Germans love Tchibo Rarity Coffees. This is How They Create Unique Products (Pro Tips for Roasters)

The Hamburg-based roastery goes beyond quality, assessing producers on professionalism and expertise. Learn how Sourcing & Origin Manager Lea Essing selects standout coffees. And more: which questions she always asks.

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Tchibo is one of the world's largest coffee roasters with an impressive product range. They roast for capsules, fully automated coffee machines, manual coffee makers, Specialty Coffees, and limited editions. 

Having a vast offer list involves juggling suppliers from many coffee origins. The roastery also needs products that stand, helping consumers choose. This is why traceability and storytelling are central to the roasted coffee portfolio of Tchibo.

The roastery's Sourcing team has sourced green coffee on Algrano since 2019. For them, the platform has great offers for the Limited edition coffees, the so-called “Raritäten” product line (Rarity Coffees).

For Lea Essing, Sourcing & Origin Manager at Tchibo, Algrano helps to go beyond quality. By talking to producers, she can assess their professionalism and expertise. 

Lea explains that a great cup of coffee is just the beginning. Tchibo looks for well-processed beans and producers that can support its marketing efforts. They even get farmers involved in creating the product by choosing photos and flavour notes! 

“Algrano gives us the opportunity to be as close to the producer as possible whilst managing risk factors. The transparency on the platform really helps us plan the portfolio and see what the options are.” 

Algrano has great offers for the Limited edition coffees, the so-called “Raritäten” product line (Rarity Coffees).

The coffee is available as beans and capsules (Photo: Tchibo)

Coffee Sourcing Manager in Germany.

Lea Essing, Sourcing & Origin Manager (Photo: San Miguel)

The link between direct trade & sustainable coffees 

There are many factors that influence Lea’s decision-making process. Price is one, of course, but this is only half of the story… 

“With Algrano, we know that our coffee is sustainable. And we can check the information. If we know the producer well, we have more certainty that the coffee is sourced sustainably. And that the supply chain is fair.”  

Tchibo relies on certifications to provide more traceability on commercial beans. But with specialty coffees, certifications are not always an option.  

“When you can’t trace the coffee down to the producer you need external validation [on the coffee’s supply chain],” Lea says. In specialty, the direct relationship between roaster and producer makes it easier to guarantee traceability. “I wish this concept could become scalable one day to commercial volumes.” 

Four steps to source limited edition coffees

Lea's goal with rare coffees is to present "a different taste profile and origin to consumers”. She needs something different from standard portfolio coffees. “We want something exclusive, innovative and high quality.” 

Every time she buys a limited edition coffee from a new supplier, she follows these four steps:

  • Eight months before the launch: Search countries that can deliver by the time of launch. This involves knowing when the harvest happens in many origins, getting shipping timelines and type samples. 

  • Seven months before the launch: Taste samples and get more information about producers. The information doesn't have to be exhaustive at this point. Yet, Lea wants to know about processing, volumes, how the supply chain is organised and the general profile of each producer on the table.

  • Six months before the launch: Sign the contract. Send the checklist to suppliers, schedule calls, and inquire about marketing material. 

  • Pre-launch: Talk to the producer every three to four weeks until she launches the coffee. Prepare packaging and campaign information to share. 

“We learn the hard facts about processing before buying the coffee. Then we ask about the general history, challenges, future plans, what they want from roasters like us, and motivation. Many say that they want consumers to value the coffee more, pay more and know how much work there is behind the cup," Lea says.

Coffee Roasters Cupping Samples in Germany.

The roastery cups as many bowls as possible of the same coffee to evaluate consistency (Photo: Tchibo)

Tchibo Rarity Coffees: Rare Single Origin from Guatemala

Adrian is the face of El Tempixque Rarity (Photo: Tchibo)

Crafting stories with coffee producers

To illustrate this process, we spoke to Lea about the latest rarity of Tchibo: El Tempixque, from Guatemala. With a Marketing background, she is always part of the creative team behind limited editions. 

“Every limited edition we create has a story behind it. It’s so nice to be the person between the origin and the consumer! We care a lot about how we develop specialty coffee at Tchibo. It’s a dream job,” she says.

Tchibo launched El Tempixque Rarity earlier in August. The coffee takes its name from San Miguel Coffees’ family farm, located in Antigua. 

It is a blend of the Bourbon, Catuaí and Caturra varieties. The process is Fully Washed and the grade is SHB (Strictly High Bean). This coffee has a clean profile, a good level of sweetness and a pleasant aftertaste. 

This coffee stands out in taste for having hints of stone fruits like apple and pear and mild citric acidity. Nothing funky, yet a great introduction to specialty coffee. 

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What to ask new coffee suppliers

As with every new producer, Tchibo sent San Miguel a checklist with questions about the company and even personal queries for Adrian. 

Not all producers feel confident to answer these questions via email, so Lea makes sure to create a personal exchange through video calls or in-person meetings.

Here are some of the main questions the roastery includes in its checklist:

  • General information about the farm such as altitude, size, varieties, climate, soil, and processing methods.

  • Are there any challenges that you or other farmers in the region face in coffee farming? 

  • How did you start working with coffee?

  • What does working with coffee mean to you? Passion? Tradition? Work/money?

  • What would you like to say to us as roasters and to consumers?

Questions like these help the team at Tchibo put together compelling and true-to-source descriptions of their coffees. “It is probably precisely this openness and passion that gives this coffee its special character,” they write on their website.

Adrian Cabrera, 4th-generation coffee farmer, visiting Tchibo Roasters in Hamburg.

San Miguel's visit to Hamburg in June 2022 (Photo: Tchibo)

San Miguel: Specialty Coffee producer in Guatemala growing rare and exciting coffees

Choosing photos to showcase El Tempixque (Photo: Tchibo)

San Miguel: Specialty Coffee producer in Guatemala

For Lea, producers like Adrian are role models (Photo: San Miguel)

How Tchibo gets farmers involved in the creative process

Lea believes that roasters have a great responsibility to producers and their stories. “We want to share these stories in an authentic way, not how we think it's right or how we think it sells. That's why we are in close contact with them [farmers]. We always ask if they can send pictures that they would like to see of themselves on the key product visuals. We ask how they would like to see themselves on the German shelves.”

In June, before World of Coffee, Adrian visited the coffee lab and roastery of Tchibo in Hamburg. He went to cup El Tempixque Rarity and other lots from the farm. 

“It’s a day when we invite people from our shops that won the chance to be a part of that meet and greet. We taste the coffee and determine the taste notes for the packaging together. It’s so good to give employees a crop-to-cup experience and show how much we involve the farmer!”

“Coffee can be economically sustainable”

The type of story a roaster chooses to tell about a producer depends on the roaster’s values. With the single origins, Tchibo wants to contradict stereotypes. The roastery wants German coffee lovers to see producers as young and entrepreneurial.

“There is an overrated picture of the third world poor farmer in people’s minds. We did market research and found that this is how most German consumers think,” Lea says.

She adds that her goal is to show that producers are business people. “Farmers like Adrian are role models. They show that coffee can be economically sustainable and profitable.”

The Sourcing Manager defends talking “at eye level” with producers, “not treating them as people without their own opinion”. For her, this kind of relationship secures the sustainability of the coffee chain. It also puts more money in the pockets of producers.

Why stories link back to quality

Like most roasters in the specialty segment, Lea finds it hard to quantify how important the coffee story is. And Tchibo doesn’t select producers based on stories (or lack of them) alone.

But Lea receives positive customer feedback on these stories. She believes that consumers who care about sustainability want to know who grows the coffee and where. “It gives life to the raw product,” she says.

Lea is not wrong. Responsible sourcing is the third main sustainability indicator for consumers but labels rank low when it comes to driving purchases. Relevant information and stories help dissipate label confusion.

The producer's ability to answer questions also offers insight beyond marketing material. “You can see the professionalism behind the coffee,” Lea says. 

What they say about processing shows expertise in post-harvesting methods. This, in turn, indicates that the quality will be consistent and stable over time. “In the end, it’s all about the quality you deliver.”

The full supply chain circle from coffee cherry to cup

From cherry to cup (Photos: San Miguel & Tchibo)

Luiza Pereira Furquim Coffee Writer

Written by Luiza Furquim. With a background in coffee and journalism, Luiza is the Head of Content at Algrano. Originally from Brazil, she worked as a reporter in Sāo Paulo until 2016 when she embraced coffee as a career, first as a barista and later as a roaster. Having visited Africa and Latin America, Luiza is driven by initiatives that solve supply chain problems and bring farmers and consumers together.

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