Importing Coffee from Asia – A Guide

Importing coffee from Asia can be a rewarding and lucrative business.

Why import coffee from Asia?

There are several reasons why an individual or a company may choose to import coffee from Asia:

  • Cost: Coffee production in Asia can be cheaper than other regions, so importing from Asia can reduce costs.
  • Quality: Some regions of Asia, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, are known for producing high-quality coffee. If you import from these regions, you can offer your customers a unique, high-quality product.
  • Variety: Importing coffee from Asia allows you to offer your customers a wider variety of coffee types and flavors.
  • Strong Partnerships: Building strong partnerships with Asian coffee producers can result in a reliable, long-term supply of coffee.

Tips for importing coffee from Asia

Below are some tips for successfully importing coffee from Asia:

Research the market

The first step to importing coffee from Asia is to research the market and determine which countries and regions produce the types of coffee you wish to import. Some of the major coffee producers in Asia are Vietnam, Indonesia, India and China.

Requirements for importing coffee from Asia

To import coffee from Asia, you need to follow several steps. These steps depend on the specific countries and the regulations of the country you wish to import into. The following is an overview of the steps required, particularly with examples for Colombia:

Obtain a license

This is an import license issued by the government of the country you wish to import into. For example, if you wish to import to Colombia, the following steps are required to obtain such a license:

  1. Register with the Colombian Chamber of Commerce.
  2. Apply for a tax identification number (NIT). This is assigned by the Colombian Tax Directorate (DIAN).
  3. Apply for an import license. You can apply for an import license through the Foreign Trade Single Window (VUCE) or the DIAN website. You will need to provide information such as your NIT, a commercial invoice, a certificate of origin and other relevant documents.
  4. Pay the required fees. You have to pay an import license fee. The amount of this fee depends on the value and quantity of the goods you wish to import.
  5. Wait for approval. After submitting your application and paying the fees, you must wait for the license approval. This process can take several days.
Comply with quality and safety standards

Depending on the country you are importing into, strict quality and safety standards apply to imported food, including coffee. You must ensure that your coffee meets these standards and provide documentation to support this.

Several standards apply to the import of coffee into Colombia:

  • Coffee Quality: Imported coffee must meet quality standards set by the National Association of Coffee Producers of Colombia. This includes factors such as bean size, aroma, flavor and acidity.
  • Phytosanitary Requirements: Introduced coffee must meet phytosanitary requirements to prevent the spread of pests and diseases. The Colombian Institute of Agriculture (ICA) is responsible for enforcing these requirements.
  • Labeling Regulations: Imported coffee must meet labeling regulations set by the Colombian government. This includes information such as the name and address of the importer, country of origin and expiry date.
  • Tariffs: Colombia levies tariffs on imported coffee. The exact amount depends on the country of origin and the type of coffee imported.
  • Import Restrictions: Import restrictions may apply to certain types of coffee in Colombia. For example, coffee that is genetically modified or contains harmful chemicals cannot be imported.

Choose a supplier

Once you have identified the countries or regions you want to source coffee from, you need to select a supplier. There are several factors to consider when choosing a supplier, such as: B. the quality of the coffee, the price and the reputation of the company. It is also important that you carefully review the contract terms to ensure they are favorable to your business.

Obtain the required documents

To import coffee from Asia, you need several documents, including:

  • A commercial invoice
  • A bill of lading
  • A certificate of origin

Depending on the country you are importing from and the regulations of the importing country, you may also need an import license or permit.

Consider the logistics

Shipping coffee from Asia can be a complex process and it is important to carefully consider the logistics of importing coffee. This includes choosing the right mode of transport (e.g. air or sea freight), determining the delivery time and calculating the costs associated with transport and storage.

Understanding of customs regulations

Each country has its own customs regulations and it is important that you familiarize yourself with them to ensure your coffee imports are compliant. This also includes finding out about duties and taxes as well as any restrictions or quotas.

Quality control

Ensuring the quality of the coffee you import is critical to the success of your business. It is important that you take quality control measures, e.g. B. by testing the coffee at different stages of the import process.

Build relationships

Building relationships with Asian coffee producers and suppliers can be beneficial for your business. This will ensure you have a reliable source of quality coffee and build a good working relationship that can lead to future business opportunities.

Understand the laws and regulations

It is important to know the laws and regulations that apply to importing coffee, both in the exporting and importing country. This includes any restrictions on the type of coffee to be imported, labeling requirements or food safety standards that need to be met.

Price negotiations

Price is an important factor when importing coffee from Asia and it is important to negotiate a fair price with the supplier. It can be useful to research market prices and understand production costs in order to negotiate a mutually fair price.

Quality assurance

It is important that you have a clear understanding of the quality standards you expect from your supplier and that you have a process for monitoring and resolving any issues. This can include conducting regular quality checks, working with an accredited laboratory, and putting in place a system to address any quality issues that may arise.

Marketing and branding

Once you have successfully imported your coffee from Asia, you will need to market and have your product marketed in order to sell it to consumers. This can include developing a strong brand identity, creating marketing collateral and building a distribution network.

Asia’s best coffees

The best coffees in Asia are highly subjective and depend on each individual’s personal tastes and preferences. Some of the most popular and well-known coffees in Asia are the following:

  • Indonesian Coffee: Known for its unique and powerful flavor, Indonesian coffee is grown in various regions of Indonesia such as Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi.
  • Vietnamese Coffee: Vietnamese coffee is very popular around the world and is exported to a large number of countries. Characterized by its chocolaty taste, it is known for the production of Robusta coffee, known for its strong and tart flavor.
  • Thai Coffee: Known for its mild and sweet taste, Thai coffee is mainly grown in northern Thailand.
  • Chinese Coffee: Chinese coffee is relatively new compared to other Asian coffees, but has gained popularity in recent years due to its mild flavor and sustainable production.

Every Asian country has its own distinct types and styles of coffee, so it’s important to try different types and choose the one that best suits your personal tastes.


Importing coffee from Asia can be a difficult but rewarding process. Thorough market research, selection of a reputable supplier, procurement of the necessary documents and knowledge of customs regulations are the prerequisites for a successful import.