Seasonality and (Great) Coffee
This is a write-up from the archives (2010) that is worth reading again. Former Thanksgiving Coffee employee Ben Corey-Moran discusses how seasonality affects great coffee.
Like all agricultural crops, coffee changes from year to year due to subtle shifts in environmental factors such as temperature, rainfall, sunshine, and equally subtle changes in harvesting, processing, and preparation by the farmer. This complex dance between farm and farmer produces a fascinating saga of flavor that tracks over time a mosaic of character, sweetness, nuance, and style.
Understanding the seasonality of coffee and working in harmony with its cycles allows us to deepen our relationship with coffee and the farmers who grow it. By focusing on coffee that is origin specific and in-season, we shorten the time and distance that separates us from the production of coffee. Featuring in-season coffees from specific farmers who are close partners transforms the experience of coffee from a generic commodity to a specifically local seasonal product.
Because coffee grows in both the northern and southern hemispheres, the coffee harvest is actually an ongoing cycle whose timing depends on latitude, elevation, and weather. Typically, coffees grown north of the equator are harvested between November and January while coffees grown south of the equator are harvested between May and July. After harvest and processing, coffee requires a resting period of two months before it can be shipped. Together, these steps add another three to four months to the arrival of new crop coffee. Consequently, late in our spring we expect the arrival of coffees from the northern hemisphere, while late in our fall we expect the arrival of coffees from the southern hemisphere.
Our monthly rotation of single-origin coffees features a fresh, in-season coffee produced by one of the farms or cooperatives we’ve worked with for years. Each is a unique expression of the farmer’s craft as it combines with the subtleties of varietal, soil, temperature, rainfall, and sunshine. Each is handpicked by our roasting team to showcase an exceptional example of the benefits that come from working directly with farmers, and the vibrancy of in-season coffee.
We hope you’ll join us as we explore the joys of coffee every month and for many years to come.
Ben worked at Thanksgiving Coffee from 2003 to 2012, in charge of coffee buying and supply chain development operations, as well as working with farmers and cooperatives throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Ben is now the Director of Coffee Supply at Fair Trade USA, leading their investment in producer services, industry collaboration, and supply chain development.