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Where do coffee beans come from?

Coffee beans travel a long way from the farm before they finally end up your cup. This journey is only possible thanks to the work of many people involved in harvesting, processing the beans, purchasing, transportation, exporting, roasting, packaging, grinding, and finally, the sale to the customer.

These stages, each of them an indispensable step to bringing you the most popular drink in the world, are known as the coffee value chain.

This commodity chain begins with the cultivation of the beans on coffee plantations in producing countries and ends with the purchase of roasted coffee by the final customer, in the countries where it is consumed.

It is a network that encompasses production processes and techniques, the final result of which is the sale of ready-to-brew coffee.

It includes the cataloging of production processes, the distribution and final consumption, the actors involved in each stage, and the legal and institutional framework.

Understanding each phase and its actors is crucial to successfully implementing traceability in the world of coffee. 

It is also vital to detect areas of opportunity in order to streamline processes, increase quality to make it possible to break into high-value markets, promote fair prices for producers, and improve the experience of enjoying this aromatic drink.

The five main stages of the coffee value chain

Essentially, this chain comprises five levels or stages, each of which is carried out by a specific actor.

1. Coffee producers

They are in charge of producing the beans, from their cultivation, care and harvest until they are processed. In some cases they do not carry out the processing themselves and their responsibility ends with the sale of the cherries.

2. Coffee traders

They collect the parchment coffee, pool it together and form batches for foreign buyers. Their role is to send the parchment coffee to a processing plant to transform it into green coffee, which will then be sent to the port of shipment.
In these stages, the coffee is under the provisional control of third-party service providers (transportation companies, processing plants, port operators), although the trading company retains ownership and responsibility for the product all the way up to the following stage in the chain.

3. Importers

They organize the  and logistics to transport the coffee to the roasting company. As a rule, importers do not transform the coffee beans in any way. Their responsibility ends with the delivery of the green coffee to the roasting company.

4. Roasters

Most roasting companies hire an importer to help secure the green coffee they need. Others buy their coffee directly from the producer. Roasters receive the shipment of coffee, roast it, in some cases grind it, and package it for distribution to final customers.

5. Distribution companies

They bring the roasted coffee to the customer. The roasted beans are delivered to coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and large retail chains through a transportation network.

Some roasters distribute their own roasted coffee, but most sell their product through the various distribution channels.
There are many commercialization strategies involving a wide variety of wholesale and retail intermediaries. It is these companies that are in closest contact with and have direct responsibility to consumers.