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Coffee in Germany

An overview of coffee in Germany, how it get there, the coffee trade and the current coffee consumption.

The history of Coffee in Germany

The history of coffee in Germany dates back to the 17th century. In 1679–80 the first coffee shop in Hamburg was opened by a merchant from England, where coffee had been introduced in 1852, after Holland. A century later coffee had become very popular in Germany and there were coffee shops everywhere. Merchants from England supplied the north of the country, while the south was supplied by traders from Italy.

Among the authorities there was discontent because of the large amount of money paid to foreign merchants for coffee, and the true German was raised on beer, not coffee. Initially they tried to stop the coffee business with fines and jail, only the rich could drink it with a special license and buying from the government at exorbitant prices. The poor had to take substitutes made from barley, chicory and other ingredients.

Gradually the restrictions were lifted and coffee became the most popular drink in Germany. Today coffee in Germany with an average consumption of 152 litres per year has the highest consumer preference, more than beer (102 litres) and water (150 litres). 88% of people consume coffee daily.

Hamburg, Bremen and the Coffee Trade

The main German ports for coffee are Hamburg and Bremen. Hamburg is the second most important port for coffee in Europe, after Antwerp, Belgium. In the colonial era of the 19th century, Germany had colonies where coffee was first grown (Cameroon, Tanzania and Papua New Guinea) and the relationship with German emigrants who became coffee growers in many other producing countries has strengthened the relationship.

The coffee merchants in Hamburg and Bremen became multinationals like Neumann and Rothfos, which have an important weight in world trade, although it partly moved to Switzerland, where large trading houses have established their headquarters, but they continue to depend on ports such as Hamburg and Bremen for physical coffee handling.

Historically, coffee was exported in parchment and processed in the ports of consuming countries. Consumers roasted coffee at home, but at the end of the 19th century there was a demand to industrialize the process to supply the workers of the nascent industry in the cities. That is why there is a lot of expertise in coffee processing in cities like Hamburg, where to date there is a plant for reprocessing. The technology of processing coffee was also brought to the producing countries and to date companies such as Probat continue to have much prestige in machinery for roasting coffee.

It was in Germany that the first process of decaffeinating coffee was invented by the Kaffee Handels Aktiengesellschaft, Kaffee HAG, established in 1906 in Bremen. HAG continues as a brand, which is owned by Jacobs Douwe Egberts JDE since 2015.

It was in Hamburg that the technology of steaming coffee was developed in 1933, originally to make the coffee smoother for the consumer, but more recently to give Robusta coffee some acidity to increase the percentage of Robusta in blends, as it is cheaper. In Germany some brands sell 100% Robusta coffee.

Coffee industry and consumption

The European Union is the world’s largest coffee market, where more than 41 million bags are consumed. Germany stands out with 8.7 million bags, the third consumer country after the United States and Brazil. Germany is the leader in Europe in industrializing coffee with 31% of the total, followed by Italy with 29%. Italy produces more roasted and Germany produces more soluble coffee.

Source: Eurostat

Production has grown 15% between 2016 and 2020 to 11.2 million bags of roasted and soluble coffee, of which 5.5 million are exported, mostly within Europe. In 2020, 2.6 million bags were imported, 50% from Italy.

In Western Europe, coffee consumption fell 2.5% in 2020, due to the impact of COVID-19, against an average growth of 1% in years prior to the pandemic.

Source: Euromonitor

Germany was an exception, growing 1.5% in 2020 and 0.4% in 2021, according to the Deutscher Kaffeeverband (German Coffee Association). As in other countries, out of home coffee consumption fell, but it was more than offset by the increase in at home consumption. In Germany 88% of coffee is consumed at home.

Of the 28–29 thousand coffee shops in 2018, the vast majority (97%) were traditional and independent cafés, many of which were more of a mix of coffee shop with pastry or other food service. In the segment of more than 2,200 specialist coffee shops, multinational chained players dominate with 84%. Coffee shops suffered a 43% drop in sales in 2020, due to the pandemic.

There are regional differences in terms of culture and preferences of the German population. There are still differences in standard of living between the old eastern part and the western part, which is the most prosperous part. From north to south the differences are above all cultural, the same from the big cities to rural Germany.

For the purposes of consumption statistics, the country is divided into 4 regions: North, South, East and West. The differences are relative in terms of the percentage of preference for the type of coffee and the way it is prepared. For large roasters it is above all a matter of distribution of the different presentations, for small roasters it is a matter of specialising, according to local taste or according to the market segment.

Certain characteristics are general for the entire country, such as the importance of discount supermarkets, which expresses the awareness that the German consumer has in terms of prices, among others, of coffee. However, this is changing if we look at the trends in the big categories. The biggest growth is in the most expensive coffees: whole bean, capsules and extract blends for Ready To Drink.

They also indicate a change in culture, individual units (pods and capsules are put together in statistics) and RTD means a more individualized consumption, different from filter coffee where everyone drinks the same thing at the same time. However, coffee in pods represents only 14% in Germany, which is little compared to 32% in France, 31% in the Netherlands and 27% in Belgium, which led this market segment in the European Union in 2018, according to data. of the European Coffee Federation.

Differentiated coffee

The specialty coffee market is the fastest growing segment in the European and German market. The growing interest is shown above all in the growth of specialized local coffee shops and roasters, but the big roasted coffee merchants and brands are also increasingly making inroads into the world of “boutique coffee”, coffee of origin, etc.

All the big trade houses work with specialty coffees, often with a specialized company, others are independent, specializing in high-quality coffees. There are also companies specialised in certain origins and even linked to particular producers, such as EthioCo (Ethiopia and other countries), Santorkai Handel Papenhagen (Kenya), Jasaquntu (Colombia), PachaMama (Peru) and Méambar (Honduras).

12% of the coffee consumed in Germany is certified coffee. Germany was the first country to introduce organic certification in the 1960s with coffee from Finca Berlin from Mexico bearing the Demeter seal (biodynamic certification). Germany is now home to many organic certifiers and IFOAM Organics International, the umbrella organisation of the organic movement.

The organic produce market in Europe was €41 billion at retail level in 2018, 42% of the world total. The German market is the largest with €11 billion at retail level, 27% of the European total, 5.3% of those for food products. It is followed by France (€9.1 billion) and Italy (€3.5 billion). In percentage Denmark comes first, with 11.5%, followed by Switzerland (9.9%, Sweden (9.6%) and Austria (8.9%).

Source: FIBL

In Germany in 2019, sales of organic coffee grew 14% in volume and represented 4.3% of consumption. According to a 2019 study, about 26% of German consumers prefer organic over conventional coffee and 78% are willing to spend more for it. Apart from Peru and Honduras, which are the main suppliers, Germany also imports a lot of organic coffee from Ethiopia. The seal with the largest volume is that of Rainforest (merged with Utz Certified), it is estimated that half of the certified coffee in Germany, equivalent to about 600 thousand bags of green coffee, 6% of total consumption.

Germany is the second largest market for Fairtrade sales, after the United States. Fairtrade certified sales grew 42% between 2016 and 2020 to 550 thousand bags, of which 73% double certified Fairtrade and organic, according to data from FLOCERT. It represents 5% of coffee consumption in Germany. 34% of consumers say they consume organic and/or Fairtrade coffee daily and another 13% several times a week.

This means that the competition in this market segment is very strong and the premium that the consumer pays for certified coffee is limited.


It can be concluded that Germany plays an important role in the world of coffee and is the leading country in Europe in coffee trade, production and consumption, supplying many other countries in Europe with green, roasted and soluble coffee.

Coffee is the consumer’s preferred beverage in Germany, more than beer and water, and 88% of consumers drink it daily. Coffee is mostly consumed at home and discount supermarkets play an important role with their own brands. Consumers are very price conscious and margins are slim.

However, consumption habits are changing. Sales of premium coffees are growing in their market share: certified coffee, specialty coffees, specialised coffee shops, whole beans, capsules, RTD, all grow more than consumption in general. This opens up opportunities to improve sales conditions for suppliers whose coffee fits into these segments and there is a growing number of small roasters and coffee shops selling coffee at a high premium.

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