• Introduction to the specialty market

    It is often neither viable nor possible to add value to green coffee by processing at origin. Many coffees are suitable only for blending or processing into neutral or anonymous end products, including soluble. For such coffees it is not possible to add monetary value as prices are determined solely by market conditions. However, reliable and consistent grading procedures, strict compliance with contractual obligations, and regular delivery will add value in the sense that the product will be preferred by primary buyers over those from less consistent origins. Certain growths of coffee may be highly prized for their flavour characteristics and attract a suitable premium. Examples include Jamaican Blue Mountain, Hawaii Kona, Top Kenya AA and Guatemalan Antiguas.

    Some of these growths attract extremely high premiums. For example, in the early 2000’s Jamaican Blue Mountain attracted such a large premium that the unit value of coffee exported from Jamaica was over 13 times higher than the average of all ‘other milds’ producers and more than 16 times higher than the average achieved by all origins. The top Kenyan grades regularly achieve prices more than double that achieved by other growths with some small parcels selling early 2011 for as high as USD 20 per pound. Colombia has always adopted an active marketing and publicity policy which over timeresulted in many brands throughout the world being labelled as 100% Colombian. . Over time other producers could therefore also try to ensure that the label of the blend containing their coffee at least carries a reference to the composition of the blend. Unfortunately, very few roasters are actually willing to do this. In any case, a roaster who markets such a blend will need to be assured of consistent quality and regular delivery.

    Consumer awareness of the origins they drink does lead to product loyalty and the development of a brand image. This results in some (albeit limited) protection from the vagaries of the market. If roasters are unable to obtain regular supplies from one exporter, they will of course be encouraged to seek alternative sources.
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