Where Does the UK Get Most of Its Coffee From?

The UK sources most of its coffee from several key countries. In 2022, the leading origins for coffee imports into the UK included nations from South America, Africa, and Asia. These regions provide the diverse and rich flavours that Britons love in their daily brew.

  1. Top coffee-exporting countries to the UK – Discover which nations are the biggest suppliers.
  2. Import values and trends – Understand how much coffee the UK imports and any notable trends over recent years.
  3. Market dynamics – Learn about the features driving the coffee import market in the UK.

Overview of the UK’s Coffee Imports

The United Kingdom relies on several key countries for its coffee imports. These countries provide diverse flavours and aromas that enrich the UK’s coffee culture. Here’s a look at the main suppliers:

  • Brazil: Brazil leads as the primary supplier of coffee to the UK. The country is known for producing high-quality Arabica coffee beans, providing around 30% of the UK’s coffee imports.
  • Vietnam: Vietnam ranks second, primarily exporting robusta coffee beans. Its contribution reaches about 20% of the UK’s imports.
  • Colombia: Renowned for its specialty coffee, Colombia supplies around 15% of the UK’s coffee.
  • Honduras: This Central American country contributes to approximately 10% of UK imports, known for its well-balanced coffee beans.
  • Ethiopia: Ethiopian coffee, famous for its distinctive flavours, accounts for about 5% of the UK’s coffee imports.

Changes in Coffee Import Trends Over the Years

The UK’s coffee import trends have evolved greatly:

  • Increase in Specialty Coffee: There’s a growing demand for speciality coffee in the UK. Consumers are looking for unique flavours and higher quality, leading to more imports from countries like Ethiopia and Colombia.
  • Shift Towards Sustainable Coffee: UK importers increasingly favour sustainably sourced coffee. Certifications like Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade are becoming more prevalent, reflecting a shift in consumer preferences.
  • Rise in Instant Coffee Imports: Even though the trend towards specialty coffee, instant coffee remains popular. It accounts for a substantial portion of imports, driven by its convenience.
  • Emergence of New Suppliers: Over the years, countries such as Peru, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua have started gaining traction as significant coffee exporters to the UK.

These changes illustrate the dynamic nature of the UK’s coffee import market, which adapts to consumer trends and preferences.

Profiles of Top Coffee Exporting Countries to the UK

Brazil — The Largest Supplier

Brazil remains the leading supplier of coffee beans to the United Kingdom. The country produces over 74% Arabica beans and 26% Robusta, with 80% of exports being Arabica.

In 2021, Brazil supplied 43,000 tonnes of green coffee to the UK. The relatively flat coffee-producing areas and widespread use of mechanical pickers have reduced labour costs but also impacted coffee quality. Brazil’s coffee is typically used in blends, with low-grade Arabica being a significant component.

  • Production: 74% Arabica, 26% Robusta
  • Exports to UK (2021): 43,000 tonnes
  • Main use: Blends
  • Methods: Mechanical picking

Vietnam — A Key Player in the Market

Vietnam is a significant player in the UK’s coffee import market, primarily supplying Robusta beans. The country’s consistent and high-volume production makes it a key source for instant coffee and other mass-market products.

Vietnam focuses on quantity which ensures a reliable supply of robust and affordable coffee beans.

  • Main Export: Robusta beans
  • Usage: Instant coffee, mass-market blends

Colombia and Specialty Coffee

Colombia holds a special place in the specialty coffee sector, supplying high-quality Arabica beans known for their rich, complex flavours. Colombian coffee is often preferred by connoisseurs and coffee shops focusing on premium brews.

It contributes greatly to the UK’s specialty coffee consumption.

  • Main Export: Arabica beans
  • Quality: High, specialty coffee standard
  • Popular in: Specialty coffee shops

Other Notable Suppliers

Several other countries contribute to the UK’s coffee imports, each adding unique flavours to the market.

  • Honduras: Known for its large-scale production of high-quality Arabica beans, playing a key role in the specialty coffee market.
  • Ethiopia: Offers distinctive, flavourful Ethiopian coffee beans, widely regarded for their unique taste profiles and traditional significance.
  • Peru: Emerging as a new supplier, noted for organic and fair-trade coffee.
  • Nicaragua and Costa Rica: Both countries make significant contributions, especially in the specialty coffee segment.

The UK’s coffee import market draws from various coffee-producing countries, ensuring a diverse range of flavours and qualities. This blend meets the diverse preferences of UK consumers while adapting to trends in sustainable and specialty coffee sourcing.

The Role of Fair Trade and Sustainability in Coffee Imports

Fair Trade certifications elevate the living standards of coffee farmers and ensure ethical practices in the coffee supply chain. These certifications empower producers by guaranteeing minimum prices and providing a premium for community projects.

Key impacts include:

  • Economic Stability: Fair Trade ensures a minimum price for coffee beans, which protects farmers from market volatility.
  • Community Development: Premiums from Fair Trade are reinvested in local infrastructure, education, and healthcare projects.
  • Environmental Protection: Fair Trade standards encourage sustainable farming practices, reducing the environmental impact of coffee production.

Sustainability Practices in Coffee Production

Sustainability practices in coffee production address environmental and social challenges, ensuring long-term viability. The coffee industry increasingly adopts these practices to meet consumer demand and regulatory requirements. Key practices include:

  • Shade Grown Coffee: Growing coffee under a canopy of trees preserves biodiversity and reduces the need for artificial fertilizers.
  • Organic Farming: Using natural processes and materials enhances soil health and reduces chemical runoff.
  • Water Conservation: Implementing efficient water use methods such as drip irrigation conserves water, key in coffee-growing regions.
  • Waste Management: Recycling coffee cherry pulp and other by-products minimizes waste and promotes soil fertility.

Certification Programs: Programs like Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certification promote these sustainable practices, ensuring that coffee production aligns with environmental and ethical standards.

By integrating Fair Trade and sustainability practices, the United Kingdom’s coffee imports support a more ethical and environmentally friendly coffee industry, benefiting both producers and consumers.

UK Coffee Market Dynamics

Where Does the UK Get Most of Its Coffee From?

  • Brazil supplies not decaffeinated coffee in beans imports, totalling 469090 (units), impacting the UK’s coffee quality greatly.
  • Brazil leads with instant coffee whether or not decaffeinated, contributing 324940 units.
  • Brazil provides various coffee forms, including extracts, essences, and concentrates of coffee, with significant figures noted (100000 units).
  • Brazil remains a dominant supplier for both roasted coffee and green coffee beans, sustaining the UK’s consumption needs.
  • South America and Central America regions, especially Brazil and Honduras, are key contributors providing diverse coffee types, including arabica coffee.

Demand Trends in the UK Coffee Market

  • Coffee consumption in the UK involves diverse preferences, with 13% regularly consuming espresso.
  • Coffee drinkers preferring to grind their own beans make up about 25% of the market.
  • Popularity in coffee variants includes cappuccinos (20%), flat whites (15%), and Americanos (28%).
Coffee DrinkPreference (%)
Flat White15
  • Specialty coffee trends affect import choices, driving demand for high quality arabica beans.
  • Coffee shops and coffee chains adapt menus to include beloved choices like cappuccinos and flat whites, shaping import needs.
  • The rise in decaffeinated coffee options aligns with health-conscious consumers, modifying import patterns.
  • Ethiopian coffee and other unique origin coffees gain popularity, encouraging imports from specific producing countries.

UK consumers drive the market by valuing quality and diversity, with a visible preference for green coffee beans and artisanal roasts. Coffee imports must cater to these evolving tastes, ensuring a consistent supply of both everyday and specialty options.

Future Trends in UK Coffee Imports

Potential New Markets for Coffee Imports

  • Asia Expanding Role: China and India increase coffee production, creating more options for the UK market. This extends beyond traditional suppliers in Latin America.
  • African Growth: Ethiopia diversifies offerings, showcasing specialty coffees. Kenya and Uganda also emerge.
  • Eastern European Producers: Eastern European countries such as Slovakia and Hungary begin coffee cultivation, although in smaller quantities, they add variety to UK imports.
  • Economic Volatility: Fluctuating global markets impact coffee prices. This volatility affects the cost and availability of coffee imports.
  • Climate Change: Adapting to environmental changes is key. Producers innovate cultivation techniques to ensure consistent quality and supply.
  • Rising Production Costs: Costs rise due to increased labour and resource needs. These expenses reflect in the prices of imported coffee.
  • Supply Chain Challenges: Complex supply chains require improvements for efficiency. Beans change hands multiple times, affecting traceability and sustainability practices.

In these contexts, coffee drinkers in the UK benefit from diverse and high-quality coffee imports, supporting both everyday consumption and specialty coffee preferences. This development aligns with the broader trend of growing coffee culture and sustainability emphasis, making coffee consumption in the United Kingdom increasingly versatile and ethical.


So, now you know where your morning cuppa comes from! The UK’s coffee journey is a fascinating mix of global contributions and evolving trends. Whether you’re sipping on a Brazilian espresso or enjoying an Ethiopian flat white, there’s a whole world behind every cup.

As coffee culture grows and sustainability becomes more key, expect even more exciting varieties and flavours to hit your local café. Cheers to that!

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