Just like any other green, there are certain plants which harvest specific fruits, vegetables, and flowers during different times of the season. This is with coffee, too.
Coffee beans are only available from particular countries during seasonal times. As freshness remains a key priority in coffee, seasonal blends have become more popular.
In this article, you will learn which coffee is grown during the time of the year, the benefits of season blends, and what to expect.
Since coffee is definitely a fruit, it is actually a seasonal harvest. This means that the aroma of each bean harvested will be different depending on when it is grown and picked during the year.
To create a more consistent flavor profile, roasting companies can create a blend, profiling to a specific taste or flavor. This can ensure consistency and regularity to their customers, giving them a product that will be there all year round.
Specific seasonal blends during the holiday season seem to stick out more. Like Pumpkin Spice during the fall and Peppermint or Mocha during Christmas time.
By making blends seasonal, roasters can take quality and harvest timelines into account, making sure each of their batches is as fresh as possible.
Harvesting, processing, and shipping does take months to do before reaching any roasting plant. This means when pickers take the beans off the coffee plants, they need to make sure the cherries are red and ripe to ensure pique quality. They are usually perfect to pick after 2 to 3 months.
After the cherries have been picked, they will then be processed. This is when the layers of skin, pulp, mucilage, and parchment are removed to reveal the bean. How a grower choosers to process the cherry impacts on how the coffee tastes.
There is washed/wet processed or natural/dry processed. With wash/wet processing, after the skin and most of the fruit of the cherry have been removed, the coffee bean will naturally ferment up to 18 to 24 hours. This helps break down the mucilage which surrounds the bean. After the bean has fermented, it is washed in fresh water and dried on raised beds for a month to a month and a half.
Natural/dry processing is when ripe coffee cherries are laid out on raised beds. No skin, pulp, nor mulicage have been removed, making these beans sweeter. Once dry, the fruit is depulped.
Once the beans have been processed is when they can be shipped out to different roasters. Since it is such a long process, any cherries that have been processed will technically be in season the season after. In countries north of the equator, coffee beans are harvested between September and March. Any country south of the equator will harvest their beans from April to August.
For example, Ethiopian coffee is usually harvested from October to December. These beans are then shipped to their roasters in February to March, making them the freshest during the end of March, early April.
However, Ryan Brown, a long-time coffee buyer and author of Dear Coffee Buyer, says, “A coffee should be considered seasonal so long as the cup is vibrant, shows structured acidity, and is free of any signs of age.”
Benefits of Seasonal Blend
Offering a seasonal blend as a roaster can show customers the active interest you have in sourcing the freshest beans. It can also be a limited edition product to promote consumers' interests.
Developing a seasonal blend might, like coffee holiday blends and celebration blends, also help when marketing your products. By including seasonal, yet lower-sourcing coffees, in a blend helps improve a roaster’s margins while still delivering a dependable, high-flavored profile.
Producers can also reap the benefits from seasonal blends as well. Long-term annual commitments to purchasing coffees from farmers for seasonal blends generate greater stability for the growers. They are provided a guaranteed income that can be used to improve their farm as well as invest in the quality of their crop.
When consumers are looking for a seasonal coffee, they are wanting flavors that are associated with the ones the season already provides.
Roland Blew, the sourcing and production manager at Hasbean Coffee Roasters, says, “Most European and US consumers tend to associate summers with juicy acidity, lively and floral flavors. Dark winters, however, create an expectation of dried fruit, caramelized flavors, and a heavier body.”
However, Will suggests that it’s also important for roasters to create a seasonal blend that is stable and predictable.
“One of the core aspects of delivering a blend is about creating that wider ‘sweet spot’ for consumers. You’ll want to allow them to extract the coffee in a way they might expect from a coffee shop.”
Will means that if a roaster changes the flavor of the blend for different seasonal coffees, it can be worth reflecting this with different descriptions for certain flavors and notes on the packaging.
“When a coffee changes, we communicate the changes in roast and flavor notes, as well as the origins of the coffee. People enjoy seeing it every year and understand that they might get a slightly different experience, but it's likely to be embraced, rather than shunned.”
When companies display the origin information of all the coffees in their blend you are able to see more of the flavor profile. This also showcases that the bean is still fresh and seasonal, even though there may be some changes.
For example, if you experience a sharper acidity it could be more rounded or muted. With sweeter tastes they may turn from stone fruits to dark chocolate. The notes may have subtly changed, but it’s still the same, fresh coffee.
Some businesses provide tasting cards or detail labels when they ship their blends to give the consumer as much information about their coffee as possible.