The coffee process has proven to be much more complicated that I initially realized. I began this trip believing that coffee and bananas should be an easy project when compared to damn gates or automobiles. While it is definitely more fun, the supply chains are just as complex if not more so. Taking just the farming into consideration, it includes everything from sourcing the coffee plants to knowing what pesticides to use on which diseases, to getting the packaging to actually be able to sell the beans. Coffee plantations must consider each one of these factors very carefully. Overlooking any single process could spell disaster for that years harvest. This is very important as most plantations sell their crops years in advance as a futures contract. Violating the contract can ruin reputations as well as cutting into any cash reserves they have.
Farming is only one component of the process. After the berries have finally ripened and been picked(each one by hand) they are transported to a mill to be processed from a coffee berry to an actual bean that can be sold. The process requires lots of water and friction. Together they can separate the good berries from the bad, and allow the bean to separate from the shell. Up until now the processor has had to source the berry, tractors, trucks, water, a facility, numerous machines, as well as plenty of labor and management. Yet the processing stage is not yet complete. They must buy yet another machine or can source more labor to manually sun dry the beans. In a machine this takes just a few days, but will cost much more up front. Manually is usually cheaper but will require lots of outdoor space and over two weeks of time. Finally the bean can be packaged(which can be a process in itself) and sent to a roaster.
The roaster seemingly has an easier job, but they ultimately ensure the quality of the coffee for the customer. The roaster therefore has the most pressure to deliver on their promise of a perfect bean. They first must source their raw beans. Perhaps they can find a large company such as Doka who can supply all of the beans they need. In Costa Rica however it is usually harder. Cafe Britt for instance uses over 3000 individual farms to source their coffee. If they are unhappy with the quality of the product they request a different batch, repeating the process until they find a batch they are happy with. After roasting in a machine for about 11-15 minutes depending on the company and the type of roast, the coffee will be packaged and sold to either stores, customers directly, or to companies like Tim Hortons and Dunkin.
Finally the customer has received their coffee(assuming there wasn’t a global pandemic to halt shipping). The customer may be someone at home with a coffee machine, but many times it also includes those who sell a ready made coffee, such as Starbucks. Starbucks is somewhat unique in the fact that they prefer to roast the coffee themselves. They will source the raw beans themselves somewhat disrupting the way the supply chain usually runs. They will act as both a roaster and a primary customer. After roasting the bean and adding syrups and sweeteners until the coffee cannot be tasted, they will finally sell it to the end consumer.