Trace Your Coffee Using Blockchain

That blockchain is so hot right now. Blockchain. It is, without question, the word I’ve heard the most recently without having any idea what it means. It generally goes along the lines of, “something something Bitcoin something something blockchain something something.” It’s very technical. But now, a coffee company is using blockchain technology to bring more transparency to each cup of coffee. Put another way, “something something coffee something something blockchain.”

In its most uncomplicated form, blockchain is just a cloud-based ledger that records transactions. According to the Wall Street Journal, Denver’s Coda Coffee is applying this new fangled record-keeping to tracking coffee from the farm to the coffee shop. Each coffee they sell is given a QR code that customers can scan to “see the date and location of every transaction—from collection at the farm to washing and drying, milling, export, roasting and retail.”

For this traceability to work, new processes have to be put in place at origin. To catalog new coffees, farmers in Eastern Uganda put their crop through a machine that “analyzes the beans and assigns them a lot number that customers can trace.” Called the “bextmachine,” that analyzer was created by Denver startup Bext360 and is intended to be a useful tool for more than just the end user.

The bextmachine also furnishes better information to the businesses along the supply chain, like Coda, by conducting a three-dimensional scan of the outer fruit of each bean. In providing more detail on quality and characteristics of the coffee beans at the farm level, the machine helps wholesalers and roasters learn which attributes produce certain tastes—helping them adjust future sourcing decisions.

Listen, I’m not sure if this whole Bitcoin blockchain thing will be around in 10 years or if it will go the way of the pet rock, but like, a pet rock that you can use as currency on the dark web. But nonetheless, transparency in coffee is a good thing and trying to use new technologies—whether ultimately successful or not—to increase traceability is worth attempting. So yeah, I’m willing to take my coffee with a side of blockchain. I’m still not sure if I’m using that right.

Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.


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