This is a question that many of our customers have asked us. You can walk into a grocery store and get the same coffee today that you got 6 months ago. Why can’t we do the same here?
It is sometimes easy to forget that coffee is an agricultural product harvested every year. It is interesting because raw green coffee beans do store well for over two to three years, and proper storage doesn’t affect the quality of flavor. Commodity coffees are just available in a much larger amount every single year. When you look at a bag of French Roast or Italian Roast in your local grocery, it may or may not list the country or origin of the bean. Many times, it’ll just say, “coffee.”
For us it is truly the fact that we deal with specialty coffees, which have much smaller crops than commodity coffees. There just aren’t as many bags of beans available from that specialty origin’s harvest to buy and store. Since we only offer specialty coffee, when a harvest is gone, it’s gone.
Coffees are also harvested in different regions of the world in different months of the year. For example, Central America harvests in the late winter, the Pacific Islands in the fall. The harvesting and processing of specialty coffee takes several months each year.
Coffee cherries that produce the beans do not all ripen at the same time, even on the same branch. That is why the harvest season in every coffee growing country is three or four months long. Pickers walk the trees and pick the ripest cherries, leaving the non-ripened cherries for later. Pickers come through repeatedly over those months and pick only the ripest cherries every time. We will only have access to purchase particular “lots,” or harvests of coffees, from our suppliers during certain windows of the year.
The amount of coffee available from a particular farm or region may also vary from year to year based on rainfall or another weather variable. A hard frost in 2021 caused the loss of over eight million bags of beans from Brazil, affecting the 2022 coffee crop. This will cause shortages in certain contracts and will affect pricing, just as any other agricultural product would affect the market.
If you find yourself in love with a coffee we carry, know it is from a particular harvest in a given year. Savor your cup because that farm may not have the same exact flavor notes or cup score the next year. We find it exciting that every new harvest brings a new mug of adventure. Thanks for making us part of your coffee story.