• Photo of coffee growing on a coffee tree.


Coffee Basics: Seasonality

Coffee is complex, but one of our favorite facts to share is incredibly simple: coffee is the seed of a fruit.

Coffee is complex, but one of our favorite facts to share is incredibly simple: coffee is the seed of a fruit.

Like all agricultural products, it is at its best when it is consumed as soon after harvest as possible. A tomato eaten in the middle of winter isn’t going to taste as good as one picked fresh off the vine in the summer. In this blog, we will explore coffee seasonality—which coffees taste best when, when different coffees are in season, and what you can do if your favorite coffee isn’t available.

Photo of the LA mug next to pears, grapes, a clementine, and some small flowers.

When Is A Coffee In Or Out Of Season?

Like the tomato example above, every coffee has a season when it tastes best. Coffee is considered to be in-season when roasted and sold shortly after its harvest. How big that window is depends largely on the coffee itself.

Coffee harvesting essentially works its way South throughout the year. The coffees grown farthest north start their harvesting early in the year. Further south, harvesting starts later and later. After harvest, because of processing and shipping schedules, it can take up to a few months for coffee to arrive in the U.S.

Therefore, coffees produced in the northern hemisphere, like Concepción Huista from Guatemala or Finca El Puente from Honduras, are usually being sold at their freshest from early summer into fall. Coffees that are grown in the southern hemisphere, like Valle del Santuario from Peru or Mpemba from Burundi, will arrive and taste best from early winter into spring. 

Close up photo of coffee cherries growing on a branch with water dripping from them.

When Is A Coffee The Most Fresh?

So when should you be drinking coffee if you want it to be at its peak freshnessCounter Culture Coffee is committed to only selling coffee that is seasonal and fresh. You may have noticed that our single-origin options come and go pretty often. If a coffee is on the menu in early spring, it will usually be gone by fall, if not sooner. Our coffee department works hard to purchase coffee in volumes that we can sell through during the coffee’s window of peak freshness.

Over time, even unroasted coffee will fade. Fade is the term professionals use to describe a drop in quality, as measured by taste, that happens to coffee over the time after it has been harvested. Sweetness and acidity diminish, and the flavor of faded coffee is often described as flat, cardboardy, woody, or vegetal.

It’s notable that the window of freshness is different depending on the coffee. A coffee’s variety, processing, and storage will impact how long it stays “good.” Some coffees will only taste fresh for a month or two after they arrive in the US. Other coffees will taste fresh for over a year. This is all taken into account when we are buying coffees to put on our menu. Our coffee and roasting teams regularly perform quality control to ensure that what we are selling is always in top condition. Tasting the menu every week, they look for signs of fade and loss of flavor. The closer a coffee is to the end of the season, the more frequently they will taste. It’s a lot of work but worth it to ensure we are only selling the best coffee we possibly can.

Year-Round Coffee

You may have also noticed that we have some coffees on our menu year-round. These are the ones in the colorful bags with names like Apollo, Hologram, and Forty-Six. The goal of our year-round products is to create certain fan-favorite flavor profiles that we can always make available. To maintain this menu and ensure that what we’re offering is always fresh, we need to swap coffees in and out while maintaining that consistent flavor profile. It’s a tricky job, but our coffee department has gotten really good at it over the years.

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  • Because we buy based on relationships we’ve maintained over many years, and we generally know what to expect out of the coffees we’re purchasing even before they are harvested, we can contract to buy those coffees a year ahead of time. Doing so makes it easier to make sure we have the coffee we need, when we need it, to create these delicious and consistent coffee experiences.

    Top down photo of a bag of Santafé coffee and a mug of coffee.

    What Should I Do If The Coffee I Love Is Out Of Season?

    If you’re looking for your favorite single-origin coffee, but it isn’t on the menu at the moment, you have options! Our menu is usually pretty large and diverse. Check out the flavor descriptors listed on the website or printed on the front of the bags and when you spot one with flavor notes similar to your usual preferences, try it out. If you need help picking the words to describe your favorite coffees, use our Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel to help narrow down which coffee to try next. You’ll probably find something new to love and explore. And you can be confident that that coffee is in season and has passed our rigorous quality standards.

    The great news is that coffee is being harvested somewhere in the world all the time. This is wonderful for coffee lovers because it means we can always have access to new and fresh coffees. Who knows, maybe your favorite coffee is being harvested right now!

    How Will I Know When My Favorite Coffees Is Back In Season?

    We want to make sure you are always in the know about your favorite coffees. When you sign up for our newsletter, you'll get a weekly email with the latest information all about the new coffees we're offering. You can also sign up to be notified when your favorite is back through our Coffee Archive.

    If you want to learn more about coffee, check out our classes!

    Counter Culture is
    • pushing potential
    • freshly roasted
    • quality coffee
    • sustainably sourced
    • coffee-driven
    • people-driven
    • independently owned