Seasonal Coffee – What Does This Mean?

You may have spotted that our coffees are ‘seasonal’. But what exactly does this mean?

We roast coffee all year round. However, this doesn’t mean that coffee is picked, processed and continuously shipped. Coffee beans are the seed of the coffee fruit, or ‘cherry’. Coffee is just like other fruit trees- in the spring, the trees flower and the flowers are pollinated and produce fruit which matures and ripens during the summer.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all these exotic coffee countries are dry and arid either- coffee requires high rainfall to produce good crops. Certain regions of India and Colombia have the highest rainfall in the world. In the same breath though rainfall and other environmental factors can have a significant impact on quality. For example, if the rain is steady during the summer, then the coffee cherries will mature steadily too. This means the farmworkers can easily pick the slowly developing cherries at their most ripe state, increasing quality. On the other hand if there is a period of drought followed by heavy rainfall the cherries can mature very quickly, so it is more likely that over-ripe (essentially defective) coffees will make their way into the harvest decreasing quality.

Another crucial stage of coffee processing is drying. If the coffee dries evenly and quickly, the resulting quality will be higher. But factors such as rainfall and humidity can plague the drying process, particularly by creating favourable conditions for mould growth which causes defective flavours.

Throughout the main harvest (some countries have a ‘fly’ crop- a much smaller secondary crop,) the cherries are picked, processed, dried and stored. When the volumes are high enough the coffees can then be transported to ports to be packed in containers and shipped overseas. This means that coffee is only really shipped once a year, unless they are lucky enough to have a fly crop (i.e. Colombia, Kenya). Additionally, different countries have their harvesting season at entirely different times of the year. For example Rwanda’s main harvest runs from April to July, whereas Ethiopia’s main harvest runs from October to January. This means there is always a conveyor belt of fresh coffees landing in the UK, and a fantastic opportunity for us to roast and showcase these coffees at their best.