• Green Coffee Importers?

Coffee Education for All

29 September 2017

By Rachel Northrop, Ally coffee

The New York Coffee Festival is unique among coffee trade shows because it combines the business-to-business components of an industry event, with the enthusiasm and curiosity of a consumer expo.

As a green coffee supplier, Ally Coffee imports coffee from the countries where it is grown to the countries where it is consumed. To those unaware, green coffee is the term for "raw" coffee beans before roasting. Green coffee still has the appearance of seeds and (fun-fact alert) smells like hay!

While the functions of a green coffee importer are familiar to those in the coffee industry, coffee consumers often don't know that coffee starts as a fruit, grown on a tree, and must always be imported from other countries. Even in the coffee-producing state of Hawaii, the raw coffee has a long trip to go before arriving at its destination. 

Ally Coffee spends a lot of time at industry events, speaking in jargon to others involved in the business, but for us, a consumer show is an excellent opportunity to explain just what “the business” is. To do that, we start with the basics.

The Basics

Coffee grows on trees. Most food and drinks start as plants, and coffee is no exception. Coffee beans are the roasted seeds from a small red or yellow fruit called a coffee cherry. These cherries grow on spindly trees with shiny green leaves.

Just like cacti and apple trees require drastically different environments to survive, coffee only grows in specific tropical conditions between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Prime coffee-growing areas are found around the equator and exist in numerous countries on almost every continent. Some of the most recognized include those in African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda; South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and Peru; all Central American countries;  Asian countries such as Indonesia and other Pacific Island territories. 

Because the raw ingredient of coffee (the coffee cherry, stripped of fruit and dried to become a bean) does not grow where many coffee drinkers live, it must be imported.

From Importing to Roasting

Importing coffee involves several steps. First and foremost is the purchasing of the green coffee. After the initial purchase, the buyer must take responsibility for shipping it across an ocean (or two) and deliver it safely to port. All while troubleshooting any issues that may arise in the process. This is what Ally does. We buy coffee from around the world, and from our sister company’s farms in Brazil, and ensure each shipping container lands where and when it is needed.

We do not have any roasted coffee for sale in any cafés or stores because the coffee we sell goes to hundreds of roasters who transform it into the products consumers know and love—light roast single origin estate coffees, holiday blends, dark roasted espresso, and private label products.

This year, several of our roaster partners will be serving coffee at our booth in the Innovation Village next to the Coffee Masters stage. By doing this, Ally can share locally made, locally available coffees with consumers and connect them to the agricultural product our company buys, evaluates, finances, insures, ships, tracks and delivers. 

An importer’s work is typically invisible to consumers, but The New York Coffee Festival is a great opportunity to pull back the curtain and share the importance of business-to-business supply chain roles with the public.

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