The Process of Sourcing and Sampling New Coffee
SUNDAY, 23 JANUARY 2022
AUTHOR: MAXWELL COLONNA-DASHWOOD
READ TIME: APPROX. 2:34 MINUTES
This week I wanted to dig a little into some fundamental processes at the roastery – the sampling and selection of coffees. This happens all year but comes to mind at the moment as we start to plan for the selection of a lot of new coffee due to the harvesting times of many of the origins we source from.
At different times of year, coffee roasters find themselves tasting a lot more samples. This is to do with coffee harvesting timelines. Some countries, like Colombia, have coffee trees that are flowering and producing coffee cherry year round, albeit to varying degrees. However, most countries have a predictable fixed cycle of rainfall which triggers flowering. This is followed by the development of coffee cherries and their maturation over the year before picking and processing. We end up with a rough delineation for coffee above and below the equator.
Whilst we celebrate the festive season and bring in the new year in the cold, coffee harvests above the equator tend to start being ready to pick. There are differences country to country but roasters end up tasting a lot of “pre-ship samples” at different times of year based on harvesting times. This basically means you are able to select a coffee before it has left the country it was grown in.
Coffee is generally bought and sold harvest to harvest as it loses quality as it is left to sit and “age”. There are many factors that influence the longevity of a harvested and stored green coffee, and in some cases the balance and character can improve with some “resting” much like a fresh roasted coffee.
As processing and storage improve the positive storage life extends further and if a roaster is able to freeze (we have started to freeze a few of the rare lots) the typical ideas of longevity change completely, with famous examples of coffee harvested 4 years earlier out doing a current lot. Vac-pac lots last longer also. In general though, most roasters are working in a window with green and we have found ourselves finding solutions for green coffee that hasn’t “held up”. Sometimes a coffee will fade quicker than expected and other times taste incredible for a long time.
You will see changes in our offering throughout the year as different lots land, but due to improved storage, the offer throughout the year can continue to be diverse.
We are tasting many lots at the moment, and from these we will secure our favourites and then wait patiently for them to ship across the high seas to the roastery.
This means a busy time in the roastery over the coming months planning the coffees to showcase. It's exciting to revisit producers and lots we have had before and see how they compare with previous harvests as well as taste and explore new lots. This process is happening all year at the roastery alongside roast profiling and QC, and it's the backbone of the crafting of the coffee we make and ship from the roastery each week.