Market Data & Insights:

From coffee bean to coffee cup

How is coffee produced and how well do you know your beans?

Here at Lincoln & York we are continuously researching new products to deliver bespoke coffee to our customers. How much do you know about your favourite coffee and where it comes from?

Soaring global coffee consumption is good news for the industry and the economies of the countries reliant on the trade, also known as origins. In a growing market where there is huge demand for new flavours, coffee origins are key to flavour profiles and have become distinct in their own right, similar to that of wine producing regions. The growing environment including altitude, seasonal rainfall, soil type and natural light levels all play a part in the final flavour of the product.

Processing methods can also influence flavour and results can vary wildly from region to region. Ongoing producer experimentations yield different results, keeping the industry evolving and the coffee origins in healthy competition with one another. 

What is coffee?

A coffee bean comes from inside a coffee cherry, which grow on coffee trees from a region of the world known as the coffee belt.

There are two main types of coffee…


Arabica originates from Ethiopia and accounts for over 60% of the world’s coffee. Usually grown at higher altitudes and in mountainous areas, Arabica coffee trees require care and attention as they are prone to disease and pests.


Robusta has a full, heavy body and around twice as much caffeine as Arabica. Primarily used in blends and for instant coffees, the bean is slightly rounder and smaller than that of an Arabica bean and is usually grown at lower altitudes due to the robustness of the coffee plant. 

How is coffee made and what process does the coffee bean go through to get to your coffee cup?

Growing – A coffee tree sapling takes 3-5 years to mature and produce coffee cherries.

Harvest – Coffee cherries turn bright red before the ripest are carefully picked by hand.

Processing and drying – The ripe cherries are processed, coffee beans dried and sorted. Key factors influencing flavour at this stage are the drying methods used, whether natural or mechanical, humidity, stirring, airflow and the avoidance of additional water. Even the surface on which the coffee is dried can impact the final flavour.

Quality tasting – Before shipping, a sample is tested for quality by Q graders*.

Shipping – The coffee is shipped in recyclable sacks.

Roasting and packing – Once the beans arrive in the roastery, they are tested again for quality before roasting.

Brewing – A great tasting cup of coffee can be brewed in a variety of ways.

The coffee roasting process

There are many variables during the coffee roasting process. As coffee consumer knowledge, and the demand for speciality coffees, grows, coffee roasters need to remain adaptable with a constant eye on quality. 

Identify coffee flavours with our tasting wheel

Our simplified version of the SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) flavour wheel can help you pick out the recognisable flavours. View the Lincoln & York tasting wheel.

Q graders

Like sommeliers of wine, Q graders examine a raw coffee product and score it on quality and attributes including acidity, body, flavour, aftertaste, uniformity, balance and sweetness.

Once qualified, the Q grader can score coffee out of 100 as per the SCA cupping protocols. A coffee must score 80 or above to be classed as speciality coffee.

The results

Consumers ultimately dictate the direction of the coffee market, and with a more refined global coffee palette, origin producers are having to continuously experiment to stand out. 

If you would like to understand how you could create a private label coffee for your business, please contact our experienced team.

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