For a few it is a bitter brown-black broth. But for most it is an enjoyment, a stimulant and an afternoon companion. Coffee. Whether pure as filter coffee, espresso or mocha or with milk as cappuccino, latte macchiato or one of the many sweet varieties of coffee shop chains - it is part of our daily life.
Only 1% of the world's agricultural land is reserved for coffee cultivation. This corresponds to about 11 million hectares on which coffee is cultivated. More than 70 countries are involved in coffee cultivation. Almost all these countries are developing and emerging countries in South America, Africa and South Asia forming the so-called coffee belt along the equator. In these countries about 20 to 25 million people have employment by growing and processing the coffee. The coffee is harvested, processed to remove fruit peel, pulp, parchment and silver skin, and then cleaned for final removal of skin remnants. In the case of high-quality coffee, the beans are finally sorted by hand according to size and quality before they are prepared for transport.
Since the beans, which are still green, quickly take on undesirable odours and flavours and can also become rancid, they must be packed and shipped quickly. In addition, unlike a cargo of plastic toys, the containers used for transport must always be exceptionally clean and odourless due to the sensitivity of the product. Only particularly fine varieties with low harvest volumes are transported in jute bags in containers. Around 80% of the coffee traded internationally, on the other hand, goes directly into the containers in bulk, i.e. as loose bulk material. The particularly suitable steel bottom containers are usually lined on the inside with a layer of absorbent cardboard and jute to prevent damage to the coffee bean from moisture and condensation. In addition, adequate ventilation and a reasonably constant temperature must be ensured. Once all these measures have been taken, transport across the oceans to the ports of destination can begin. It takes about two to three weeks for a cargo from Southeast Asia or South America to arrive in Europe.
The port of Hamburg is Europe's largest port for coffee imports, handling 700,000 tonnes of green coffee annually and transporting most of it on to other European countries. Once the coffee arrives at the port and has been cleared for customs, it undergoes a random quality check at the wholesaler or directly at one of the large roasting plants with regard to appearance, smell and bean size. In addition, an infusion of the various types of coffee is prepared and tasted in order to define the body, aromas and acidity according to customer requirements. The coffee roasters then start the roasting process. For the end customer, a distinction is made between coffee varieties and region of origin as well as roasting strength and thus aroma intensity. The wholesaler stores the coffee temporarily which either happens loosely in silos or filled into sacks in warehouses. At the wholesaler, however, the coffee is also cleaned, mixed or prepared for further export, depending on the customer's order.
After all, the consumer buys his coffee as beans, powder or capsules in the supermarket. Or he buys his coffee from a small roasting shop he trusts for his individual taste. Or he can sit in a café and sip his freshly brewed espresso.
Europe still has the highest coffee consumption. But new markets are emerging. Countries such as China, Japan or Korea, where coffee has traditionally played no significant role, are moving up the ladder, as people there are adopting the habits of Europeans and Americans. Global demand and consumption have almost doubled in the past 25 years. The trend is rising, because coffee has long since ceased to be just a pick-me-up in the morning. And beyond the mere stimulant, it has meanwhile become a lifestyle product that shows who you are. On all continents of the world.