Like the changing of the seasons, there’s a seasonality to coffee. Ever wonder why you only see your favorite Ethiopia Natural or Washed proceesed coffees a few months out of the year? Just like your grocery store produce, coffee is an agricultural product that has a peak harvest.
Coffee is a fruit that comes from a flower—coffee buds briefly blossom, often sparked by rain after a hot and dry spell. Coffee cherry growth typically takes 6-7 months. Each region and farm has environmental variations, seasonal changes, and elevation differences that impact when the peak harvest each year will be, so the answer to when a particular crop could peak might be the elusive, “it depends”.
Peak harvest patterns
Still, there are patterns that we can look for. Different coffees are harvested at various times of the year, and a lot of it has to do with the equator. Generally, you’ll notice coffees from the Northern Hemisphere are at their peak from late winter to early summer. From late summer to early winter, look for coffees from the Southern Hemisphere.
Royal Coffee put together an interactive map that shows the approximate schedule of peak harvest by country.
It’s important to note that harvest times are different from arrival times—it’s good to bear in mind the time of processing methods, the reality that coffee needs 60 to 90 days to rest, and fluctuating shipping times because, well, supply chains. Everyone’s coffee journey is different. You may be reading this and already know which flavor profiles you enjoy and which countries of origin and processes you typically look for and buy. If that’s you—taking a look at this chart will help you plan and find new favorites, too.
Understanding the seasonality of coffee will help you plan
Why does this matter? Knowing the seasonality of coffee will give you the ability to plan your coffee buying, to know to expect more Ethiopian coffee or Costa Rican coffee in the spring. It gives the opportunity to find a new favorite, too. If your favorite Northern Hemisphere coffee is sold out, check the flavor profiles of Southern Hemisphere coffees.
If you’re new to the world of single origin and specialty coffee, there are a few things to keep in mind about flavor notes. Generally, you may have heard to expect chocolate or nutty notes from Central and South American coffees, and fruity notes from African coffees. These are huge generalities, and flavor notes are going to also depend on the specific region, process method, etc. However, starting here, learning about nuances of different regions/processes, and paying attention to the roaster’s flavor notes will help you find your new favorite coffee.
So if the coffee you were looking for is sold out, don’t worry: this is an opportunity to find another award-winning, incredible coffee. If you need help finding a new favorite, ask one of our baristas at your local Klatch. If you’re ordering online, pay attention to the method and key flavor notes and take our Find Your Beans Quiz.
Coffee is what we know, love, and honestly, we geek out on it; we love talking about it. In every season, we’ve got you.