Green Coffee Buying Guide

Order coffee

Where else to start but with your order. At Lázeňská, we buy from companies that deliver coffee to Europe. Specifically, these are: Mercanta, Sucafina, Nordic Approach.

Buying coffee through these suppliers is advantageous in several ways:

  • With several years of cooperation, you get the assurance of quality.
  • Thecompanies buy coffee for several roasters at once, so it is easier to fill the container in which the coffee is sent.
  • Thecoffee undergoes further quality control.

Thecompanies send information about new coffees mainly in the form of a newsletter. This contains information about the coffee and the farmers. Based on the newsletter, the roasters then order samples to assess whether or not they are interested in the coffee.

As our roaster Zdeněk told me, variety is important to him when choosing coffee. "We want everyone to be able to find something to their liking in our current range of coffees, which is why we also focus on completing the portfolio when selecting."

Only large roasters that are able to buy coffee in really large quantities can afford to buy directly from farmers. But that doesn't mean it's impossible for smaller roasters to get to the farm. One way is to order samples from a supplier. Based on the samples, you can choose the farm that interests you the most and then you can go there.

Obligations of the supplier

  • Providing samples of coffee so that the buyer can choose.
  • Ensuring that the selected coffee is booked with the supplier (this could be the farmer, the processing plant where the coffee is processed, a broker or another exporter) and processed according to the buyer's instructions.
  • Complying with shipping instructions and ensuring that export documents are correct.
  • Delivery of documents for approval.
  • Booking the shipment to the port.

Delivery of documents is very important. This is mainly because if the supplying company and then the roaster does not have the necessary documents for the coffee, they cannot sell it as choice coffee.

Duties of the green coffee buyer

  • Careful monitoring and recording of all quality factors, such as themoisture content of the coffee sample.
  • Providing proof and instructions for transport.
  • Approving all documents and ensuring that they meet the customs requirements of the country to which the coffee is being shipped.
  • From the time the sample is approved, quality control of each batch must be ensured.

The most common problems with coffee on delivery

Despite years of experience, sometimes a purchase does not go as expected.

Poor quality coffee

What has been the experience of our roaster Zdenek with buying green coffee? "When inferior coffee arrived, the price was to blame. That's why really cheap coffee is not worth buying. Thanks to our long-standing relationships with suppliers we can trust, we haven't had any bad coffee for a long time."

Nordic Approach also has experience with lower quality coffee - that is, coffee that is under-ripe, over-ripe, old beans or beans with defects.

That is why it is important to monitor the aforementioned factors such as bean moisture. When bad coffee arrives, it is difficult to recover your money. The most you can get is usually a discount on your next purchase.

Damaged packaging

Transportation of the coffee and how it is transported is also important to maintain the quality of the coffee. Coffee is transported in GrainPro bags, which ensure that the coffee is sufficiently insulated. At the same time, the bags must not be placed on the ground so that they do not absorb moisture from the coffee. Pallets also play an important role.

The coffee is stored in GrainPro bags before roasting and in the roasting room. Here, however, it does not wait long for further processing. Source.

Coffee rejection at the port

One of Nordic Approach's other experiences. I already talked about the importance of documents a few lines above. Nordic Approach has also experienced situations where themarkings on the bags do not match the bill of lading, there were errors in the certificate or the tags with the markings were missing from the bags.

Although the dealer has been responsible for most of these problems, they have not always been so willing to address them. Often the buyer ends up taking the hit.

Sending coffee to Europe

What do companies face when shipping? I'll give you an insight into how thorny the journey of a coffee bean can sometimes be by looking at the experience of Nordic Approach representatives.

Situations in coffee growing countries are not so idyllic, so you may find, for example, that various groups will prevent your coffee from ever leaving its 'home' district.

Poor infrastructure or power outages, and thus broken internet,don't make the journey any easier . Government regulations change very frequently. Workers can also go on strike or you simply don't have anything to ship your coffee on or in because you don't have a free truck, container or ship.

This horror scenario, however, is also not so often a reality thanks to the team that is in place. Coffee is an important source of money for many residents, so the government has strict regulations in this area.

Thefirst thing to do is to create a contract for each coffee lot, this is then confirmed by the coffee importer, company and supplier. The contract goes to the National Bank of Ethiopia, which reviews the contract, and if the supplier and client seem able to deliver what they have promised, the bank issues a letter of credit - one of many documents that are required before the supplier can prepare to export.

Should there be a change in the contract, the bank must re-approve it. This can mean delays of several weeks.

Then everything starts to get ready to go. Theinstructions will specify exactly how the coffee should be packaged, the type of container and other details, such as whether the batches must be separated by plastic, whether a cardboard lining is required to protect the bags, special requirements for labeling the bags and more.

A sign of coffee quality is also the same size. Different bean sizes would be a problem in roasting, which would then not be uniform.

The shipping instructions also indicate how much coffee should be taken from the lot for samples before shipment (usually 500 g), the permitted moisture content of the coffee (usually 9,5 % and 11,5 % at the time of shipment) and the maximum water activity (usually 0,6). Photographs of the containers are also included.

The following documents are usually required for the containers:

  • three original copies of the bill of lading, indicating the consignee
  • invoice
  • certificate of origin
  • phytosanitary certificate
  • a certificate stating that the coffee is not genetically modified
  • weight certificate

The last step before shipment is milling. During this process, however, the beans are not ground as they are before preparation. During milling, the remaining parchment must be removed from the beans. Itis not good to prolong the coffee journey so that the coffee does not lose quality, so the milling also needs to be solved quickly.

Selective coffee requires special attention. Additionally, by making it in small batches you need to wait for the machines to clean and calibrate, which can happen once a week. The coffee is ground afterwards to ensure that it is not contaminated with lower quality coffee residues.

This whole process takes about 4-8 weeks. It is now to be hoped that the samples taken from the containers are not rejected, as then the whole process would be repeated.

An example has been shown forcoffee from Ethiopia, but the situation is quite similar in other countries. The green coffee suppliers, in this way, get the coffee to their warehouses in Europe, where they check its quality (by cupping) and then send it on to roasters all over Europe.