A Guide to Importing Coffee Beans into the US

Updated November 28, 2023

Although coffee wasn’t that popular in the US until the Boston Tea Party in 1773 — when colonists decided to boycott British tea and drink coffee instead — a life without the hot caffeinated beverage would now be unimaginable for most Americans. In fact, the average person consumes approximately three cups of coffee a day in the US.

The downside is that coffee can only be commercially grown in two US states, Hawaii and California, because of the tropical climate and high altitude that the beans thrive upon. 

However, the good news is that some of the best coffee-growing nations — including Colombia — are very close by. In fact, the US imports more than $1 billion in unroasted coffee from Colombia each year, and here at Those Coffee People, we are proud to be part of that number. 

As specialists in sustainably sourcing the highest quality Colombian green coffee for US-based customers, we’ve put together this guide to importing coffee beans into the US.

Finding a Supplier

If importing coffee beans into US territory is something you’re planning to do regularly for your business, finding a trustworthy, reliable coffee supplier will make or break the process. 

When importing into the country, you have to abide by the rules of three different government agencies: 

In which case, it’s a good idea to find a supplier who is familiar with all of these guidelines.  

When vetting your coffee supplier, ask as many questions as possible, including how long they’ve been in the business, the type of green coffee they supply, and the minimum order values they accept. 

Also – be aware of the fact if you’re trying to source your coffee directly from growers then they may not have the prerequisite export licenses. This is why a licensed exporter is usually required to facilitate the trade.

Looking for a coffee bean supplier? Discover our range of exotic green coffee beans for export.

Arranging Shipping

Shipping and logistics may be the most complex part of the process when it comes to how to import coffee into the USA. In general, there are 4 main ways that coffee may be imported into the USA:

  • Courrier model, like Fedex, DHl, UPS
  • Air Freight with major commercial airlines
  • LCL Sea Freight
  • FCL Sea Freight

As well as arranging the actual transit, there’s quite a bit of red tape to get through, including FDA regulations for importing coffee. This includes: 

  • Filing prior notice of the commercial coffee import with the FDA, and registering your manufacturer or distributor with the FDA before sending out the coffee. This notice can be submitted to the FDA through the CBP or alternatively through the Prior Notice System Interface (PNSI). For further advice, refer to FDA guidance
  • For coffee cargo arriving into the US by vessel, you’ll also have to file your Importer Security Filing (ISF) no later than 48 hours before the estimated time your shipment is due to depart the last foreign port. 
  • You’ll need to arrange a Certificate of Origin as a requirement of the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

When buying through an experienced coffee supplier, they will manage all of this on your behalf.

Shipping Costs 

Your supplier will include shipping costs in the final order quote but depending on the Incoterms you negotiate, they will only include costs until the goods arrive at the destination port. A few additional shipping fees that you may need to account for once the goods have arrived are the following: 

  • Merchandise Processing Fee. MPF is an ad valorem fee of 0.3464%. This is based on the value of the coffee being imported, excluding duty, freight, and insurance charges. The minimum MPF is $27.23 and the maximum fee should not exceed $528.33. 
  • Harbor Maintenance Fee. The HMF is 0.125% of the value of the commercial cargo shipped through ports. HMF is not collected on goods that are transported via air or mail.

US Coffee Imports Product Labeling Requirements

When it comes to FDA regulations for importing coffee beans into the US, you must mark the country of origin clearly and legibly on each bag in English. 

If the coffee is roasted, the import will require additional, product-specific labeling requirements which may include:

  • Ingredients
  • Net Weight
  • Gross Weight
  • Content 
  • Other details. For more detailed information on labeling roasted coffee imports, contact the FDA.

Customs Clearance Declarations in the US

When it comes to US customs and coffee beans, if you’re importing a coffee shipment valued above $2,500, it will require a customs bond. Five days before your coffee imports are due to arrive, you must therefore fill out a CBP entry form in order to post a customs bond that will clear your goods through CBP.

If you’re managing the importation process without the assistance of experienced international coffee suppliers, then hiring a licensed customs broker is a good idea. They will help you meet all of the federal requirements for your coffee import and avoid obstacles.

Coffee Import Customs Duties in the US

In the United States, there are no limits to the amount of coffee you can import into the country and green coffee bean imports are duty-free. 

If the coffee beans are ground and already brewed, however, there are special duties to pay on coffee containing syrup or sauces. Again, an experienced coffee supplier or licensed customs broker will assist you with this.

Sales Tax on Coffee Sales in the US

Sales tax on retail coffee sales varies according to each state. There are some states — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon for example — that don’t charge a sales tax.

While most unheated food and drink is exempt from sales tax, hot beverages such as coffee sold in a form suitable for on-premises consumption or a “to go” order, will usually be subject to taxation in states that have sales taxes. In 2020, the average combined state and local sales tax was 7.12% across the US.

Discover Our Range of Direct Trade Coffee Beans  

Here at Those Coffee People, we’re experts in sourcing and supplying the finest direct trade Colombian green coffee beans. We venture off into remote areas of Colombia’s beautiful coffee regions to search for new and exclusive varieties, exploring the country town by town to identify the most unique and desirable origins for you and your customers.

Explore our unique Colombian coffee origins here and discover the story of every estate we work with. We can fulfill and deliver orders of any size for buyers in the United States, contact us for more information. Or if you are interested in visiting Colombia to source your own specialty green Colombian coffee, check out our Colombian Origin Trips.

27 Responses

  1. I’m originally from Bali, Indonesia where my family own coffee plantation. I’m living in Socorro, NM, USA
    May I connecting and get further information in regards to selling my family coffee beans to USA market?

  2. My husband and I are just looking to get started with roasting our own coffee. We have friends who live in coffee growing regions and would like to have them mail no more than 5-10 pounds of raw beans. We are just trying to find out if this is legal. Once we get to the point of understanding how the roasting process works, we would like to find out about licensing and hiring people who know what they are doing as far as the logistics of it all. We live in north Georgia USA.

  3. Hello, we are coffee growers in Nicaragua. We grow and sell coffee to help the poor in this Central America country. We are trying to import roasted coffee beans into the US market, any help would be most appreciated.

  4. Hello,
    I’m growing coffee in Colombia, I would like to import it to
    uS. How I can start the process?
    Thanks.

  5. Hello – I spend a lot of time in Colombia and during my last trip I want to explore the possibility of importing Colombian coffee beans into the U.S. (Florida). The process seems daunting and would like to know how your company can help. Thank You

  6. Hi I’m a small or micro producer of coffee in peru. I would like to know what requirements are needed to bring coffee via baggage on on air flight into the U.S. i.e. roasted beans in grain pro bags. Requirements or fees if any ?

  7. Hello, I like your website, I am from Brazil and live in the US (Florida). I am interested in coffee trading…thanks!

  8. Greetings.

    I have just bought a small 1 hectare coffee farm in Curití Colombia. I am interested in your services and what you charge to help me with all you mention on your website (importing to the states, ideally Michigan)

  9. Hello, this is Cyusa. I live in Texas. I was wondering how I can get suppliers for the Rwandan Coffee beans.

  10. Hi There, how much cost import granule roasted coffee per kilo/lb? The order delivered to my door? Thanks
    Carlos/Seattle

  11. Do think you can send me a price list of your Arabica and Robusta coffee list, price per pound and how long it would take to ship and clear customs via air. I live in las Vegas.

  12. I am us citizen. I have coffee exporting company registration and licensed in Ethiopia.
    I want to export green beans to the USA.
    What I need to do to export a container of green coffee?

  13. Hi,

    I am new at this and I wanted to find out how can I bring Colombian Coffee to USA and sell it? Please let me know.

    Thank You.

  14. Hi i would like to import coffee from malawian coffee growers, i am new to the importation business can you help me out

  15. I am starting a coffee business where we intend to sell high-quality medium-roasted coffee beans. Since we are just starting out we have no packaging. We would like to sell our coffee in quarter-pound and half-pound bags. For starters, we would like to begin with a pilot amount to determine what our consumers like and how fast it will sell. That way we will be able to determine a quantity to purchase every month moving forward. Do you have a brochure with pricing? Also, do we need an import license for the pilot amount which should not be over $2500? Looking forward to hearing from you.

  16. Hi, my name is Kai from Kate of Tokyo Japan.

    We are currently having the plan to export our own branded coffee (Origin: Ethiopia) to the state.
    I understood that we have to fill in the documentation of CBP, FDA, and USDA in order to export our items. We have our own company in New York and we are planning to send our products there. However, this is our first time to export our coffee products to the state and I am confused with all the processes we have to follow. Kindly advise me on what else we have to do to export our coffee successfully.

    Thanks

  17. Hello Dear Sir/Madam
    I’m a coffee producer in Brazil and, despite the fact that you sell coffee from Colombia, I’d like to know if your Company would consider to import the product of high quality from Brazil.z
    Looking forward to hear your feedback.
    Regards

  18. Hello there,

    I’m working on a project of a cargo-sailing boat which would transport goods (including and starting with coffee) from Colombia & potentially other Caribbean islands to the US.

    I’m currently in Colombia, meeting producers and working on a Business Model and plan of action.

    At that point, I’m trying to understand the necessary documents required to import coffee to the USA and I found you and thought it might be smart to work with an experienced stakeholder.

    One of the thing that matters most for me is to be able to pay the producers a fairer price that they currently get.

    One of the idea at this stage would be to setup a non-profit and do a crowdfunding campaign to have pre-ordered coffee bags (either for cafes in the US or individuals).

    Anyway, lots of nice ideas on the paper, but lacking knowledge of the importing process.

    I’m not sure in what capacity you could help me navigate it and if you find the project appealing.

    If you do, don’t hesitate to answer me!

    Thanks I’m advance.

    Cheers,

    Noé

  19. Me and my family own a coffee export company in Ethiopia. We are exploring ways to get into the US market and I am looking for companies who want to buy our product.

    1. Hi Jeff I am looking to buy coffee beans roasted at first and then eventually roast our own coffee… Can you help me find a supplier that I can buy coffee beans already roasted in burlap bags to sell coffee beans by the pound at our store. We will also serve coffee already brewed. I wasn’t sure if these companies are at Hunts Point Market or at Elizabeth New Jersey. Thank you very much.

  20. I appreciate perusing the exclusive details you provided about the U.S. regulations and compliance for importing coffee beans.
    Thank you for providing such information, it was very informative.
    Intrinsically, I have access to Liberica coffee beans from the country from which it originated.
    If you have any interest and desire to learn more about it, please do not hesitate to contact me.
    Cell: (312)885 5762

  21. Hello Mi name is Michael. I come from a coffee farmers family in Colombia. I currently live in the US and would like to explore options to start importing our on coffee brand. I and not a certified importer by any means and I’m just looking to look into the process and see where I can begin. If you could give me some guidance I would greatly appreciate it.

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