Under The Microscope: What Does a Coffee Exporter Do?

JUNE 13, 2016

Coffee exporters play a crucial role in the coffee supply chain, and yet we hear so little about them. So we spoke to Diana Acosta, a third-generation exporter from Honduras, to find out a little more about her job.

Read on to discover what a coffee exporter does, what their challenges are, and how they make a living even during the off season.

What Do Coffee Exporters Actually Do?

The life of a coffee exporter is hectic. In a nutshell, it’s their job to manage the producers, get the coffee processed, and then ship it, all while trying to get the best price. This means they must also monitor market prices from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed.

So where do they begin? For starters, exporters must establish links with the producers and obtain samples from them; only after this can the coffee be assessed and graded.

However, grading samples isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. Once an exporter has received the tasters, they must then go through a strict and lengthy cupping process. This means that the exporter needs to weigh the beans, evaluate their humidity, assess how long the coffee needs to rest, and determine any defects. Phew! And while cupping 20 coffees a day may sound wonderful to us, Diana insists that it can send you a little “coffee loco”.

Once all the coffee samples have been cupped and evaluated, the exporter will give them a quality grade and they will then be stored in line with their grading.


Final Measures: Preparing the Coffee for Shipment

After finding a buyer happy with both the quality and cost of the coffee, the exporter must then prepare the beans for shipping. Throughout the process, they’ll continually cup it to make sure that it still meets the desired standard.

The preparation process has many steps and runs as follows:

Drying: The coffee is washed through the mill and dried for anywhere between 25 and 30 hours, depending on the humidity. Separate mills are used for speciality coffee due to the different quantity of coffee that is being processed.

Cleaning: The beans are then cleaned to remove any remaining coffee cherry flesh.

Sorting: The coffee is sorted by the weight and colour of the beans.

Packaging and storage: The beans are bagged and stored in the right conditions ready for shipping.


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