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The Journey of Coffee Export to Independent Coffee Shops in the UK

There’s something undeniably magical about that first sip of your morning coffee. But have you ever stopped to consider the journey that coffee takes before it reaches your favorite independent coffee shop?

Behind every cup lies a fascinating process of cultivation, processing, and exportation. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of coffee exportation, exploring how coffee beans travel from their countries of origin to independent coffee shops in the UK.

Cultivation and Harvesting

Coffee is predominantly grown in regions with a suitable climate, known as the “Coffee Belt.” This belt encompasses countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and many others. Coffee farmers cultivate the coffee plants, which typically take several years to mature and produce fruits called coffee cherries.

The harvesting process is crucial and labor-intensive. Depending on the region and type of coffee, harvesting may involve either selective picking (where only ripe cherries are chosen) or strip picking (where all cherries are harvested simultaneously). These cherries hold the potential for the rich flavors and aromas we associate with coffee.


After harvesting, the coffee cherries need to undergo processing to extract the beans within. There are two primary methods of processing: the dry method and the wet method.

  • Dry Method: In regions with arid climates, such as Ethiopia and Brazil, the dry method is commonly used. Here, the coffee cherries are spread out to dry in the sun for several weeks. Once dried, the cherries are mechanically hulled to reveal the coffee beans.
  • Wet Method: Countries with access to abundant water resources, like Colombia and Costa Rica, often employ the wet method. In this process, the cherries are washed to remove the outer skin, pulp, and mucilage. The remaining beans are then fermented, washed again, and dried.

Sorting and Grading

After processing, the coffee beans are sorted based on their size, shape, and density. This ensures consistency in quality and flavor. Beans are typically graded on a scale, with the highest grade beans designated for specialty coffee.


Once sorted and graded, the coffee beans are ready for exportation. This stage involves several players, including coffee brokers, exporters, and importers. Coffee brokers act as intermediaries between farmers and exporters, helping connect coffee producers with buyers in different parts of the world.

Exporters handle the logistics of packaging, shipping, and documentation. They ensure that the coffee beans meet the necessary quality standards and comply with international trade regulations. Additionally, exporters may collaborate with importers to establish long-term relationships and ensure a consistent supply of coffee to the UK market.

Importation and Distribution

In the UK, independent coffee shops often work closely with specialty coffee importers or coffee roasters. These importers are responsible for sourcing high-quality beans from different coffee-growing regions worldwide.

Upon arrival in the UK, the coffee beans go through customs clearance and quality control inspections. Importers ensure that the coffee meets their strict standards and may conduct taste tests and cuppings to assess flavor profiles.

Finally, the coffee beans are roasted by the importers or coffee roasters. Roasting is a delicate process that brings out the unique flavors and aromas locked within the beans. Once roasted, the coffee is packaged and distributed to independent coffee shops across the country.

Go check out our coffee roastery guide here!  

From humble beginnings on coffee plantations around the world to your local independent coffee shop, the journey of coffee is a complex and intricate process.

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