The first step in the supply chain is the supplier’s supplier, and in the case of coffee, coffee farms. An example of this is Doka Estates. At this plantation, the coffee beans are grown, sorted, pealed, dried, and stored. At this company, management must make decisions concerning both their employees and the pickers, who are not considered to be employees. The manager must decide the wages of workers who do tasks such as raking the beans to dry, or how much to pay a picker for one cajuela. Also, whether or not to provide housing to pickers along with other additional benefits. Upon our visit to Doka Estates, I was surprised to learn that pickers, one of the most vital factors in a coffee plantation, did not count as real employees. I was also surprised to discover that most pickers are not Costa Rican, but Nicaraguan. Doka was the first of many coffee company visits, and I definitely gained the most new knowledge about coffee from this visit.
The second step of the supply chain would be the supplier, or coffee mills. An example of a coffee mill is Coopedota. Coopedota has an interesting management style. There are 900 families involved in the Coopedota cooperative, and annually they all gather to discuss big decisions. During these yearly meetings, 15 council members are voted, and they will continue on to make smaller, day-to-day decisions, such as hiring a general manager. It is the management style of Coopedota to offer incentives to the farmers. There are 3 levels of quality, and as quality goes up, the farmer is compensated more for their efforts. Coopedota was also interesting for being carbon neutral certified and a member of the rainforest alliance. I think it is interesting that Coopedota handles having so many owners so well, and even though members are not required to stay it is rare for owners to leave the cooperative.
The third step of the supply chain is the manufacturers, or coffee roasters. An example of a roaster from our visits is 1820. At 1820, they go through three tests to ensure that the beans are as high quality as they should be. The first test takes place in the warehouse to check the bean before it is roasted. The second test takes place after roasting to make sure that the coffee meets standards thus far. The last test involves quality control to ensure that the produced coffee is acceptable. A manager must design and enforce these tests to ensure that no beans are mishandled. The manager also decides how many employees are needed to complete these and all other tasks, which is 56 in this case. At 1820, I wore a hair net and traveled deeper into the coffee making process than on other tours. I think this offered a unique learning perspective for me.
The fourth step of the supply chain is consumers, or retail shops. The biggest retail shopping company we faced was Britt. Britt has not only moved on from only selling coffee, but also has shifted towards selling an experience. For every new store location, Britt hires an image manager who, along with his or her team, researches and designs shops based on the setting. Britt will depict a store as beachy if located near the beach, for example. This is a very smart business tactic and adds a more personalized touch to the shopping experience.
The last step of the supply chain is the consumer’s consumers, or us. Usually, we buy our coffee from Starbucks or McDonald’s. However, throughout this trip, we have all spent an abundance of money on coffee and coffee related items at the company’s gift shops whenever given the chance. It says a lot about the success of the other steps in the supply chain that we would pay so much on multiple occasions, and the interest of the consumer could not be peaked without stellar management behind the scenes.