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Wholesale Coffee Beans Buyer's Guide

With more than 70 countries producing coffee globally, selecting the perfect coffee beans for wholesale shops may seem like a daunting task. The options are endless.

From 100% organic coffee, fair trade coffee to flavoured coffee, to mention a few. It would help find a reliable supplier that fits your business values. Your business could either be a cooperative of small coffee farms or a third-party importer. 

Step by Step Wholesale Coffee Beans Buyer's Guide

Wholesale Coffee Beans Buyer's Guide

The guide will help you in navigating the sourcing process- from selecting which coffee types, the regions to feature in your coffee shop, determining the kind of supplier that will work best for your business. The list goes on, so here are a few steps to guide you.

Step 1. Pick your flavour profile and Target Countries

Your sourcing journey needs to begin with flavour profile identification. This decision matters because the flavour you decide on will be showcased in your coffee shop. You don't want to offer a cappuccino with a fruit-forward flavour profile. If you are looking for single-origin coffee blends, then look to Ethiopia or Colombia. 

Take note of how the method of processing coffee impacts the flavour profile. There are three types of processes which include; natural washed or semi-washed.

These methods can differ depending on the farmer's choice, climate, and tradition. An example is in Brazil, the natural process is what is common, and it is based on climate and tradition.

Here is a quick outlook of how the three processing types influence the flavour of the resulting green coffee beans. 

Natural/ Unwashed: 

Once the coffee berries become ripe, farmers collect them from the trees, place them on drying racks, and sun-dry them to entirely remove the pulp and mucilage (the fruit surrounding the bean).

It is estimated to take around three to six weeks and has been known to produce a bright flavour profile and fuller body. This process is primarily used in dry, warm climates with very low humidity. Ethiopia, Brazil, and Yemen are favourable environments for this process. 

Read our article on wholesale coffee roasters

Pulped Natural/ Honey:

Farmers remove the ripe coffee cherries skins' but leave the sticky mucilage and flesh inside intact before sun-drying them in the natural process above.

This process typically takes two weeks with constant attention to the beans ensuring they produce an overall sweetness and balance in flavour. The method has been adopted heavily in Costa Rica.

Fully Washed:

After collecting ripe coffee cherries, farmers place them in a vat of water and skim off any which floats to the top

Step 2: Choose your Supplier

Since you now have a better idea of which coffee beans from the different countries match your desired flavour profile, you are now ready to choose a coffee supplier.

If you plan on roasting your beans, you have two main supply options: Coffee importers and direct sourcing from farms. Here are some tips to keep you in mind as you decide on the right path for your business.

Step 3: Sample before Buying 

After you decide to work with either a coffee importer or a farm, sampling your potential partner's products before buying wholesale is a crucial part of the sourcing process. The industry standard for sampling coffees is cupping, which pertains to assessing coffee samples using sight, smell, and taste.

Here is how it works:

  • Request for samples of each coffee you want to test from potential suppliers.
  • The importers or farms will send you 250 to 500 grams of each coffee you request. It is important to note that samples from importers may arrive ready to grind or as green beans meaning you must lightly roast before testing. Then samples from farms usually come as green beans.
  • Roast your samples appropriately and accurately so you can compare them all.
  • Follow the cupping process to assess each sample. You will need water, a kettle, glass cups, trays, tasting spoons, and one bowl of water for each type of coffee. 
The cupping process
  1. Prepare the cupping area
  2. Smell the dry coffee for the aroma you are looking for.
  3. Fill the drinking vessels
  4. Break the crust
  5. Scrape the crust
  6. Taste the coffee
  7. Ensure to taste it severally

Step 4: Know the fair price

Ensure you know what to expect in terms of the price of quality coffee beans. Here are some general rules for fair coffee prices:

  • The price a coffee farmer should charge you ( in the green form) to pay their employees a livable wage is around $3.75 per pound.
  • For transportation of the beans to your facility will most likely charge you $4.50 to make a profit. 
  • You should expect to pay some additional fees for labour, i.e., roasting, preparation, packaging, energy, and equipment. You can reduce equipment cost by sharing roasting space.

Step 5: Buy your Beans

If you opt to roast your beans, work with your preferred coffee importer or farm supplier to buy and ship your favourite beans based on your "cupping" results.

If roasting beans is not part of your business model, you can buy coffee reasonably and cost-efficiently from a wholesale roaster.

A significant advantage to this approach is that you can feature different roasters and offer customers a wide variety since you don't have to worry about selling a large amount of one specific type of coffee.

If you choose to buy from a wholesale roaster, finding the right one for your business will depend largely on taste and accessibility. For instance, if you don't have local access to the type of coffee you want to sell, you might need to factor in the added cost and time to ship coffee from a roaster in another city or state.

Seven (7) major points to look out for when buying wholesale coffee

Here are 7 important things to consider when buying wholesale coffee beans;

1. Roast types 

They specialise in light, medium, dark, or a mix of all the three.

2. Blends and Single Origins

Know what beans each of their blends includes.

3. Origin

Know which specific sources they carry regularly.

4. Terms of Wholesale 

Know whether there are any restrictions or different options for wholesale buyers.

5. Pricing

Ask what pricing or discounts do they give to wholesale customers.

6. Additional perks

Do they include any other additional package? Some sort of complimentary package that comes with your wholesale purchase.

7. Order Timeline 

Because of the sensitive nature of coffee, your ordering timeline for wholesale coffee should be crucial to ensuring a high-quality and flavorful product.

Read also: How to Choose The Best Gourmet Coffee