Time for the Taste Test

After my past two weeks in Costa Rica, I have learned an abundant amount of information about the coffee industry. With regard to the supply chain of coffee, I can easily relate how my topic of logistics is applied to each step. Examining each of the coffee companies that I visited, I can take the relevant information I was given from each and relate them to each step in the process of making coffee: the coffee farm, the coffee mill, the roasting facility, the retailer, and finally the customer.

The first step in the coffee supply chain takes place at coffee farms. This first step relates to logistics because a company needs to decide whether they are growing their own cherries or acquiring them from another company. Doka and Life Monteverde grew their cherries on their own farms and then transported these cherries to their mills. Doka also sold the cherries to other companies who wanted to purchase just the cherry and then mill it them self. Coopedota is one of the companies that buys just the cherry and then has the cherry transported to its plant to mill. Cafe Rey and Cafe Britt however bought beans and had beans them to their facilities from local farmers. In addition to the cherry picking, farms need workers to pick their products. Many farms import workers from Nicaragua. Doke provides both transportation and housing for their workers will they are working for them. Life Monteverde also provides housing for their workers.

After coffee is picked from coffee trees as a cherry, the cherry needs to be milled into the form of the green bean. Most farms that grow cherries, mill the bean at the same plant. At Doka, cherries are picked from different farms in the surrounding area and then brought to its main facility by truck to be milled. Cafe Britt and Cafe Rey purchase the coffee already in green bean form and have them delivered to their roasting facilities. Cafe Rey purchases from farms in all the eight farming regions in Costa Rica, while Cafe Britt just acquires there beans from a bunch of different farms in Costa Rica. Buying from multiple farms insures diversity in the product and protection in case one farm has a bad crop season. Cafe Rey is in charge of getting the milled green bean to its facility. They set a price for small farms and them pay them this price for product delivery. However, Cafe Britt puts the responsibility on the small farms. This means the small farms will need to have their own trucks to drive the facility and have insurance in case something goes wrong during the transport. In order to transport the bean correctly to the roastery, the beans must stay fresh. Companies ensure this by placing them in vegatable sacks and lining the trucks they are transported in with paper.

When the bean is now at the roastery, it needs to stored before and after its roasting process. Doka, Life Monteverde, and Coopedota have their roasting plant on the same plantation as their mill. Therefore, they can simply transport from station to station by forklift. Cafe Rey and Cafe Britt have their beans stored in a warehouse while they wait to roast it. In these warehouses, the beans are stacked in their vegatable sacks. Each stack is labeled depending on its arrival date to the warehouse, farm it came from, and amount included. These sacks are transported to the roaster by forklift when it is time for them to be roasted. Cafe Rey keeps an inventory of roasted beans in stalk at a separate warehouse at all times meanwhile Cafe Rey roasts their beans to order. Once the beans are roasted they are again stored at a warehouse. In all of the warehouses at all times, the beans and the roasted beans are checked on constantly making sure they stay fresh. Freshness is determined by if the bean is at a constant humidity of between 8 and 12 percent.

After the coffee beans are roasted, they can next be sold to a retail store or a barista. Doka lays the responsibility on their buyer to get their roasted bean to their facility. However, Cafe Rey and Cafe Britt are in charge of getting their final product to its next place. They therefore need the proper insurance and transportation vehicles to delivery their products to its next user. Coopedota is similar to Doka as it delivers its final product to the seaport but once it is there then it is no longer Coopedota’s responsibility. Cafe Britt has a global market and therefore has warehouses in multiple places around the world closer to their target retailers in order to make delivery more efficient. Plane and boats are used to globally export the products with necessary paperwork for customs filled out. Cafe Rey uses a salesman and their own trucks to deliver their products locally but globally they decide on an exporting company based on price and date the delivery is needed. The packaging used by Cafe Britt and Cafe Rey are layered metals that allow for the product to breathe as a one way valve is placed inside. The packaging also protects from light, oxygen, and water. Inside the packagingg are either ground or whole bean roasted coffee. Whole bean stays fresh for longer but ground is usually desired by the customer. For this reason most companies have more ground coffee in stalk. Coopedota for example usually only has around 20-30 % of its coffee sold as whole bean. All companies require appropriate paperwork and contracts to be filled out before delivery. Costa Rica in general requires all coffee companies to follow ICAFE regulations, which include reporting average sale price and amount of product sold. Communication through email is done throughout the delivering process as well.

Now once the product is at the retailer, the customer provides its own transportation to obtain the final product. If however a customer purchases a product online, the coffee company will have to provide transportation or the use of an exporter to get it to that customer. Logistics concerns money when speaking about the customer. For example, the customer needs to pay for the final product of coffee because then that money is sent backwards down the supply chain to pay all parties involved in the process of delivering the package to its final destination. Information is also important for the customer. Reporting problems or concerns with quality or arrival means the step responsibility for the problem will be notified so they can attempt to fix the current issues.

Overall, after learning about the whole supply chain not only concerning coffee but in all aspects, I learned to appreciate the hard work that goes into the cup of coffee I enjoy daily. The products we enjoy everyday go through a multitude of steps and process in order to reach our hands. It is awe stricking to see so many people working together in their part of the process knowing that the end product takes teamwork and dedication. I will think of Costa Rica and their dedication to coffee every time I enjoy my cup of joe daily.

Leave a Reply