's a collective effort between farmers, processors and community to process the coffee as best they can. The processing of coffee cherries will be discussed in a future article.
Intermediaries are involved in many stages of the process - buying, transporting and selling - intermediaries perform several tasks and there can be up to 5 difference intermediaries involved in the supply chain.
In countries where the government controls the coffee trade - like Ethiopia - government agents are involved throughout the coffee production process. However, this is an entirely separate subject and might be worth visiting in the near future. The role of these agents is often to buy coffee from producers and then sell it on auction to international buyers.
Exporters are responsible for buying various varieties of coffee on auction and then selling it to suppliers/brokers. Exporters also bring a level of expertise to the process, using their knowledge of the location and local farmers to pick out the best products.
Suppliers/brokers sell coffee beans to roasters at previously agreed upon quantities and prices.
A roaster now takes the green coffee beans and roasts them into the familiar dark brown beans that we all know and love. Oftentimes roasteries are open to the public and they sell their final products in their own shopfronts. Others ship their product to coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and grocery stores and other retailers that provide coffee to the end consumer.
Retailers take on the form of any place that sells coffee - large chain stores aside, coffee can also be sold in boutique stores, catering outlets and even online shops and speciality stores.
As the above process outlines, the coffee supply chain is quite extensive; however it can also be very few links. Many different factors can influence this process - climate, price, even politics.
However, it is important that each link performs its duty without fault. This is imperative to bring that magical hot beverage all the way from a farm somewhere in the world, to end up to your cup.