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Coffee country of origin study

The coffee industry is one of the world’s largest and is often the predominant source of income for many countries that rely on its trade for economic stability. Perhaps as a result of its status as an important global commodity, there exists a high risk of commercial coffee fraud.

The Details

Every sip of coffee tells a story – a story of culture, craftsmanship, and a complex journey from bean to cup. There is a growing emphasis on improving transparency within the system that brings together coffee farmers, exporters, importers, traders, roasters, and retailers. In 2022, Source Certain developed a study to demonstrate the ability of scientific provenance verification technology, TSW Trace, to verify the origin of commercially available green and roasted coffee beans.

Scientific provenance verification

TSW Trace® is the proprietary scientific solution that underpins our provenance science services. It utilises trace element and stable isotope analysis to determine a unique chemical profile, or ‘signature’, for a reference sample. The signature can be referenced at a later point to verify an origin claim for a product claiming to come from the same location as the original sample.

Over 600 samples were analysed from the top 25 coffee-producing countries across six continents, including:

  • Green and roasted single-origin coffee
  • Whole beans, ground and prepared (pod)
  • Robusta, Arabica and Liberica varieties.

The analysis of the coffee samples was completed using a combination of solution ICP-MS and ICP-AES and isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS).

The primary aim of this study was to establish a rapid, reliable and cost-effective screening test to verify the origin of coffee. Scientific technology, like TSW Trace can strengthen existing traceability and transparency measures that are currently in use within the coffee industry.

Rachel Scadding Chief Operations Officer Source Certain


  • Creation of an up-to-date coffee origin database containing over 600 samples
  • Coverage of all major coffee-producing countries across six continents
  • The ability to analyse single-origin coffee prepared in all forms
  • Analysis of single beans in blended samples to verify origin.

This study was supported by research conducted by Source Certain scientists in the late 2000’s.

Watling, R. J., et al. (2010). The Application of Solution and Laser Ablation Based ICP-MS and Solution Based AES for the Provenance Determination of Selected Food and Drink Produce. The Open Chemical and Biomedical Methods Journal, 3, 179-196.

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