An emerging group of coffee enthusiasts chose to do things differently and developed the specialty coffee industry to get away from the world of commercial commodity coffee.
The specialty coffee industry has been fighting for the last 20-25 years to offer sustainable supply alternatives to the world’s greatest coffee roasters and the incipient niche specialty coffee roasters.
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This article will use “specialty coffee traders” to refer to those companies that focus on the high-quality segment (84+), whether it’s “high commercial”, specialty-grade, or micro-lot only.
However, “specialty coffee” is a term that means different things to different people.
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Large Specialty Coffee Traders
The specialty coffee cosmos consists of a) large coffee trading houses with a specialty coffee division and b) small/medium independent specialty coffee importers.
Let’s start with the specialty coffee trading divisions of the large international coffee traders.
Sucafina Specialty is a leader in the specialty industry, formerly also 32cup and MTC Group.
It has spot positions in UK, Belgium, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, and China.
With a clearly improved branding and committed leadership, Sucafina Specialty is setting the pace in the specialty coffee segment.
Mercanta is one of the pioneers in the specialty coffee trading industry, founded and headed by Stephen Hurst, a former J. Aron commodity coffee trader. Lately been part of the large international trader Ecom.
It’s long been rumored that Ecom would launch Keynote Coffee, a new specialty coffee importer in the UK headed by Jamie Marler, who’s currently at Mercanta. In fact, Keynote/Ecom was searching for a graduate trainee for this project until recently.
Mercon Specialty, formerly called Novus Coffee, is a USA-based coffee importer launched by the Mercon group in 2019 specialized in sourcing micro-lots, estate-grown, and premium coffees.
One of the larger players in the specialty industry, InterAmerican is the specialty arm of NKG, the world’s largest coffee trading company.
Volcafe Specialty is based in NYC and part of ED&F Man, a large multi-product trading house.
In USA Olam Specialty, but also called Schluter Coffee in Europe, both part of one of the NOW (Noble, Olam, Wilmar) commodity traders: Olam.
Independent Specialty Coffee Traders And Importers
With a different focus compared to the largest coffee sourcing companies in the world, the smaller independent specialty coffee importers source high-quality coffees, premium coffees, and competition coffees.
Belco is a French roaster and green coffee importer located in Bordeaux. Focuses on medium-range specialty blenders and a few micro-lots, and has a solid presence in El Salvador and Ethiopia.
Falcon Specialty is the specialty arm of Falcon Coffees in the UK, competes in the middle range specialty coffee, more aggressive pricing.
Falcon has also launched Falcon Micro, with specialty coffee micro lots delivered in 5KG boxes, targeting nano roasters who would otherwise buy one coffee bag at the time.
One of the pioneers of the Scandinavian coffee style, Nordic Approach is a high-end specialty coffee importer based in Oslo with a spot position in Antwerp. It focuses on sourcing the absolute best micro-lots and blends with full traceability and price transparency.
Tropiq is Nordic Approach’s Specialty coffee sourcing partner, aiming at delivering great service for larger specialty customers who want to buy directly from origin: whether it’s a full container FOB or short containers FOB from ~100 bags.
Red Fox Coffee Merchants
Red Fox Coffee Merchants are a North American green coffee sourcing company.
Mare Terra is a middle range green coffee imported based in Barcelona with good connection to the Central/South American sourcing plus Eastern European destination market.
Almost extinct, Collaborative Coffee Source (CCS) is former Scandinavian green coffee importer focusing on premium coffees with full traceability.
Algrano is a newcomer to the industry with an innovative coffee sourcing model: shared coffee sourcing through an online platform.
Rehm is a low/medium specialty coffee trader based in Hamburg. They offer a mix of origins and qualities with emphasis on the under 6 EUR/KG category.
Touton Specialties Coffee
Touton Specialties Coffee, based in Hamburg, is the specialty division of the giant coffee trader Touton headquartered in Bordeaux, France.
As you can see, the number of specialty coffee importers has been increasing lately, led by the big commercial coffee traders who are setting up their specialty coffee divisions.
Overall, specialty coffee is a beautiful industry to work in, with fantastic potential to change the world of coffee and transfer more value back to the coffee farmers.