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Quicker transportation at the Port of Hamburg.

Hamburg's attractiveness for the coffee trade's diverse activities is a result of a lengthy symbiosis between trade and transport and the port. A mixture of trading firms with innovative service concepts and port operators with state-of-the-art facilities, future-oriented services, and intelligent solutions in the logistics field is the secret of Hamburg's success.

Hamburg is the home of Europe's leading coffee importers and the some of the world's most important green coffee trading group. These trading companies, with their close ties to Hamburg's warehousemen and roasters, form the link between coffee growers and consumers.

With a broadly based structure and customer-oriented service concepts, Hamburg's ware-housemen offer storage space in the traditional warehouses of the Speicherstadt, modern high-capacity warehouses and computer-controlled silos.

State-of-the-art green coffee processing machines guarantee a diverse, customer-oriented range of services, e.g. cleaning, sieving, polishing, destoning, electronic sorting, washing, mild treatment, all kinds of damage treatment, blending, quality controls and efficient logistics. All the services provided in the administrative and operative fields, everything from imports of green beans to deliveries to the roaster, are computer-assisted operations.


The biggest challenge facing the port are the changes in the transport of green coffee. The need to optimize the flow of goods from the coffee plantation to the processor, cost-cutting requirements and just-in-time concepts will lead, in the long term, to the replacement of bagged transport by containerized shipments, i.e. bulk transport.

Bulk containers will also be used to store and trans-ship green coffee--the warehousemens' reaction to the demands of large-scale roasters who like to get their coffee direct--in "silo-friendly" form.

One can still see coffee being unloaded in jute or sisal bags from conventional freighters (9% of coffee handled in the Port of Hamburg). But as a rule, bagged coffee is now transported in containers. Nevertheless, the trend is definitely to bulk coffee shipments in containers. However, some problems still have to be overcome, mainly in the coffee growing countries (lack of handling equipment and the need to optimize precarriage from the plantation to the port of departure). The coffee business has only just begun to tackle the questions of standardization, supplementing trade terms to cover bulk consignments, sorting out damage-regulation procedures, etc.


Built in nine months, the latest addition to the Kaffee-Lagerei NHL Hinsch & Cons. (KLG) family has recently been officially opened--a new silo plant designed and constructed solely for landing bulk shipments. By doubling KLG's silo capacity, the new plant represents an important milestone in the company's development. With this new, computer-controlled plant, KLG is one of the leading specialists for handling and processing green coffee in Europe.

"In the past 12 years we have invested more than DM 50 million in expanding and modernizing our facilities to meet our customers' increasing demands," said Heinz Papenhagen, KLG's managing director, at the official opening of the new high-capacity silo in the Port of Hamburg. The reason behind such huge investment are the far-reaching changes taking place in the transport of green coffee landed in Hamburg from South America (mainly Colombia and Brazil), Africa, and South-East Asia.

Whereas for decades green coffee was transported in bags, the increasing degree of containerization in recent years clearly pointed to the path coffee transport would take. But for the companies operating in this field this development has meant far-reaching changes. Initially containerization merely involved the bagged coffee being loaded into containers. Now the coffee beans are increasingly being poured directly into the container, a method of transport that requires special unloading facilities.

The only Hamburg firm with such facilities is KLG. Together with its other silo (in operation since 1983), KLG has a total silo capacity of more than 15,000 metric tons. This is divided up into 228 cells for storage or blending the various kinds of coffee from different countries of origin. "Our silo is computer-controlled to guarantee precise, high-quality operations," said Papenhagen.

The key services KLG supplies are cleaning, sieving, polishing, washing, and electronic sorting of the coffee beans. Furthermore, KLG also blends different kinds of coffee in accordance with customer specifications and organizes shipment to the roasting plants.

Nowadays, it takes just 15 minutes to unload a 20' container weighting 20 metric tons. In the days when coffee still arrived in bags, it took three dockers over an hour to unpack a container with 18 metric tons of beans.

As Papenhagen pointed out, this gain in productivity is necessary to safeguard the Port of Hamburg's long-term future. KLG will continue to make its contribution to safeguarding that future with highly advanced cargohandling facilities and well-trained personnel, said Papenhagen.


In 1993, the amount of tea handled by the Port of Hamburg rose by some 57% from 34,000 tons to 54,000 tons. Hamburg is Germany's most important tea port, with almost 80% of all German imports unloaded in Hamburg.

In 1993, tea imports totaled 22,000 tons (up from 21,000 tons the year before). Transit cargoes accounted for another 32,000 tons (up from nearly 14,000 tons in 1992); an increase of 130%.

Last year, about a third of the tea handled as transit cargo in Hamburg was bound for Poland, 20.5% for Finland, 17% for the Russian Federation, and 8% for the Czech Republic. The most important suppliers are India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Argentina, Kenya, and Malawi. Of the total quantity of black tea imported via Hamburg and drunk in Germany last year (around 22,000 tons), some 15% came from India, 16% from Sri Lanka, 26% from China and 12% from Indonesia. Such statistics emphasize Hamburg's significance as the gateway to Scandinavia and the countries of Eastern Europe, as well as its leading role in trade with India and East Asia.

In 1993, a total of 29,500 tons of black tea was delivered to Germany (excluding tea ending up in Free Ports or bonded warehouses), up from 25,000 tons the year before. Green and aromatic teas also passed through Hamburg though these blends are not recorded as individual items in the official statistics.

The remarkable increase in imports of tea last year was a result of the abolition of the tea tax in Germany. Since the new legislation did not allow for any refunds of tax paid in 1992, tea importers did their best to reduce their levels of taxed stocks. The result was a huge increase in imports in 1993 to replenish stocks. For the same reasons, considerably more tea was exported during this period as well.


In Germany, tea consumption has been relatively stable for years. The average per-capita consumption of (black) tea is around 240 gms. a year, or 263 cups per person. This puts Germany in the bottom third of the world's tea-drinking nations. The average British tea drinker, in contrast, consumes 2,750 gms. a year. Only Germany's East Frisians can keep up with that--they drink an average of around 2,500 gms. a year.

What Germany's tea lovers lack in quantity, they make up for in quality, and are considered to be the world's most demanding tea drinkers. This is particularly obvious if we take a look at sales of teabags (which normally contain lower-quality teas).

In western Germany, the ratio of tea bags to loose-leaf tea is 23:77, though in eastern Germany nearly twice as many tea bags are used. In Britain, in contrast, nearly 90% of tea is sold in tea bags. German consumers prefer fine, aromatic leaf teas from the traditional tea-growing regions. Thus, Hamburg's importers are particularly popular partners in tea growing regions.

Tea is unloaded in the Port of Hamburg virtually all the year round because the world's tea growing regions have greatly differing harvesting times. Whereas in the last century, even the super fast tea clippers took months to bring their cargoes to Europe, today's modern ships have cut journey times to an average of three weeks. Moreover, tea chests, the traditional means of packaging tea, are increasingly being replaced by paper or plastic bags with an inner lining of aluminum foil. The growing tendency in further shipment is to pack these bags in containers.


Tea is bought as a finished product by importers at tea auctions, direct from the plantations or on the basic of samples. Tea is a natural product and so taste may vary from harvest to harvest.

A good tea taster ensures customers get the constant quality they expect. Tea tasters are also responsible for the various kinds of aromatic tea. These are teas of favorably priced quality to which aroma essences such as Earl Grey (20% market share), Vanilla (11%), Wild Cherry (11%), Orange (7%), Black currant, (7%) or Jasmine (5%) are added. Sales of aromatic teas were only about a tenth of those of black tea though in food outlets the quantity of fruit or herbal teas sold is almost as high as black tea.
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Title Annotation:handling of coffee and tea imports in Germany
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1994
Previous Article:Branded versus private label tea.
Next Article:Coping with higher prices.

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