When is it time to harvest?

It might sound like common knowledge, or as predictable as the four seasons, but it’s a question which has become increasingly relevant in the coffee industry. Knowing and understanding the art of harvesting unlocks a wealth of benefits, even for the average specialty coffee enthusiast.

By Mark Howard

Asia Pacific Sales Director

  3 Minutes Read

For any green coffee buyer, carrying such insights into harvest periods is vital to the integrity of coffee companies. The decisions of the green coffee buyer can dictate the difference between the failure and success of their green coffee program.

If you are or have ever been a green coffee buyer, I’m sure you’ll agree when I say it’s imperative for a green coffee buyer to know precisely when coffee harvesting periods take place. The overall goal for any professional green coffee buyer is to purchase ‘seasonal’, freshly-harvested coffee, thus creating opportunities for roasters, brewers and coffee drinkers to revel in its magnificent characteristics. You cannot simply achieve this without having prior knowledge of the when’s and where’s to visit origin, and when to export your coffee.

For instance, it would be careless for a roaster to purchase harvested coffee from the Colombia Department of Nariño at the end of the first quarter of the year. And why is that, you may ask? Well, unlike the rest of Colombia, there is only one harvest a year in Nariño. It takes place between May and July, with shipment periods during July to October. Therefore, this roaster could potentially end up with either past-crop coffee, or no coffee at all, because they were unaware of the region’s harvesting schedules. Am I setting off alarms bells here?

A clear distinction can be drawn in quality between those who purchase at the exact harvest periods, and for those who don’t. It’s the bread and butter of any quality specialty coffee roaster, and the key to an exciting cupping table, time after time.

Don’t fall victim to baggy coffee. Any coffee professional, or human for that matter, has standards. For coffee buyers, avoiding past crop baggy coffee should be one of them. Trust the process, this will save you the hair loss every time that opinionated specialty coffee enthusiast walks into one of your stores and asks the barista, ‘is that fresh crop’?

Whether you splurge and just purchase trusty ‘SPOT coffee’ or cleverly forward contract your coffee, one of the keys to decision making must depend on when the coffee was harvested. Do your own research and keep asking the hard questions. Consider all the variables as you would when approaching production roasting and quality control. Your location on the planet (believe or not), is an important element to your purchasing. Ultimately, understanding harvesting will ensure you purchase the right quantities, ship on time, and enjoy fresh coffee year-round.


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For any green coffee buyer, carrying such insights into harvest periods is vital to the core of any coffee company. A bold statement perhaps, but the decisions and responsibilities of the green coffee buyer can dictate the difference between failure and success.