How Coffee Gets To Your Cup

We at Cadena take care of the supply chain operations so you can just sip and enjoy your coffee. But what goes on behind the scenes to get you your daily fix of joe?

Growing & Harvesting

If you’ve been following the Weekly Roast, you know that the first link in the coffee supply chain are the growers. At Cadena, we’re proud to partner with Fair Trade-certified coffee farmers in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, and Ethiopia. Once their coffee plants have achieved optimal ripeness, these growers also harvest the beans. If they have the necessary equipment, they also process the beans; if not, they send the beans on to processors.

Coffee Tree


A processor can be a business run by non-farmers or a co-op among growers, in which participants contribute to the cost of processing equipment in exchange for being able to use it. Processing usually takes place in two different locations, a wet mill and a dry mill. These often have two different owners. Coffee plantations are much more likely to have wet mills than dry mills, while dry mills are often owned and managed by exporters. (For a deeper dive into coffee processing, check back on our blog soon!)


Next in the supply chain come a number of intermediaries who take care of transportation between the processing and roasting. Exporters buy the coffee from co-ops or auctions and sell it to suppliers (also called brokers). Exporters usually have vast knowledge of both coffee and the local sellers, so that they can select the highest-quality beans to purchase.

In some countries in which the government controls the coffee trade, government agents are also involved at this stage. They can act as an extra intermediary between the processing and exporting stages, buying from the processors and selling to the exporters. Ethiopia, from which we source the beans used in our delicious Mocha Java, is one such country.

Container Ship

Once the exporters take over, they ship the coffee to the U.S. via container ships (or truck to container ships, in the case of landlocked countries). Shipping times vary. While our coffee from Honduras and Nicaragua gets to the U.S. in only a few weeks, beans from Papua New Guinea can take a few months to arrive.


Exporters sell coffee to the roaster, who roasts green coffee beans with different times and techniques based on bean type and desired flavor. Often roasters sell to retailers like cafés, grocery stores, and restaurants.

Coffee Roasting

Cadena is both the roaster and the retailer and sells straight to our customers online. That’s you! Enjoy our roasts, fresh from Chicago to your home. ☕