It’s finally spring in North Carolina. That’s cause for celebration at my house because spring means strawberry season. We’re celebrating at Dilworth Coffee too, because spring also means Central American coffee season.
Connoisseurs of strawberries, peaches, or apples know that fruits taste a little sweeter in their season. As the seed of a fruit, coffee too has a season. But what does that really mean for coffee connoisseurs?
Join us as we “Follow the Beans” on their journey from the gate of their farm to the Dilworth Coffee roastery. It’s coffee season.
Invierno showers bring coffee flowers
Coffee growing regions typically have tropical climates. That means a coffee cherry’s growth is defined not by four seasons but two: the rainy season and the dry season. The length and arrival time of these seasons varies from year to year and country to country. Timing generally depends on whether a farm is north or south of the equator, and how far north or south it is.
In Honduras, the dry verano season is typically December through May. A rainy invierno season follows from June through November. Just like “April showers bring May flowers” in the USA, the first rains of invierno welcome waves of coffee blossoms. These white, jasmine-scented flowers will become coffee cherries, which slowly grow and ripen for the next 7-9 months.
In good years, harvest time comes during the dry season – convenient for both picking and processing. Cherries at warmer lower elevation farms ripen first. Coffee season makes its way slowly up the mountain over the next few months.
Pickers will make several passes through each farm over several weeks. With each trip they carefully harvest the ripe cherries, leaving the underripe ones for another day. This selective hand-picking helps ensure the beans within have the flavor and sweetness that fans of specialty coffees love.
The rest of Central America’s coffee season occurs on a similar schedule, as do harvests in other northern-hemisphere origins like Ethiopia, Yemen, and Hawaii. The wet and dry seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere. This means harvests in Brazil, Peru, Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea occur on an opposite schedule. Sound confusing? Check out this harvest calendar for a little more clarity.
Colombia, Kenya, and the “fly crop”
If the coffee season is affected by a country’s position relative to the equator, what happens in countries that are on the equator? In the case of Colombia and Kenya, this means another rainy season. That’s not great news for tourists, but for coffee drinkers that means a second coffee season.
Depending on location within Colombia, the main crop comes a little earlier than its neighbors to the north. They call their second, smaller harvest a mitaca, and it begins about 6 months after the main crop. Kenya harvests their second “fly crop” on a similar schedule.
Resting up for a long journey
Once picked, careful processing removes the fruity coffee cherry pulp and dries the coffee beans. The green coffee then rests for several weeks before final processing and sorting. At this point, the grower or processor packs the coffee beans for their long journey to a waiting roaster.
The classic 60-kilogram jute coffee bag has been the traditional shipping method for centuries. Within the last decade, however, those bags have begun to be lined with a layer of plastic. In some cases, they’ve been replaced altogether with either larger plastic bags or smaller cardboard boxes. This change means green coffees’ flavors are less likely to become fouled or faded during what’s often a long ocean journey.
Fresh crop in your cup
At last, the wait is over. A month or more after harvest, our fresh crop coffee beans arrive at the roastery. How will coffee made from them be different?
Like farm-fresh produce, the flavors will likely be fresher and more vibrant. Like other agricultural products, flavors will differ somewhat from year to year too. New crops also present an opportunity for us to work with a different farm, which may mean even more dramatic differences in flavor. In short, it’s an opportunity to appreciate your favorite coffee in a slightly different way, possibly discovering new favorites.
With proper storage, green coffees will continue to be delicious long after picking. Even so, the arrival of fresh crop coffee season is a reason for coffee roasters and drinkers to celebrate.
To find out which fresh crop coffees we’re celebrating at Dilworth Coffee right now, call us at 866 849 1682.