A Coffee Buyer’s Glossary of Contract Terms

Samples & Quality

Tasting and approving samples prior to purchase is a critical stage in the coffee-buying process. There are many different steps along the supply chain when coffee may be sampled. Both physical and sensory qualities will be under analysis.

coffee shipping

Let’s break down some sample types:

  • Type Sample: This is a non-representative sample, meaning it does not directly correspond to a specific lot of coffee for sale. It may be used as an introduction to a new relationship (i.e., “This is the type of coffee we often carry”) or as a substitute for many representative samples in a long-term, high-trust relationship (e.g., “Here’s the type sample for the 10 containers we will sell you this season”).
  • Representative or Stocklot Sample: This sample type corresponds directly to a specific quantity of coffee in a specified location. Representative samples typically draw from multiple bags of the same stocklot in an attempt to provide a holistic and accurate depiction of the coffee. However, standards vary from warehouse to warehouse.
  • Offer Sample: A representative or stocklot sample of coffee that is “offered” with a quantity available for purchase. This sample type is not associated with an existing contract. However, if the buyer likes it, it might be used as a pre-shipment approval in some cases.
  • Pre-Shipment Sample (PSS): Typically offered as a “fulfillment option” for existing agreements, this is usually the point of no return for a buyer. The coffee in question may already be milled and ready for transporting, or the sample may have been specially prepared in advance of dry milling. In either case, an approval of a PSS is taken as an agreement to move forward with preparing and exporting the finished coffee to the buyer.
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