Value Chain

Coffee processing

Coffee is grown in tropical and subtropical regions around the equator. The two types of coffee plants widely cultivated are Robusta and Arabica. Ripe coffee cherries are harvested manually. The cherries undergo primary processing in the producing country before they are exported. Primary processing is carried out to separate the coffee bean from the skin and pulp of the cherry, and there are two methods of doing this. In the wet method, the harvested ripe cherries are pulped, fermented and washed, dried, peeled and polished. In the dry method the ripe cherries are dried and hulled. The end products of both methods are coffee beans, referred to in the trade as “Green” coffee. Wet processing produces ”Mild” coffee, usually of the Arabica type, and the dry method produces ”Hard” coffee, either Hard Arabica or Hard Robusta. The distinction is important as Mild Arabica, Hard Arabica and Hard Robusta coffees are traded separately.


Coffee trade

Most of the coffee produced is consumed in high-income countries. Therefore, more than 80 percent of the production is traded internationally as green coffee, generally packed in 60 kg bags. Green coffee is available to buyers either directly or via the spot markets in the US and Europe. International buyers are generally concerned with the uniformity and consistency of green coffee and they require information on the type of coffee, the type of primary processing, the country of origin and the official grade standard.


Coffee roasting

Roast analysis and cup testing are carried out to check the evenness of the roast and to look for any defects like over-drying or over-fermentation. Once the consignment arrives in the port of destination the coffee is cleaned again before it is sold. The international trader might sell it directly to a roaster, or to a broker. Roasters blend together different coffees, roast the blend, and grind it. Arabica is used for high quality coffee blends with a mild flavour. Robusta is used mainly for instant coffee and in blends with a medium-strong flavour. Instant coffee is manufactured by a separate process.


Coffee marketing

Globally, coffee for home consumption is mostly purchased in supermarkets. The food retail sector is highly concentrated in the US, UK and Northern Europe and plays a dominant role in the food marketing chain. Depending on the brand or outlet the price of conventional coffee varies considerably. All supermarkets use conventional coffee as a loss leader, and offer it at a very low price to attract consumers into their stores.