Sourcing Coffee

Coffee farms probably have the most sourcing related issues relative to any other member of the coffee supply chain.  The farm owner/operator is responsible for sourcing the coffee plants, the labor to harvest the coffee cherries, the packaging to store them during transport (if any) and the means to transport them.  In my experience here in Costa Rica I have observed that most coffee farms grow their own coffee trees from seeds.  This is a big investment because it takes a coffee plant 3-4 years after planting to produce cherries, however, after they begin producing they can do so for 25-30 years. In Costa Rica 60-80% of the labor used to pick coffee cherries comes from Nicaragua because Costa Rica has a higher standard of living and more Costa Ricans are pursuing educations and therefore avoiding jobs that involve high amounts of manual labor.  If farmers want to package the cherries before sending them to the mill they must design such packaging and purchase it as well as the means to transport the cherries. Some farmers own their own trucks that transport the beans but others lease trucks from another company due to reasons such as high maintenance and utility costs.

Sourcing for coffee mills can be seen in where the mills purchase the cherries, the equipment to mill the cherries, the labor to operate the equipment, and the methods of packaging and transportation the cherries to a roaster. Where a mill purchases the coffee cherries mostly depends on the quality of cherries desired and the cost of them. Many farms mill their own cherries, however, independent mills may look for cherries  of a specific variety, grown in specific environment conditions, or grown under certain sustainability standards.  Most coffee will be milled as it is picked so this will occur during the picking season meaning that, like the pickers, mill workers will be mostly seasonal.  As far as milling equipment, where this is sourced and how large it is depends on cost and quantity of cherries to be milled.  A coffee miller will then have to design and purchase the packaging for their milled green beans.  After this, the miller will have to transport them either through owned or leased transportation (issues relevant to this are identical to those of the farmer).

Coffee roasters and exporters must source the green beans they want to roast, the roasting equipment, labor to operate the equipment, and packaging for the roasted beans. Roasters may source green beans and based on many of the same factors that the millers used (variety, growing location/conditions, sustainability standards of the farms).  Like the miller, the equipment roasters source depends on the quantity they want to roast. The roaster may sell whole roasted beans or ground beans, however, if the roaster wants to grind the beans they must purchase the equipment to do so. Labor for roasters will be relevant year round, this is because the green beans can be stored and roasted over time to meet demand, this labor will also have to be properly trained on how to operate the equipment.  If the roaster sells directly to consumer s under their own brand then they must carefully design their packaging, if the beans will be sold to a retailer who will resell them under their own brand then the design of the packaging is not as important but still must be considered when being purchased. Transportation to send the beans to the retailers could be bought or least based on the best economic option.

Retail stores and cafes have 2 major sourcing needs: coffee beans and packaging for the coffee to be sold. Where a store or cafe purchases it’s beans depends on the quality of the beans, price, sustainability practices of upstream suppliers, and other similar factors. Usually packaging is purchased from an external supplier because it is would cost more for the coffee producer to make its own packaging than buy it. The type of packaging depends on type of coffee to be sold (beans, grounds,  brewed), where it will be sold (grocery chains, exclusive retail locations etc.), the companies brand and message, and any important info to be conveyed to the consumer. Finally, consumers source the actually coffee itself from the coffee sellers. They do so depending on brand or roast preference, type of coffee preference (beans, grounds or brewed), convenience of location and price. Consumers have unique preference related to where they want to purchase their coffee and the type of coffee they like to purchase. This causes a great variety of  places to buy coffee and different types of coffee to buy in the market place.

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