Importing coffee and tea
- Marcel Hoebink
- The basis
- 29 September 2020
- Edited 16 October 2023
- 9 min
- Managing and growing
Countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia are major exporters of coffee beans to Europe. Tea mainly enters Europe from countries such as China, India, and Sri Lanka. Are you looking to import coffee or tea? Various rules apply to importing these products. For example, food products have to meet food safety requirements. This article explains the rules you have to deal with.
Coffee and tea usually come from non-EU countries, which means they are subject to import duties. Do you import from a country the EU has a trade agreement with? Then you pay less or no import duty.
- Product requirements
- Importing goods from EU countries
- Importing goods from non-EU countries
There are EU product requirements for coffee and tea entering the European market. The European General Foodstuffs act applies to coffee and tea. It is important that you know where your foddstuffs come from, and to whom you supplied them. That way it is possible to take unsafe products off the market quickly.
Food & beverage hygiene
If you produce, process, transport, distribute, or store coffee or tea, you are required to have a food safety plan under the European food & beverage hygiene regulation. This plan outlines how your company ensures that all food & beverages are handled safely and how you comply with HACCP principles. HACCP is short for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points and the HACCP system maps out everything that can go wrong with food & beverages and how you can prevent this.
Coffee and tea may contain chemicals and microorganisms that are harmful to consumers' health. These substances are called contaminants (in Dutch). The maximum acceptable levels for contaminants in food and beverages are set out in a European Regulation that also applies to coffee and tea entering the European market. Common concerns for coffee and tea include:
Ochratoxin A is a fungus found in coffee and tea. Legal maximum levels have been set for this fungus in roasted coffee beans, ground roasted coffee and soluble coffee (instant coffee).
A maximum level has also been set for perchlorate, a contaminant found in dried tea. You can find the maximum levels in the annex of the European Regulation on the maximum levels of certain contaminants in foodstuffs.
Producers use extraction solvents to decaffeinate coffee. These are also subject to maximum levels.
The marketing of prepackaged food intended for final consumers is subject to legal labelling such as a list of ingredients and a best-before date. For a detailed explanation of your legal obligations with regard to labelling pre-packaged food & beverages, download the Food Labelling (in Dutch) created by NVWA.
Organic coffee and tea
Organic coffee and tea are subject to strict environmental requirements. The use of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers, for instance, is prohibited. Importers of organic products must be certified and meet additional conditions if they import organic products (in Dutch) from non-EU countries.
European legislation has been transposed into Dutch legislation. The following acts, decrees, and regulations also apply to coffee and tea:
- Foodstuff Hygiene (Commodities Act) (in Dutch)
- Preparation and Processing of Foodstuffs (Commodities Act) (in Dutch)
- Pesticide Residues (Commodities Act) (in Dutch)
- Foodstuff Information (Commodities Act) (in Dutch)
- Coffee and Chicory Extracts (Commodities Act) (in Dutch)
- Importing Foodstuffs from Third Countries (Commodities Act) (in Dutch)
Selling coffee or tea in the EU
If you want to sell coffee or tea within the EU, keep the national laws and regulations of the destination country in mind. Even though there is free movement of goods within the EU, the product requirements for coffee and tea may differ from one member state to another. Germany, for example, levies excise duty on roasted and instant coffee.
To find out more about different member states and their requirements for your product, contact the Product Contact Point.
Organisations that can help you
The following authorities provide more information on product requirements for coffee and tea on their websites:
- Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI)
CBI helps exporters from developing countries export goods to the European market. The website gives the EU product requirements for coffee.
- European Commission. Access2Markets contains information on product requirements and import procedures for coffee and tea. This is how you use the system:
- Fill in the 'Product name or HS code' field. A HS code (Harmonized System code) is a commodity code used by customs worldwide to classify products. Every product has a different HS code. HS codes for coffee and tea begin with 09*. In the 'Product name or HS code' field, enter 09 and click 'search'.
- In the 'Country of Origin' field, select the country from which you are importing the coffee or tea.
- In the ‘Country of Destination' field, select the country in which you are importing the product (the Netherlands, for example).
- Click Search
- You will now see a list of descriptions related to coffee, tea, maté, and spices. Click + to scroll down the list of commodities until you find a description that matches your product and the commodity code behind it.
- Click on the commodity code for your product.
- Are you importing from a non-EU country? You will see the ‘Rates’ tab, where you can find the import duties for your product. For information on product requirements and import procedures, click on 'import regulations' in the overview on the left, and then 'specific’ for the specific requirements for your product.
- Do you import from an EU country? You will see the product requirements information.
If you buy coffee or tea from countries outside the European Economic Area () or buy these products within the EEA and attach your own label or brand name to them, you are liable for damages and injuries caused by a defect in the product. It is therefore very important that your products meet the applicable rules and requirements.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important topic in the coffee and tea sector. Having your coffee or tea certified is a good way to demonstrate that they are sustainable. Sustainable because you paid due attention to the environment, working conditions, and fair trade. There are numerous certification schemes to choose from, including labels such as and Rainforest .
When you want to import products, you and your supplier come to terms about matters like transport and payment. You need to have a basic understanding of the import process to succeed. The article Standard steps of importing into the Netherlands will help you. From market research to negotiating a contract.
Because there is free movement of goods within the EU, you do not have to pay import duties when you import coffee or tea from another member state, nor do you have to submit an import declaration to Dutch Customs. Your supplier will usually charge (in Dutch) if you pass on your VAT identification number. If you calculate Dutch VAT (9%) on the purchase and report it in your VAT return, you will usually be allowed to deduct it as input tax in the same return.
When you import coffee or tea from a non-EU country, you have to file an import declaration with Dutch Customs. Your carrier or customs broker will usually file this import declaration on your behalf for a fee, as well as advancing any import duties and VAT that may be due. You will also need an EORI , a mandatory identification number for anyone dealing with Customs.
Paying import duties
If you import coffee or tea from non-EU countries, you will usually have to pay import duties. Import duty rates are linked to the ten-digit TARIC code, or commodity code, of the coffee or tea you are importing. Coffee and tea are subject to the following TARIC codes and import duties when imported into the Netherlands or another EU member state (source: Customs (in Dutch and English).
|Import duty (%)
|0901 11 00 00
|0901 12 00 00
|0901 21 00 00
|0901 22 00 00
|coffee husks and rinds
|0901 90 10 00
|coffee surrogates containing coffee
|0901 90 90 00
|green (non-fermented) tea in immediate
packaging with a content not exceeding 3 kilograms
|0902 10 00 00
|other green (non-fermented) tea
|0902 20 00 00
|black (fermented) tea and partially
fermented tea, in in immediate packaging
with a content not exceeding 3 kilograms
|0902 30 00 00
|other black (fermented) tea and other
partially fermented tea
|0902 40 00 00
Import duties are based on the customs value of a particular product: the purchase price plus shipping and any insurance costs up to the border (or port) of entry into the EU.
Tea products that do not come from the tea plant, such as chamomile tea and rooibos tea, do not fall under the TARIC code starting with 0902. For information on the correct TARIC codes for these products, contact the Customs Information Line.
Extracts, essences, concentrates, and preparations
Different products have different TARIC codes and import duty rates. Tea and coffee can belong to the following categories:
- extracts, essences, and concentrates of coffee
- extracts, essences, and concentrates of tea
- preparations with a basis of coffee or tea
- preparations with a basis of extracts, essences, and concentrates of coffee and tea
- roasted chicory and other roasted coffee substitutes
- extracts, essences and concentrates of roasted chicory and other roasted coffee substitutes
Import duties for extracts, among other things, can be found in the Customs Tariff (in Dutch).
- Click on ‘nomenclature’, followed by ‘browse by nomenclature'.
- Click on the folder for Section IV.
- Then click the folder for ‘Chapter 21’.
- Choose the folder for code ‘2101’.
- This will take you to another sub-menu where you can find the right TARIC code and import duty rate.
If you cannot figure it out yourself, call the Customs Information Line on 0800 01 43.
If you import coffee or tea from countries with which the EU has a trade agreement, you may qualify for import duty relief. For example, if you import unroasted decaffeinated coffee (TARIC code 0901 12 00 00), you normally pay the 8.3% import duty rate. If you import the coffee from Colombia and it is of Colombian origin, you do not have to pay import duties because the EU has a trade agreement with Colombia.
Importers have to meet certain conditions in order to qualify for import duty relief. For example, the products have to be shipped straight from the treaty country and they must be products of preferential origin from the treaty country, which means that they were grown, produced, or sufficiently processed there. You can demonstrate this with a preferential certificate or declaration of origin, such as a EUR.1 certificate, invoice declaration, or Certificate of Origin.
When you import coffee and tea into the Netherlands, you pay Dutch import VAT (9%). You are allowed to deduct this VAT as input tax in your VAT return, provided that you are entitled to deduct VAT. If you regularly import goods from non-EU countries, you can apply for an article 23 (in Dutch) from the Dutch tax authorities to avoid having to pay VAT at the time of import. Instead, you can file the VAT with your VAT return.
Certificate and inspection requirements
A health certificate is required for may foodstuffs entering the EU market. The NVWA or another inspectorate may inspect the shipment. Most coffee and tea products do not require a certificate or inspection. Only coffee berries, tea leaves, and Chinese tea do.
If you import entire and unroasted fresh coffee berries from third countries (other than beans), there is no inspection requirement. But you do need a phytosanitary certificate from the country of shipment. That is a health certificate for plants and plant-based products. You do not need a phytosanitary certificate if you import coffee berries from Switzerland. Coffee berries have the same TARIC code as unroasted coffee beans that have not been decaffeinated: 0901 11 00 00. There is no certificate or inspection requirement for coffee beans.
Fresh, uncut, unfermented, non-aromatised, whole tea leaves also require a phytosanitary certificate from the country of shipment, unless that country is Switzerland. There is no inspection requirement. The tea leaves have the same TARIC code as green tea: 0902 10 00 00 and 0902 20 00 00. There is no certificate or inspection requirement for green tea upon entering the EU. Except when it is Chinese green tea.
If you want to import tea of Chinese preferential origin or tea shipped from China into the Netherlands (with TARIC codes 0902 10 00 00, 0902 20 00 00, 0902 30 00 00, or 0902 40 00 00), the products must be submitted for official at a border checkpoint upon entering the Netherlands. These inspections are needed because the levels of pesticide residues in this tea may be unacceptable. Chinese tea may only enter the Netherlands at the port of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, or Vlissingen, or at Amsterdam or Maastricht airport. These designated points of entry have the necessary border (in Dutch).
You must notify NVWA that Chinese tea will be entering the country at least one working day before the expected arrival date by submitting a Common Health Entry Document (CHED-D, in Dutch). A customs broker can also do this for you. They know the procedures and required documents.