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The Coffee Supply Chain

Published on: 3/2/20

Coffee’s journey from tree to cup is involved, collaborative, and even a bit overwhelming. However, from its early beginnings to final brewing, and all the effort and expertise in between, it’s crucial to our understanding and production of a delicious product. So, with a warm mug in hand and no further ado, let’s dive into the coffee supply chain.

Step 1: Growing

Coffee grows in tropical climates along the equator, predominantly in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Coffee beans develop inside of bright red cherries that develop 3-4 years after a tree is planted. Coffee is harvested once a year, and the time of harvest is dependent upon the region in which the coffee is grown. The great news, though, is that no matter the time of year it’s harvesting season somewhere around the world! 

Step 2: Processing

Have you ever looked at a bag of coffee and read descriptors like natural, washed, semi-washed or honey-processed, and wondered what they meant? These terms refer to the process of extracting the coffee beans from the cherry. This can dramatically impact the quality and character of the coffee, which is why it’s important to note. Natural process and washed process are most commonly used at origin, so let’s break those down a bit.  

Natural Process: Upon harvest, coffee cherries are immediately laid out to dry in the sun for 8-10 days. During the drying process, the bean interacts with the drying fruit, which enhances the fruitiness of the coffee. 

Washed Process: After the coffee cherries are picked, a machine is used to manually remove the bean from the fruit. Beans are then transferred to a water tank, where fermentation is used to break down any remaining fruit residue.

Step 3: Purchasing

Green buyers are responsible for tasting and grading coffee based on industry-standard criteria. At origin, they learn about and taste multiple coffees to determine the quality, flavor profile and character. Each coffee receives a numerical score based on a 100 point grading scale, though coffee must score above an 80 to be considered ‘specialty’. Based on the results of the scoring, coffees will be purchased by green buyers, which will then be made available for purchase by coffee roasters everywhere.

Step 4: Roasting 

In the roasting process, coffee is transformed from its green, dense and flavorless state into a beautiful brown, fragrant and flavorful finished product. The roast is critical to the final product, as one coffee has the potential to come out of the roaster tasting completely different based on the speed, temperature and length. 

Our team roasts each coffee in a unique way that enhances the flavors and characteristics within it. We’ve been roasting as a company for over seven years, and are constantly seeking to learn and discover new ways of making our roasts better with each batch.  

Step 5: Brewing

We all get to be apart of the final step of the coffee supply chain, brewing! We get to take a product that’s been cultivated overseas and transform it into a great beverage. We love exploring the world of brewing and getting to share this passion with our community through Indie Coffee Roasters University. 

We absolutely love how coffee brewing feels like a hobby to invest in, rather than a chore. Practicing helps us to enhance our skill as there are endless ways to combine coffee with water. Whatever your preference, culture, timeline or skill level, there’s a brewing method that exists to fit your exact lifestyle. 

Looking for tips on brewing great coffee at home? Check out our top 5 home brewing tips post here!

Awareness Precedes Appreciation

As we mentioned, the scope of the coffee supply chain is incredibly vast. We believe that familiarizing ourselves with the process helps us to appreciate that fresh cup of coffee all the more. 

Interested in further education? Check out indiecoffeeroasters.com/education.

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