I've been planning on opening a coffeebar for about two years now, and I'm getting most of the important stuff done. I have the business plan, a strong vision, and I'm working on the location. 

I also am planning on being a coffee roaster (who buys beans directly). 

There's the problem...How do I start this journey into becoming a coffee buyer?
-we have co-ops to help out
-we have farm names...

That's allI got!  

Can someone explain WHO (emphasizing who because no one ever gives me the answer) I talk to, to set up a direct relationship with the producers. I'm fluent in spanish, and currently I'm the only one involved in this future business plan. 

To make a long story short....I have the quality, roasting/barista skills, and clear vision in my business plan...the only thing left out is how an owner gets his/her coffee.

Who do I talk to? Use co-ops? What happens when I finally develop a relationship and the coffee is not in season when my coffeebar needs it the most? 

Thanks, john gibbons

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Some co-ops have exporters that are part of the cooperative. Otherwise, try to find importers around you that you can work with. There is a lot of legal stuff a know-how that surrounds importing, so it's virtually impossible to do completely on your own.
If you want a good farm connection, talk to Benjamin Weiner from Gold Mountain Coffee. They're a Nicaraguan co-op. He could set you up with a direct trade. They have good coffee. Email him at info@goldmountaincoffeegrowers.com
Hope that's useful,

Have you done a search here about this topic?


Who do you talk to? Uh, not to be a jerk, but you talk to the co-ops. That's what's meant by "direct." There are, however, third parties in the US who can give you information about different cooperatives and set up channels through which you can purchase coffees from them.


They are called importers.

Direct trade ain't all peaches and herb. Sampling coffee and negotiating price with your farmer is the easy part compared to the importing of the coffee. Depending on the quantity you purchase, your farmer may not ship via sea, but opt for air freight. This is expensive, but the farmer may feel it to be safer. I was told that without paying-off boat captains, dock workers, etc. certain little farmers will have their coffee stolen, then you and he are out of product. I don't know if this is myth or truth, but if your farmer doesn't want to chance it, neither should you. Before the coffee is in the US you will need to hire a customs broker if the value is above $2000.00, and if it isn't you still want to hire a customs broker. If you have filed with the FDA as a food producer, you can be the importer, but a surety bond will have to be put up, release documents will have to be given from customs and the FDA, and a couple of trips occur between the storage facility where your beans are and your broker's office. All of this and more occurs on the brokers end, and it's well worth the couple hundred dollars you pay. For your part you must notify the FDA of an impending shipment, ensure your farmer is registered with the FDA and he sites you as the importer, hire the broker, give him power of attorney, wire monies to the farmer, shipper, and broker, all the while you're on the phone with said broker and the FDA. Oh yeah, and you are supposed to be roasting and running a business. Don't even get me started on explaining Direct Trade to your customers, who may only know Fair Trade / Organic as the vanguard of quality.

All of this being jotted down for you, I can say it is rewarding, but difficult. Using excellent importers is a lot easier, especially in the beginning. A good importer provides cupping notes, roast profile suggestions, stories behind the coffee, and best of all did all of the lugubrious work to get the beans in the states. 



John, I think the path to take would be to set up relationships with your importers.  Now more than ever, importers like Cafe Imports, Atlantic Specialty, Zephyr, and Volcafe Specialty and others are excited to help facilitate the transactions and taking care of all details of getting coffee from farm to your roastery.  Call these folks on the phone and talk about the steps and required quantities.  You can also set up relationships with exporters but that can also come through your importer relationships.  Check this out.


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