Coffee Traceability – Unveiling the Bean to Cup Journey

, 12 minute read

Quick summary: Discover the importance of coffee traceability in ensuring transparency, sustainability, and quality throughout the supply chain. Explore how traceability systems empower coffee producers, exporters, and retailers to make a positive impact on the industry. Dive into the world of coffee traceability and join the movement towards a more ethical and sustainable coffee experience.

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Traceability is crucial for coffee supply chains to ensure transparency, quality, and sustainability.

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In the global coffee industry, traceability has become a fundamental aspect of sustainable sourcing and consumer demand. With increasing demand for ethically sourced and high-quality coffee, coffee traceability enables us to understand the journey of coffee beans from farm to cup. 

According to ICO, World coffee production decreased by 1.4% to 168.5 million bags in coffee year 2021/22, while it is expected to bounce back by 1.7% to 171.3 million bags in 2022/23. 

 By tracing the origin, processing methods and supply chain of coffee, we can ensure fair trade practices, support farmer livelihoods, protect the environment and offer consumers the assurance of a sustainable and flavoured brew. Join us as we delve into the world of coffee traceability. Exploring its importance, benefits and positive impact it has on the industry. 

History of Coffee

Coffee, one of the world’s favorite beverages, has been around for centuries. Legend has it that around the 9th century A.D., a goat herder in the Ethiopian plateau discovered the coffee plant. He noticed that his goats were unusually energetic after consuming the red berries from a tree. From its humble beginnings in Africa, coffee has come a long, long way.  

As the coffee bean traversed across the Arabian Peninsula, crossed over to Europe, overthrew tea in America, and then conquered Asia, it makes even the Crown’s vast conquests seem diminutive.   

The journey to Indian soil was via Baba Budan, a Sufi saint from Yemen, in 1670. The initial records show that coffee was planted in Chikmagalur, Karnataka, at the time, and since then, it has spread across the South of India.  

It is quite a paradox that while we can trace the origin of coffee hundreds of years ago, we are unsure of the source of the coffee in our cups each morning. Every bean has a story, and we owe it to our consumers to tell them the entire tale of the journey from the crop to their cups. This is easier said than done. 

Coffee Supply Chain 

The Coffee Supply chain is a captivating journey that transforms a humble coffee bean into the beloved brew we savour each morning. It all starts at the coffee farms, the dedicated farmers nurture coffee plants with care and precision. These beans, often referred to as the green beans embark on a journey of transformation. 

The coffees supply chain is a complex journey that coffee beans take from the farm to your cup. 

Coffee Farming 

It begins at the coffee farms where coffee beans are grown and these farms range from family owned plots to large commercial plantations. The choice of coffee variety, cultivation methods and the care provided significantly impact the final flavour and quality of coffee. 


Coffee cherries, which contain the coffee beans are selectively harvested when they reach their peak ripeness. This is typically done manually. 


After harvesting, coffee cherries undergo processing to extract the beans. This is either done by dry processing where the cherries are sun-dried and beans are removed or by wet processing where cherries are pulped, fermented , washed and dried. 

Milling and Sorting 

Once dried, the coffee beans are milled to remove any remaining parchment and sorted to remove defective beans. This step is crucial for quality control. 


The processed coffee beans are then exported from the coffee-producing country to coffee-importing countries. This involves careful logistics and compliance with international trade regulations. 


Upon arrival in the importing country, the green coffee beans are roasted. Roasting is a critical step that transforms the beans into aromatic and flavoured coffee.  Different roast profiles can produce a wide range of coffee flavours. 


Coffee beans are ground to the desired coarseness based on brewing method. 


Coffee grounds are combined with hot water using different brewing methods which affects the flavour and strength of the coffee. 


The brewed coffee is then packaged for distribution. 


Coffee is distributed through a network of wholesalers, retailers and coffee shops to reach consumers. 


Finally, coffee reaches the hands of consumers who prepare and enjoy it according to their preferences. 

Each step in the coffee supply chain plays a crucial role in determining the quality, flavour and sustainability of the final product. 

Challenges in the Coffee Supply Chain 

  • Approximately 12.5 million Smallholder farmers in remote tropical regions produce 70% of this coffee, holding less than 5 hectares each. Since most of the produce is sourced from smallholders, even large corporations need to source the coffee bean and coordinate with hundreds and thousands of farmers to get a substantial amount of coffee beans. 
  • There are several players across the value chain: coffee farmers, cooperatives, coffee millers, exporters, importers, roasters, suppliers, retailers, and contractors. This amounts to approximately 100 million people are involved in the E2E coffee value chain.  
  • The coffee quality has a huge list of dependencies that are not uniform across the value chain players. Area of origin, soil, topography, climate, altitude, processing type, bean type: Arabica or Robusta: all affect the farmers’ quality and income.  
  • Logistics and inventory issues across the industry prove to be a significant chink in the value chain due to the complexity of the market size and the number of players.   
  • According to the Water Footprint Network, the average water footprint of a 125-milliliter cup of coffee is 132 litres. Unprocessed waste from coffee mills that use the wet processing method can also enter surrounding water bodies, contaminating them.  
  • Lack of sufficient information about best practices often results in incompetent post-harvest handling, leading to contamination, spoilage, or even exposure to diseases like red-berry & coffee wilt, resulting in a loss of quality that can be averted.   
  • Farmers and Collection houses are often blind-sided when it comes to the quantity of their produce that was certified for sale and the percentage of their produce that was sold.  
  • Coffee farmers often get only a tiny cut of the actual revenue that the end product receives, often even unable to take care of production costs. This leaves them depending on contractors for most processing since they cannot afford the necessary equipment.   
  • Coffee producers, exporters, processors, contractors are all impacted by price instabilities, albeit in different intensities. On a similar note, farmers are the most challenged when it comes to availing credit facilities due to the high interest rates at which they are offered. But players in the coffee value chain closer to the end-consumer benefit from accessing credit facilities from the same lending institutions.  

To truly visualize the coffee market, imagine an intricate web with multiple knotted ends. More often than not, this makes communication progress across the end-to-end value chain complicated to track and value hard to measure.  

Can Coffee Traceability address the risks of a complicated coffee value chain?

To answer the question posed earlier about the simplicity of tracing the coffee bean: with a Traceability solution, it CAN be easily done. Traceability allows companies to track and record the movement of produce through every production stage, from cultivation to the end consumer, through technology solutions. 

In the agriculture industry, players across the value chain can identify and trace raw materials, processing related inputs, packaging, and the entire journey. The coffee industry faces many challenges due to its complexity and size of operations. Let us look at how Traceability can address these issues for each of the involved players. 

  • Farmers & Producers 

With Coffee Traceability, farmers can access detailed information about their produce across the value chain. They are also privy to best practices, relevant market information, and opportunities that help improve the quality of produce. Communication of supply and demand also takes place in real-time, enabling them to plan their batches. Since Traceability enables sustainability, which brands can claim with pride and charge a premium, this, in turn, raises the prices the smallholder farmers get for their crops. 

Coffee Traceability also creates recognition for farmers who produce top-quality seeds and can trace the end journey to consumers in different countries. The most significant outcome for farmers is that this transparency significantly improves their scope for fair compensation and strengthens their credit claims from cooperatives/commercial banks. 

  • Processors, Roasters, Millers 

Coffee Traceability brings uniformity to a great extent since inputs like water, temperature; drying time are regulated. This drastically lowers the chances of wastage or the produce being rejected for sub-standard quality. It also enables roasters and distributors to provide comprehensive information to the next actor in the value chain about the coffee they are purchasing and provide proof of product quality. Processors can interact more efficiently with the rest of the value chain using comprehensive, real-time data access. 

  • Traders, Exporters & Importers 

Data related to productivity and quality is captured and aggregated on a single application by field staff, allowing traders to control which farm batch is assigned to which customers. Coffee Traceability also will enable exporters to verify their sustainability and quality claims while ensuring compliance with existing regulations. Such verified data help expand export opportunities with even the most challenging markets. 

In addition, traders can identify and recall targeted products that are damaged during shipment promptly, reducing losses that would have been incurred if all batches were destroyed. 

  • Brands 

Brands can use Traceability to have a real-time view of their coffee’s origin and end journey, ensuring compliance with regulations and sustainability assurances. Traceability also gives brands a competitive advantage since 50% of consumers are willing to pay a higher price for products with a positive social and environmental impact on the supply chain. In comparison, 34% of consumers aged 16-24 would pay an extra 20% or more for an ethically sourced product.  

Providing Traceability makes brands more appealing to global consumers and eases acquiring additional accreditations and labels. 

Bean to Cup – An Exotic Journey ( Case Study )

Discover how Slay Coffee, a leading coffee brand, leveraged TraceX’s traceability solutions to revolutionize their coffee traceability practices. Learn how they ensured transparency, quality, and sustainability throughout their supply chain, from sourcing the finest coffee beans to delivering a delightful cup of coffee to their customers.

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  • Consumers 

Consumers across the world are increasingly interested in the origin and journey of the products they purchase. They are even willing to pay premium prices for ethically sourced, environmental-friendly, quality coffee. Traceability helps meet this demand by providing end-to-end transparency to end consumers since the entire voyage of the product is recorded and compliant with sustainability goals and regulations.  

  • Environment  

A traceability solution aids end-to-end transparency and efficiency. This can significantly help brands reduce their carbon footprint and take a step closer to sustainable operations. One way this is facilitated is by documenting and regulating the raw materials that are used during the cultivation and processing stages. That includes water, energy, and fertilizer consumption. Another route is recording the impact from the disposal of contaminated and damaged produce and product disposal by the consumer at the end of the product life cycle.  

Every cup of coffee we drink carries a carbon footprint.

The carbon emissions at each stage in the coffee supply chain add to the total carbon footprint

Know more »

Mapping the bean to cup journey

Coffee Traceability solutions will keep evolving with technology. There are solutions to trace the end-to-end journey of the bean that can solve many of the risks mentioned earlier. Above all, it helps businesses produce Sustainable Coffee. Aligning to many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is possible and more manageable by making the value chain as transparent as possible. 

Adopting traceability technologies, directly and indirectly, improves resource efficiency by training farmers in sustainable agricultural practices. Climate action, Good Health, and Well-being, Responsible Production & Consumption are achievable goals because these systems create the foundation for reporting performance related to sustainable practices

TraceX’s Blockchain Traceability Solutions 

TraceX’s blockchain traceability solutions

revolutionize the coffee industry by offering unparalleled transparency in the journey from bean to cup. The technology enables every stakeholder to access a comprehensive and trustworthy account of the coffee’s origin, processing and distribution. Through blockchain, consumers, suppliers and producers can trace every step ensuring ethical practices, sustainability and authenticity.  

Companies embracing TraceX have experienced substantial improvements in bolstering their sustainability profiles and appealing to conscientious consumers. By harnessing blockchain technology, this solution simplifies auditing and verification needs, guaranteeing adherence to regulatory standards. 


Coffee traceability is more than just a buzzword in the industry. It is a vital aspect that promotes transparency, sustainability and quality throughout the coffee supply chain. By implementing robuts traceability systems from TraceX, coffee producers, exporters, roasters and retailers can gain valuable insights, build trust with consumers and contribute to more ethical and sustainable coffee industry. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Coffee traceability is the ability to track coffee beans from their origin to the final cup, ensuring transparency and quality control. It’s essential for guaranteeing the authenticity of coffee and its ethical and sustainable sourcing.

Coffee traceability empowers consumers to make informed choices about the coffee they purchase, promoting sustainability and ethical practices. For coffee producers, it opens doors to premium markets, fair pricing, and improved livelihoods.

TraceX’s traceability solution utilizes advanced technology like blockchain to track every step of the coffee supply chain. From farm to cup, it records data, ensuring transparency and authenticity. This helps in verifying sourcing practices, quality, and ethical standards in the coffee industry, benefiting both consumers and producers.
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