During our time here in Costa Rica, my main focus during coffee tours was sourcing. Each step in the supply chain has sourcing strategies and decisions to be made. The first step in the supply chain is a coffee farm. On coffee plantations, there are many raw materials that a farmer needs to grow healthy coffee plants. On farms like Monteverde, there can be a lot of additional costs and materials. They have animals to produce waste to create natural power and fertilizers, chemicals to prevent pests and disease, workers to monitor and tend to the coffee plants, water running through their farm coming from upstream neighbors, and beans to grow coffee plants. Monteverde walked us through their coffee plantation and farm. This showed me the hard work that goes into agriculture each and every day. This experience at Monteverde made me gain a new perspective and appreciation for farmers.
The second step in the supply chain is coffee mills. There were multiple plants that had milling and roasting processes in one facility. Doka walked us through their wet milling process. Doka has been using wet milling for a long time. Some of their machines came from London over 100 years ago. They grow their own coffee as well, so the first material they need in this milling process is coffee cherries. The coffee cherries will go through these machines from London by using water. The water is another essential material for this process. Without it, the wet milling process wouldn’t exist. Then after the husks are removed and the beans are separated into different quality classification piles, they are set out in the sun to dry. The raw materials needed here are workers, rakes to spread/mix the coffee while drying, patios to lay the coffee on, and the sun. After the beans reach the perfect humidity, they are packaged into burlap bags (and in some cases other materials) to be shipped out in their raw form with their parchment still attached. That being said, corporations like Doka need to purchase the materials to mill the beans, they need to purchase the materials to store and ship them as well.
At this point, the coffee can either be shipped (like stated above) or roasted. Now, I am going to go through the sourcing steps in the roasting process. The company I am going to use for this step is Café Britt. Café Britt is excellent at what they do. Although they weren’t my favorite business, they sure know how to market themselves and become successful in the international market. One thing that stood out to me in this roasting process was their strategy of sourcing from specific regions in Costa Rica. Each region has its own unique qualities such as body, aroma, flavor, and acidity. How does Café Britt accomplish this? The answer is simple. They only source the beans from the specific region that they are aiming to make a blend from. So, for the Tarrazú blend, they only source from Tarrazú (the same goes for each region’s blend). The mixture of these characteristics give each blend a unique and incomparable flavor. Then, Café Britt has to get these roasted blends to retailers and consumers. So, they need packaging. They make their packaging out of aluminum and plastic. Therefore, they need to source these materials in order to make their packaging, and keep their roasted blends fresh. They source the aluminum from foreign sources. They source the plastic domestically from Costa Rica. The plastic is recyclable as well. How do they let the consumers know what is inside the packaging? They print and add designs on the packaging. All of their designers are sourced from Costa Rica. The printing is outsourced from elsewhere. What they are left with are beautiful packages that convey the unique characteristics and culture of each region.
After the coffee is roasted and shipped, the packaged materials will reach a retailer or consumer. In this step, I’m going to address the coffee retailers and baristas. In both, there are materials needed to turn the roasted coffee beans into the final cup of coffee that is consumed. When we went to Coopedota, we learned first-hand what goes into the barista process. During our lesson, we learned that baristas need water, coffee, espresso machine, cups/mugs, blenders, milk, ice cream, chocolate sauce, ice, and baristas! I’m glad that we got to experience this because I never knew how much preparation went into making the cappuccinos that I purchase. It was amazing to see how talented you have to be to create a perfect-looking drink. The barista that we met trained for 10 years to perfect the art.
Lastly, roasted coffee in packaging can be shipped to retailers as available to purchase products. In this case, the consumer would pick up a K-Cup, whole bean or ground bean and make themselves a cup of coffee at home. This is where the product reaches the final end consumer. The materials a consumer might need to source are mugs, a Keurig, water, sugar, cream, and coffee. All in all, going through the entire coffee supply chain truly showed me how many raw materials are sourced to create the cup of coffee that I enjoy every day! I can’t even explain how much I appreciated this experience. I can’t wait to make my Costa Rican coffee at home! Pura Vida!