From the plantation to our cup, or the transport of coffee


Coffee is produced in more than 75 countries along the equator. For example, it is grown in South America, where Brazil and Colombia areamong the largest producers . It is also found in Central America (Guatemala, Costa Rica), Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania) and South-East Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia). Coffee is even grown in Hawaii.


Before the coffee beans can get on a ship, plane or truck, they must first get the processed cherries and beans off the plantation. This is usually one of the most difficult tasks, as plantations are usually in hard-to-reach places. Often there is not even a road leading to them, so the farmers have to build it themselves.

In different countries on different plantations, coffee pickers have to go to more than 2500 m above sea level to access the best coffee cherries. Once they have filled their bags, they go down to the processing plants. After harvesting and processing, the coffee is ready to be shipped.


The coffee beans are transported from the farmers before they are roasted, so they are green coffee. Because coffee beans are sensitive to moisture, they should be packed in bags that allow air to circulate. Sealed bags would encourage condensation and thus damage the coffee.

When transporting, natural fibres such as jute are preferred to allow circulation. However, jute bags tend to retain water on the surface (making only the outer layer of the coffee more susceptible to rot). The coffee is shipped in 60 or 69 kilograms.

Moisture is the main enemy as the coffee is in many cases shipped by boat across the ocean.

The green coffee beans do not last long in the light and quickly lose their flavour and may turn rancid. Transport across the ocean to each overseas country must be kept to a minimum to preserve the freshness of the beans.

Coffee destined for supermarkets, café chains, etc. is usually roasted in the country of origin and travels in vacuum bags. Roasting further accelerates the degradation process, as it brings coffee oil to the surface of the beans, which causes a faster oxidation and rancidity process.

The moisture content in the rooms where the coffee is left to 'rest' must necessarily be below 50%.

One of the better ways of packaging coffee for transport is the use of GrainPro bags. These bags protect the coffee from odours from the environment and also from moisture, so they work much better than jute bags. The very best method, and the most expensive, is vacuum packing. This protects the coffee from moisture, odours from the environment, air (oxygen) and also prolongs the freshness of the green beans.


Selective coffee is an exclusive commodity and must be treated as such during transport. The coffee is transported in a GrainPro-lined bag, which protects it from moisture and also from various possible pests. It can also be vacuum packed in 30 kg boxes.


Although we often tend to think that the quality of coffee lies solely in the specific characteristics of each variety or in the extraction and sorting techniques of the beans, we should bear in mind that its packaging and transport is very crucial to its final taste and quality. If coffee beans are not stored correctly during transport, they could absorb too much moisture, which would negatively affect the quality and taste of the coffee.


Coffee is most often transported in containers on ships for faster handling and cheaper container transport. Transport to Europe is 95 % covered in this way. The beans are stored in bags, but the coffee containers must meet the necessary precautions. Both standard conventional containers and ventilated containers are used.

Both types of containers transporting coffee must be placed below deck during shipping so that they are not exposed to excessive temperature fluctuations that can cause the beans to steam and beans to deteriorate due to moisture. Moisture is the biggest enemy of coffee beans during transport.

Coffee beans must be protected from frost without fail. The best temperature for transport is between 10 and 20℃. The biggest problems with temperature fluctuations occur when transporting beans from the tropical summers of South America in the southern hemisphere to the European winters in the northern hemisphere. Temperature differences can reach up to 50℃. Cooling is essential so that the grains do not dehydrate. It is also important to measure the temperature in the container every day and check the ventilation regularly. Insufficient ventilation can lead to fermentation and rotting of the grains.

The bags of coffee then go in containers that can hold about 250 bags. Unfortunately, sometimes the containers sit in the ports for unnecessarily long periods and the coffee suffers as a result.


Air transport is less common. Air freight is used to transport coffees that are more expensive and need to be moved quickly to their destination. However, it has also been found that due to air pressure, coffee can lose up to approximately 25% of its original flavour.


Once the coffee reaches the continent to which it is to be transported, it goes either directly to roasters who have pre-arranged to take the coffee from the plantations or to companies who then resell the green coffee.

The green coffee bean then goes to the roaster where another important process takes place.

The roasted coffee then travels to the shops, to the cafes and to your table in the form of our beloved beverage. The coffee journey is a long process, but well worth it. What do you think?