7 Questions to Ask a Wholesale Coffee Partner

7 Questions to Ask a Wholesale Coffee Partner

Coffee isn’t just a drink; it’s part of our daily grind, woven into the very fabric of our lives. If you’re in the business of selling coffee, whether you’re brewing it fresh or reselling, you know the importance of offering a top-notch product. Finding the right wholesale coffee partner is crucial, and you’re likely brimming with questions. Will they understand and support my business? Will they be there when I need them? Can I rely on them for on-time deliveries? We get it, and we’re here to help. In your search for the perfect partner, we’ve brewed up some essential questions to ask, helping you sift through your options and find a partner who’s not just a supplier, but a true ally to your coffee business.

What is a wholesale coffee partner?

A wholesale coffee partner is a business that specializes in roasting coffee beans in large quantities and then selling those roasted coffee beans to other businesses in bulk. These businesses typically operate on a B2B (business-to-business) model, providing coffee products to retailers, cafes, restaurants, hotels, offices, and other establishments that serve or sell coffee to consumers. Wholesale coffee roasters play a critical role in the coffee supply chain by ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality coffee for their clients.

Wholesale Coffee Partner vs. Coffee Distributor

So you might be asking, how does a wholesale coffee partner differ from a coffee distributor? When working with a wholesale coffee partner, you’ll be working directly with the company that sources the green coffee beans, roasts, and packages it. Whereas a coffee distributor represents a catalog of coffee roasting companies and sells on their behalf. The benefit of working directly with the roaster is developing a direct relationship with the company making your product. Communication and feedback will be quicker, there will be more flexibility, and they’ll be able to offer more industry-knowledge. Working with a distributor means you’ll have access to a wider range of coffee brands and offerings, and likely other products you may need for your business. Though they likely will not be able to offer the same level of intimate coffee knowledge as the roaster.

What to look for in a wholesale coffee partner?

Choosing the right wholesale coffee partner is crucial for businesses in the coffee industry, whether you're running a cafe, restaurant, retail store, or any other establishment that serves or sells coffee. You will want to ensure your partner is consistent, reliable, quick, and most importantly, honest. To help you through the vetting process, here are 7 questions we recommend asking when deciding on your wholesale coffee partner.

7 questions to ask when deciding on a wholesale coffee partner?

What is their reputation?

Few recommendations carry more weight than those of customers. When researching the reputation of a wholesale partner, you’ll want to primarily look at how they treat their customers. Do they provide quality time, in-person? Do they treat each customer as if they are their most important customer or do they tend to neglect accounts? Online reviews is a good place to start, but we also recommend asking for references of several current or past customers.

How do they source their coffee?

Knowing how a wholesale partner sources their coffee will give you a good indicator of the reliability of their inventory and quality. Do they source through green coffee distributors, coffee importers, exporters, or directly from producers? Have they developed meaningful relationships with their green coffee partners? Do they provide transparency into how the coffees were cultivated, their varietal, elevation, harvest, and processing? The better the relationships a coffee roaster has with their green coffee partners, and the more transparency they offer, the less risk there will be of poor quality or lack of availability. In addition to asking about their green coffee sources and transparency, also ask about their pricing model. The best price doesn’t always mean best practice.

What types of roasts do they offer?

Every roaster has their specialty—the origin or roast profile they are known for. You will want to find out whether they offer the types of origins or roast profiles that will resonate with your customers. When assessing a potential partner, ask them how wide of a roasting range they offer, bold and dark to light and bright, and if they offer an adequate selection of coffees that will be approachable for your customers. If your customers are wanting darker, bolder coffees, they should taste rich and smooth but not overly bitter. If they prefer medium to light roasted coffees, they should be bright and delicate but not sour or tart. Your wholesale coffee partner should offer a strong selection of coffees within the types of roasts you and your customers prefer.

Learn more: What’s the Difference: Dark Roast vs Medium Roast vs Light Roast

What is their policy on freshness?

Coffee tastes its best a few days after and within a month of being roasted. Specialty coffee roasters often roast to order, meaning they roast their coffees based on current orders, and ship them either the same day or the day after being roasted. This ensures you and your customers receive the freshest coffee possible. You will want to avoid coffees that have already been roasted and sitting on a shelf prior to you placing an order. Customers know to check roast dates on coffee, and you will want to make sure they are satisfied with what they find.

Do they require contracts or offer terms?

It’s not uncommon for wholesale coffee partners to require signing a year or longer contract to receive their best pricing and may even require minimums on orders. This helps them forecast their sales, but it doesn’t necessarily help you. At Methodical, we do not require contracts or minimum orders. We believe a wholesale relationship should be built on trust and mutual benefit with the goal of elevating the customer experience and business on both sides. You should receive a tangible benefit to your customer experience and bottom line from your wholesale coffee partner, and they should too.

Most wholesale coffee partners require their customers to pay at the time of purchase. But terms are often made available to existing customers with established relationships. Being on terms allow you to place and receive an order, but be given 15 to 30 days to pay the invoice. This is very helpful for cash flow purposes. But often terms and contracts go hand in hand.

Will they be a resource for brewing advice?

Wholesale coffee partners should know how to best brew their beans. And they should be able to help you get the most out of their coffee as well. Many wholesale coffee partners also have experience operating coffee shops or cafes and can be a valuable resource for bar flow, equipment recommendations, and brew guidance. Many wholesale partners, like Methodical, offer in person barista training to wholesale partners who are within their region. But even if you’re not local, finding a wholesale coffee partner who can provide guidance on how to best brew their coffee is vital to you and your customers being happy with your coffee offerings.

Check out our online brew guides

Will they be available?

One of the most important questions to ask is whether they will be available when you need them? If you’re operating a new cafe, you may not have figured out your ordering cadence. Or you may need help navigating the complexities of growth. Your wholesale coffee partner should be available within a reasonable amount of time when you need them. Finding a wholesale partner that will utilize their network for you, help you problem solve, offer best practices for bar flow, equipment, maintenance, and just be an encouragement will ensure yours and their success. And when mistakes happen, they are quick to work with you to resolve them. An available, empathetic, and knowledgeable partner will be invested in your success.

Deciding on who your wholesale coffee partner will be is not just an investment in pricing and product, it’s also an investment in a relationship. Finding a partner who will be your cheerleader as much as a resource will help you and your business grow and keep your customers happy. If you are looking for a wholesale coffee partner, we at Methodical would love to work with you. We love to come alongside people who are pursuing excellence in their offerings, service, and experiences.

Ready to get started? Let’s partner →

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