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  • Writer's pictureCafé Porte

Traceability of Specialty Coffee

“Traceability is the ability to trace each coffee bean from end to end, from the selection of the seed for planting the coffee tree to the cup of coffee that reaches the final consumer.”

Porte coffee traceability infographic

Increasing consumer demand for sustainable products is driving the introduction and expansion of a rapidly growing market segment: products produced and sourced in sustainable and responsible ways. /strong>.

Today, consumers no longer just accept marketing campaigns from manufacturers that claim a single origin or a natural process, but need the certainty of that the products they are purchasing come from truly sustainable crops. This is nothing more than a unique opportunity to promote the definitive implementation of a complete and rigorous traceability system in the world of coffee. It is to consolidate a system that will allow all of us who love coffee to learn even more about the product and improve our experience with coffee.

To satisfy this, at Porte we have committed ourselves to developing and carefully monitoring each step of the entire production chain, from the germination of the seed itself, to the moment in which one of our clients receives one of our coffee containers. specialty roasted grain.

It is true that in the agro-commercial chain from the initial point to the last there is a whole chain of "partners" or intermediaries that participate, it is essential to have knowledge and control of each of them in order to ensure the correct traceability of the product.

Agro-commercial chain

Broadly speaking we can identify the following 5 levels:

As is logical, the first person responsible for the chain is the coffee producer himself, whose responsibility lies in production, from the planting, care and harvesting of the coffee plantations. In some cases and depending on the capacity of each coffee grower, their responsibility also includes the processing of the coffee. On other occasions, the coffee grower does not assume this last process and his responsibility ends with the sale of the coffee cherries, before pulping.

At a second level we find the companies that are in charge of collecting parchment coffee, which are in charge of selecting beans and forming batches of green beans to be offered to foreign buyers. The trend is that the coffee growers themselves join together in associations to carry out this step and, in addition to controlling the quality of the product, eliminate an intermediary that will increase the price of the coffee.

Your responsibility for the product ends once the coffee has been sent to a roaster or has been shipped at a port of departure from the country. In these stages, the coffee is no longer under the control of the coffee grower and his temporary responsibility passes into the hands of different service providers such as transporters, port operators. In our case, it is the coffee farmer himself who is in charge of this phase, ensuring the correct selection of the beans.

At a third level we have the "brokers" or importers, who are in charge of organizing the purchase and the logistics for transporting the coffee to the buyer, who in turn can be a roaster or a logistics company that in turn will resell the coffee to another company / person.

Sometimes importers can buy coffee on their own, whether green or roasted beans, and then own the product and dispose of it freely. On other occasions they only act as a link between the coffee producer and the company that needs to buy it. In any case, their level of responsibility is very high since they are the articulators of the chain at an international level and in the case of green coffee (or parchment), they are responsible for the product before the roasters. As far as we are concerned, we have a person who is part of our project who is in charge of this phase and who carries out the import work exclusively for our coffee.

Then, at the fourth level we find the buyers of the raw material, which tend to be mostly roasting companies. Most hire the services of an importer to get the green coffee they need, but more recently, some roasters buy their coffee directly from coffee growers or producer organizations. The latter in principle directly benefits the coffee grower since he gets more money for his harvest and the roaster, because it allows him to control the quality of the coffee and establish a relationship of trust with the producer, which will result in a benefit for both parties.

The roasting companies receive the green coffee, roast it, some grind it and subsequently package it for distribution to the last link in the chain, which corresponds to the distributors or final consumers. We roast the coffee at origin, controlling its exact point at all times and we sell it directly to the final consumer. You won't find our coffee in supermarkets, food chains or even coffee shops. We have focused on the end customer and although it is a slower process in terms of distribution, we prefer it this way to have greater control of the entire process.

As we said previously, the last link in the chain corresponds to the distribution of roasted coffee to clients and final consumers. Some roasters are directly distributing their own coffee and others are marketing it through other channels, such as supermarkets, gourmet stores, etc.

What is the objective of traceability?

Any traceability system must allow ordering and following the product flows in the different stages of the chain that we mentioned above.

In the coffee sector these criteria have basically been unified into three:

• Production system and environment. This in order to identify and separate the coffee according to the system that has been used for its production.

• Quality. The aim is to evaluate its physical performance (grain size, number of defects) and its organoleptic properties of the grain in the cup (aroma, body, acidity).

• Origin. It refers to the geographical origin of the coffee to determine the social or ethnic group of the producers.

Logistics units

Every traceability system needs to establish reference logistic units for its organization. What is sought is to define clearly identifiable, separable, locatable and traceable physical units, which in the case of coffee are:

  • Sacks: It is the base logistics unit. There are different types of bags, for the different stages of the chain, from the storage of the parchment coffee by the producers to the shipment of the lots. Bags can be considered as individual units or constituent elements of a larger logistic unit (sublot, lot).

  • Sub-lots: It is the central logistics unit to ensure the traceability of the coffee supply chain. The sublots are made up of a set of bags.

  • Lots: It is the largest logistics unit in the coffee supply chain (in producing countries) and corresponds to the marketing unit for producer companies. You must specify that a "Lot" It does not imply a specific quantity, since there can be small ones (micro-lots or nano-lots that do not exceed 50kg) and larger lots in which we talk about tons. The lots are in turn made up of a set of bags, coming from one or more sub-lots. The lots are generally associated with another higher logistics unit, which is the container, which is used for maritime or air transportation.

To take into account

Like any system, this one does not lack certain critical points in all the links or stages of the chain, to which special attention must be paid.

• The difficulty of being able to guarantee 100% the origin and production conditions. Most relationships are built on trust between the parties, but there is always the possibility of deception, mix-ups and changes in the benefit and phases.

coffee transportation.

• The lack of transparency and honesty at the time of collection. Less and less, but it is not unusual for some to say that the origin of coffee is other than the true one. This has led to several roasters working hand in hand, directly with the coffee grower to ensure the veracity of its origin.

• Lastly, there is a certain absence of control mechanisms for logistical units (bags, sub-lots, lots) and information registration at different stages, which complicates being able to carry out complete traceability. That said, it is also true that there is increasing awareness of its importance and all traceability protocols are being rigorously applied.

Our commitment

For our part, we want to demonstrate our commitment to the quality and safety of the Specialty Coffee that we are marketing.

In our traceability system, we maintain exhaustive control in each of the phases of the evolutionary and productive process of coffee; This includes germination, sowing, harvesting, manual harvesting, pulping, washing and drying, roasting, packaging and final transportation. In this way, we can ensure the origin of each grain that our customers will find in our packaging.

It should be noted that from germination to the drying phase, all these processes are carried out on the farms themselves, which in addition to confirming the unique origin of the grains, reduces the participation of third parties, limiting intermediation and allowing prices to be adjusted. Roasting and subsequent packaging are carried out in a company duly registered with the National Federation of Coffee Growers, so its quality complies with the regulations established for said activity. Coffee is shipped to Europe by air and from the beginning we have had the collaboration of very competent customs agents with many years of experience who provide us with great security and agility when making shipments.

At Porte, we comply with the regulations of the European Union (EC Regulation No. 178/2002), which establishes the general principles and requirements of food legislation, among which the obligation for agri-food companies to ensure the traceability of food, in all stages of production, transformation and distribution.

Our main concern and the reason why we give so much importance to the traceability process is that our customers enjoy a good Specialty Coffee with complete peace of mind and security, aware that behind each bean there is hard work to achieve the excellence in every cup.


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