The Unsung Heroes of the Coffee World

You drink it every day, but do you know what goes on behind the scenes in the coffee industry?

It’s International Coffee Day on 1 October, and there’s no better time to celebrate the “silent” heroes of the coffee world who work hard to ensure the production of your favourite brew is made possible.

Here’s a look at who’s who.

The Coffee Farmers

Coffee farmers are the folks responsible for the quality and consistent supply of coffee cherries. They constitute a significant part of the entire supply chain, and without their productivity and the effectiveness of their farming practices, the industry wouldn’t exist in the first place.

The process of farming coffee requires meticulousness and careful supervision, and increasingly, farmers are turning to new technologies to support production.

Mill Workers

a man milling coffee under the sun
Mill workers often endure hours under the sun and carry out physically strenuous work. Photo from Christian Burri.

Growing coffee is a long and arduous journey, and each way, from coffee cherry-picking to de-pulping – is crucial to the end result of the coffee beans.

Mill workers carry out most coffee production processes; these processes can be incredibly physically demanding, but they’re vital to ensuring coffee beans can develop a top-notch flavour and of real quality – one that you know and love.

Coffee Sorters

coffee beans scattered
Bean sorting is often done by hand, and it’s also a job mainly carried out by women in a coffee farming community. Photo from Ivy Aralia Nizar.

Another big part of coffee production is coffee sorting. For obvious reasons, broken or defective beans and batches don’t fetch high prices. This element of appearance then affects the price coffee farmers get for their beans, and their income is also affected.

Beans that are imperfect in any way must be sorted out to ensure batches are in as good a shape as possible. Bean sorting is a strenuous manual process that requires sharp eyes.

Different farms use a different system – some make use of tables, while others sort beans on the ground using baskets. This process alone takes several hours but what you get is a solid bag of coffee beans that sell for a fair price.

Coffee Cuppers

a man smelling a cup of coffee
The process of coffee cupping is all about fairness and pricing – ensuring farmers get what they deserve and consumers know what they’re buying. Photo from Battlecreek Coffee Roasters.

Coffee cupping is a tasting technique used by producers and buyers worldwide to check the quality of a batch of coffee beans. When it comes to cupping, the scoring system involves acidity, sweetness, cleanness, mouthfeel, and aftertaste.

One example of a company that does cupping sessions is Malaysia’s home-grown Mister Coffee. The owner, Gavin Sia, personally carries out cupping sessions to ensure tight quality control.

Why is all this important? Like coffee sorting, coffee cupping helps determine the quality and flavour of the coffee beans, which ultimately affects the final price of the coffee.

For coffee farmers, being paid a fair price for what they’ve grown means they can support themselves and their families. For consumers, this process ensures you’re getting exactly the product you paid for, nothing more and nothing less.


two ladies learning how to pour latte art
From pulling espresso shots and steaming silky-smooth milk to pouring symmetrical latte art, many baristas spend years perfecting their craft. Photo from Delightin Dee.

You see them all the time, and they’re the best ‘frontline’ representations of the coffee world, but the job of being a barista can be so underrated.

They’re much more than people who make your coffee. Just like this Singapore Barista Champion, many baristas have spent time, money, and effort to learn how to perfect techniques and the craft involved in making the perfect cup of espresso.

Baristas are also the go-to folks when you’re curious about coffee origins, profiles, flavours, and that’s the knowledge built over months and years of experience.

Wondering how you can show your support? Create a more sustainable coffee world by choosing local roasters that source from micro-lot coffee farmers.

Sign up for De’Longhi Rewards to stay up-to-date on the list of local roasters we team up with. This way, you’ll get to enjoy exclusive discounts!