By Mary Boyden

The Art and Science of Coffee Sourcing

What is Coffee Sourcing?

Coffee sourcing is the process of sourcing and purchasing beans from coffee-growing regions around the world. The process, which involves a complex network of importers, brokers, and farmers, is essential to the specialty coffee industry. Understanding where and how coffee is sourced can help you make informed decisions when buying coffee. At Kainos, we have a few key variables we always consider when buying coffee. But first, let's dive in further to what exactly is involved in sourcing. 

  • Coffee sourcing is the process of sourcing coffee beans from different origins around the world.
  • It involves selecting the best beans from a variety of sources and evaluating them based on quality, taste, and cost.
  • It is an essential part of the coffee-making process, ensuring that the beans used are of the highest quality.

Why is it Important?

  • Coffee sourcing helps to ensure the quality and consistency of the coffee.
  • It also helps to ensure that the beans used are ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable.
  • It also helps to ensure that the coffee is traceable, ensuring that the beans used can be traced back to their origin.

Coffee Sourcing Process

  • Selecting the Origin: This involves researching different coffee-growing regions and selecting the region and beans that will produce the desired flavor profile.
  • Finding Suppliers: This involves researching potential suppliers and verifying their credentials to ensure they meet the necessary standards.
  • Quality Control: This involves testing the coffee beans to ensure they meet the desired quality and flavor profile.

For an even more information, let's hear directly from the president of Coffee Enterprises, Spencer Turer. He is a founding member of the Roasters Guild, a licensed Q grader, and received the SCAA Outstanding Contribution to the Association Award. Turer is an active volunteer for the SCA, the National Coffee Association USA, and is an Ambassador for the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.

"Sourcing coffee involves both a function and a process. The function is accomplished by simply calling, emailing, texting or completing an online order. The process of sourcing coffee can be much more complicated. Professional development leading from novice to qualified professional includes reference knowledge, context-specific information and experiential training.

In today’s golden age of specialty coffee education, there are classes, lectures and endless PowerPoint presentations designed to educate participants on the farm-to-cup process and train coffee buyers. In my judgment, these programs provide a solid theoretical training. Familiarity with the process, knowing terminology, understanding the product flow and control points from the farm-to-roaster supply chain are concepts that are not readily available without this type of education." -Spencer Turer

Does price determine coffee quality/taste?

Price can be an indicator of coffee quality to some extent, but it is not the sole determinant of quality or taste. Factors such as the coffee's origin, growing conditions, processing methods, and roasting techniques also play a significant role in determining the overall quality and taste of the coffee.

Typically, higher-priced coffees are often associated with specialty or gourmet coffees that are carefully sourced, processed, and roasted to bring out unique flavors and characteristics. These coffees may come from specific coffee-growing regions known for producing exceptional beans or may be sourced through direct trade or sustainable practices.

However, it's important to note that price alone does not guarantee superior taste or quality. There are also affordable coffees that offer excellent taste and quality. It's recommended to consider factors other than just price when evaluating coffee quality, such as the coffee's flavor profile, aroma, acidity, body, and personal preference.

When it comes to coffee, what does 'ethically sourced' mean?

"Ethically sourced" refers to coffee that has been produced and traded in a manner that is fair, sustainable, and respectful towards both the environment and the people involved in the coffee supply chain. This includes considerations such as fair prices for farmers, safe and healthy working conditions, environmental sustainability, and support for local communities. Ethically sourced coffee often involves direct trade relationships between coffee producers and buyers, ensuring transparency and a fair distribution of profits. Certification programs such as Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade also play a role in ensuring ethical practices in coffee sourcing.


    • Coffee sourcing is an important part of the coffee-making process, ensuring that the beans used are of the highest quality.
    • The process involves selecting the origin, finding suppliers, and ensuring quality control.
    • Coffee sourcing ensures that the beans used are ethically sourced, environmentally sustainable, and traceable, ensuring that the product is of the highest quality.

Coffee sourcing is more than just finding a good bean. It’s a complex process that requires a knowledge of the entire coffee production cycle, from the farmers that grow the beans to the roasters that bring out the flavor.