Coffee - Preparation For The London Market

( Originally Published 1900 )

LONDON is unfortunately no longer the principal port in Europe to which coffee is shipped. Many other places attract much larger quantities, as is shown by the following table of European stocks on November 1st, 1909. That this should be the case is natural now that steamship routes are open to and from all ports, and banking facilities on the Continent, so much greater than they were a generation ago. Further it is natural that coffee should be imported direct into the chief ports of those countries which consume the larger quantity, and therefore not only would it be a benefit to the coffee trade of this country to see a larger home consumption, but bankers, merchants, steamship owners, wharfingers and many others would greatly benefit by the increase of the trade.


Hâvre 2,704,000 bags
Hamburg 1,889,000
Antwerp 998,000
Netherlands 724,000
Trieste.. 360,000
Great Britain. 203,000
Marseilles 145,000
Bremen 135,000
Copenhagen 71,000
Bordeaux 46,000

7,275,000 bags

Still for our purpose it will be sufficient to refer to the preparation of coffee for the London market, other countries each having their rules and regulations. In the first place, on the arrival of the steamer, the cargo is split up and divided between the various public bonded wharves and warehouses, according to the wish of the importing merchant, though, to consolidate insurance policies, and to save collecting from a great variety of such warehouses, a limit has been arrived at and buyers will only take delivery from certain specified places. If the coffee is to be cleaned—having arrived in the parchment—the process employed has been already described. If it has arrived already cleaned, then the first process is to bulk each parcel separately, so that there may be no question of uniformity, but that one sample may represent the whole. A sample, fixed according to the size of the package, is then drawn and the coffee is refilled into the bags, a small weight is placed in the same scale as the bags, to allow for the sample which has been drawn, and the separate bags are weighed for Customs registration.

It will thus be seen that there is a deficiency in every bag before even the coffee is offered for sale. This would give rise to endless claims and complications, but that an allowance, called draft, is given which covers this first sampling, and generally covers the natural shrinkage which takes place in nearly all kinds, but especially with soft and very new coffees.

The only exception to these allowances are with coffees entered on what are known as " quay terms," mostly confined to all kinds of Brazil growth, with these there is no draft and the buyer has to put up with whatever shortage there may be, though sometimes amounting to several pounds. After being bulked and weighed the coffee is ready for sale, and with very few exceptions is offered by public auction in Mincing Lane. On the day of sale—or, occasionally, but by no means always, on the day preceding—samples are shown in small trays in the various brokers' sale-rooms from where the wholesale dealers have to obtain sufficient for roasting and tasting, and be ready with their valuations by 1.30, the time at which the auctions commence. In the height of the season, when new crops from Costa Rica and East India are arriving in large quantities, this is no light task. As many as 450 to 500 lots will be catalogued in one day, representing probably 150 or 200 parcels, and making an aggregate of from 400 to 500 tons, so that it is almost impossible to roast and taste all these in the three, or at most four, hours of the morning. A buyer, therefore, sees first the raw samples and makes his selection as to which he thinks will be most likely to suit him. This is, of course, the art of the specialist ; he is able to judge, as a rule, whether the coffee is suitable for the home trade, or whether it will be taken for export. Many kinds are undoubtedly suited for both, indeed the export trade will take all and any kind " at a price," but to the home trade is reserved the honour of paying the highest prices for the best coffees.

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