Harvesting coffee is just what it sounds like. It’s the picking of coffee cherries — ideally when they’re ripe. Coffee is, after all, an agricultural product, and cherries, which contain beans, must be picked.
How Is Coffee Harvested?
There are two factors every farmer must consider when deciding how to harvest their coffee. First, will the cherries be picked by hand or by machine? Second, will they be strip-picked or selectively harvested?
Most coffee in the world is harvested by hand. Hand-picking is labor-intensive, but it’s the only practical option in much of the world. Few farmers have the capital to invest in harvesting machinery. Those that do tend to grow high-quality coffees in the mountains, where the slopes are too steep to operate machinery on.
(One of the few exceptions to this is Brazil, where excellent farmers have relatively flat estates that they can use machinery on.)
The best coffee in the world is selectively harvested, which means only ripe beans are picked. This requires going through an estate’s trees multiple times. Strip harvesting is more efficient, because all of the beans are picked at once. Many will be under- or over-ripe, though, and detract from the quality of the lot.
Selective and strip harvesting can be done either by hand or machine.
When Is Coffee Harvested?
In most countries, coffee is harvested once per year. Some countries, however, have climates that are conducive to growing coffee nearly all year long. In these countries, there is a smaller secondary crop, called the fly crop.
Here are some of the most well-known coffee growing countries along with their harvest seasons.
|Country||Main Crop||Fly Crop|
|Brazil||May – September||N/A|
|Colombia||September – January||March – June|
|Costa Rica||October – Marcn||N/A|
|Guatemala||September – April||N/A|
|Honduras||September – February||N/A|
|Mexico||September – March||N/A|
|Peru||June – November||N/A|
|Hawaii||October – March||N/A|
|Sumatra||October – March||N/A|
|Ethiopia||November – Feburary||N/A|
|Kenya||October – March||May – August|
|Tanzania||October – February||N/A|
|Yemen||October – December||N/A|
|Jamaica||December – March||N/|
When during a harvest a coffee is picked affects both its quality and taste. Its most important that farmers pick beans when they’re ripe, as these will produce the highest quality crop. It’s almost impossible to have a few under- or overripe cherries in a lot, but these should be kept to a small percentage of the lot.
As a cherries mature, the flavors in beans, which are the pits of coffee cherries, also develop. For instance, citric acid (the same acid that’s in citrus fruits) is present in high concentrations in young coffee cherries, and beans often have citrus notes if they’re harvested early. As the cherries mature, the prevalence of citric acid diminishes and the bean’s become less acidic. Differences like these are especially pronounced in naturally processed beans, which are allowed to soak in the fruit’s juices before being depulped.
Consistently Providing Fresh Coffee
At Driftaway Coffee, we’re committed to always providing you fresh coffee. If you have a favorite coffee and want to know when we might have it again, feel free to email us. We’ll be glad to tell you more about when we may get that or a similar coffee in again, which will likely be after the next harvest season.If you’re looking for a specific coffee, you’ll probably find it in the months following the harvest season. Processing, importing to the U.S. and roasting all take time. Thankfully, green coffee beans stay fresh for several months, so the delay doesn’t impact coffee.
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