Seasonality is integral to specialty coffee. Like great wine, coffee is a seasonal plant that only grows under specific conditions and close to the equator.
Some growing regions such as Brazil and Colombia have multiple harvests per year: up to to or even three! Many roasters take opportunity of this availability of coffee and base their blends on a Brazil or a Colombia base...This allows roasters to use the same, or similar coffee to design a blend.
Blends are usually designed to achieve a certain profile: heavy chocolaty body with some fruitiness and refined acidity is a common blend for a house coffee. While roasting is a huge part of the equation when creating specialty coffee offerings, sourcing, cupping and seasonality are often very significant components that are often undervalued or even missed.
I have often been involved in cupping large numbers of coffees and defects are very common, even in the "Specialty" world. I have tasted specialty coffees from major roasters in the specialty coffee world that had evidence of mould and even potato. It is a lifelong skill to be able to source, cup and commit thousands of dollars to coffee from a small sample of beans!
While every coffee we sample is "specialty" grade the decision to buy, blend and source coffees is a constant struggle and joy! Currently we have a delicious Hawk blend which is a Honduras/Colombia blend. We are particularly excited about Hawk because there are very few specialty coffees out there with this pleasing profile. The Honduras Barrios Estate, being a central coffee, brings sweet caramels with medium body (not heavy!) and refined acidity. Our Colombian component is currently La Betania and is heavy in body, chocolate and toffee and adds more acidity and sweetness. Now the trouble with Colombian coffees to be honest is that while they are fresh (green beans are considered fresh for 3 months) they contain complex fruits and a lot of buoyancy. However after 4-6 months (while many roasters will continue to supply them) we find that they lose their vibrancy and go flat. That is why we continually source, cup and sample small amounts of coffees to bring you the freshest and best cup available.
This is by no means an exhaustive look at roasting, however an appreciation of the understanding of seasonality and sourcing of great coffees is critical to developing ourselves in specialty coffee.
Hawk Blend is delicious in milk. We are tasting creme brûlée when served with steamed milk, and buttery caramel with citrus acidity and lingering toffee as black. Enjoy!