Around the World in a Coffee Cup: The Story of Global Harvests

Around the World in a Coffee Cup: The Story of Global Harvests

Coffee harvesting is a labor-intensive process that varies depending on the region and type of coffee bean being cultivated. Let's delve into the details of coffee harvesting in different regions and the nuances between Robusta and Arabica beans.

South America Coffee Harvesting:

South America is one of the world's most prominent coffee-producing regions, known for its high-quality Arabica beans. The continent's diverse climate, rich soils, and varying altitudes provide ideal conditions for coffee cultivation, especially in countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.


  • Season: Coffee harvesting in Brazil usually takes place from May to September. Brazil's vast coffee-growing regions create a prolonged harvest season.
  • Process: Brazil is the largest coffee producer globally, and its production heavily involves mechanized harvesting, especially in large estates (fazendas). Mechanized harvesting helps manage the extensive plantations efficiently. In regions where mechanization isn’t possible due to the terrain, selective handpicking is still practiced.
  • Characteristics: Brazilian coffee is known for its soft, nutty flavor with low acidity, making it a popular base for many coffee blends worldwide.


  • Season: In Colombia, the main harvest season varies depending on the region. In general, it spans from September to December and has a smaller secondary harvest called "mitaca" from April to June.
  • Process: Colombia prioritizes selective handpicking due to the mountainous terrain, which makes mechanized harvesting challenging. This focus on handpicking ensures that only the ripest cherries are harvested, contributing to the high-quality reputation of Colombian coffee.
  • Characteristics: Colombian coffee is celebrated for its bright acidity, medium body, and balanced flavor profile with notes of caramel and nuts.


  • Season: The coffee harvest in Peru typically runs from April to September.
  • Process: Peruvian coffee is often grown on small family farms, known as fincas. Harvesting here is predominantly done by hand, maintaining a focus on careful selection and traditional methods.
  • Characteristics: Peruvian coffee is known for its mild and light flavor, often with floral and citrus notes, and a crisp, clean finish.

General Practices in South American Coffee Harvesting:

  • Selective Picking: In regions where quality is a key focus, selective handpicking is the preferred method. Workers pick only ripe cherries by hand, which allows for the beans to develop their full flavor potential.
  • Processing Methods: After harvesting, coffee cherries undergo different processing methods, such as washed (or wet) processing, which is common in Colombia and Peru. This method involves removing the cherry’s outer pulp before drying, leading to a cleaner, brighter cup profile. Brazil also frequently uses natural (or dry) processing, where the cherries are dried with the fruit still attached, contributing to a sweeter, fuller-bodied flavor.
  • Sustainability Efforts: South American coffee producers are increasingly focusing on sustainability and fair trade practices. Many farms implement eco-friendly methods, such as using shade-grown techniques, organic farming practices, and promoting biodiversity within their coffee plantations.

Latin America Coffee Harvesting:

Latin America is a diverse and expansive region that plays a critical role in the global coffee industry. Countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico are renowned for their high-quality Arabica coffee. The region's diverse climates, rich soils, varied altitudes, and dedication to traditional cultivation methods contribute to the unique flavor profiles of its coffee.


  • Season: Coffee harvesting in Colombia varies by region but generally takes place from September to December, with a secondary, smaller harvest called the "mitaca" occurring from April to June.
  • Process: Colombian coffee is largely harvested by hand due to the steep, mountainous terrain. This careful, selective handpicking ensures that only the ripest cherries are harvested, which helps maintain the quality.
  • Characteristics: Colombian coffee is celebrated for its medium body, bright acidity, and balanced flavors, often featuring notes of caramel, nuts, and hints of fruit.

Costa Rica:

  • Season: The coffee harvesting season in Costa Rica typically runs from November to March.
  • Process: Costa Rica emphasizes sustainable and high-quality coffee production. Harvesting is primarily done by hand using the "selective picking" method to ensure that only ripe cherries are collected.
  • Characteristics: Costa Rican coffee is known for its clean, balanced taste with bright acidity and notes of citrus and tropical fruits. The rich volcanic soil and high altitude contribute to its distinctive flavor profile.


  • Season: In Guatemala, the coffee harvest occurs from December to March.
  • Process: The diverse microclimates and altitudes of Guatemala's coffee-growing regions allow for the production of a wide variety of flavor profiles. Handpicking is common, and the meticulous selection process ensures that the coffee cherries are harvested at peak ripeness.
  • Characteristics: Guatemalan coffee is often described as having a rich, full body with a complex flavor profile. Common notes include chocolate, spice, and a balanced acidity.


  • Season: Mexico's coffee harvest typically runs from November to March.
  • Process: In Mexico, coffee is mainly grown on small-scale farms, often by indigenous communities. Handpicking is the standard method, reflecting the traditional and labor-intensive nature of the harvesting process.
  • Characteristics: Mexican coffee tends to have a mild, balanced flavor with medium body and brightness, often featuring notes of chocolate, nuts, and a hint of citrus.

General Practices in Latin American Coffee Harvesting:

  • Selective Picking: Handpicking of ripe cherries is a common practice across Latin America. This method, also known as "selective picking," involves multiple rounds of picking as the cherries ripen at different times. This practice helps ensure high-quality coffee by avoiding unripe or overripe cherries.
  • Processing Methods: The most common processing method in Latin America is the washed (or wet) process. In this method, the flesh of the coffee cherries is removed before the beans are dried, resulting in a cleaner, brighter flavor profile. Some regions, such as parts of Brazil, also use natural (or dry) processing, where the cherries are dried with the fruit still intact, adding sweetness and body to the coffee.
  • Sustainability Efforts: Latin American coffee producers are increasingly committed to sustainable practices and fair trade. Many farms are adopting organic farming methods, implementing shade-grown techniques to preserve biodiversity, and working towards social and economic sustainability for their workers and communities.

Africa Coffee Harvesting:

Africa is the cradle of coffee and is known for producing some of the world's most distinctive and flavorful coffees. Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania are renowned for their unique coffee profiles, often celebrated for their complex flavors and vibrant acidity. The diverse climates, altitudes, and traditional practices across the continent significantly influence the coffee cultivation and harvesting processes.


  • Season: Coffee harvesting in Ethiopia generally occurs from November to February.
  • Process: Ethiopia, considered the birthplace of coffee, employs mostly traditional handpicking methods. This ensures that only the ripest coffee cherries are selected. The country is famous for its labor-intensive harvesting and processing techniques, often done by small-scale farmers.
  • Characteristics: Ethiopian coffee is prized for its unique flavor profiles, which can include fruity and floral notes with a bright acidity. Coffees from regions like Yirgacheffe and Sidamo are particularly known for their complex, citrusy, and tea-like flavors.


  • Season: In Kenya, the primary coffee harvesting season runs from November to December, with a secondary, smaller harvest from June to August.
  • Process: Kenyan coffee is typically harvested by hand, utilizing the "selective picking" method to ensure that only the perfect cherries are picked. This meticulous approach contributes to the consistency and high quality of Kenyan coffee.
  • Characteristics: Kenyan coffee is known for its full-bodied flavor, bold acidity, and complex fruit and berry notes. The combination of rich volcanic soil and ideal growing conditions contributes to its distinctive and sought-after profile.


  • Season: Coffee harvesting in Rwanda takes place from March to July.
  • Process: Rwandan coffee is predominantly handpicked by farmers working on small, cooperative-run farms. The mountainous terrain makes handpicking essential, allowing farmers to carefully select ripe cherries.
  • Characteristics: Rwandan coffee is appreciated for its bright acidity and sweet, fruity flavors, often with hints of red berries and floral notes. The high altitudes and volcanic soils in regions like Gisenyi and Kivu contribute to its unique profile.


  • Season: In Tanzania, coffee harvesting generally occurs from July to December.
  • Process: Similar to other African countries, Tanzanian coffee is primarily harvested by hand. Smallholder farmers tend to dominate the production, using traditional methods to ensure the quality of the harvest.
  • Characteristics: Tanzanian coffee is noted for its medium to full body, bright acidity, and fruity flavors, often with wine-like notes. Coffee from the Kilimanjaro region is particularly famous for its rich, aromatic profile.

General Practices in African Coffee Harvesting:

  • Selective Handpicking: The majority of African coffee is harvested by hand using the "selective picking" method. This labor-intensive process involves multiple rounds of picking to ensure that only the ripest cherries are harvested.
  • Processing Methods: African coffee is commonly processed using either the washed (wet) or natural (dry) method. The washed method, which involves fermenting and washing the beans to remove the fruit, generally leads to a cleaner and brighter flavor profile. The natural method, where cherries are dried intact, often results in a more intense and fruity cup.
  • Sustainability and Cooperative Farming: Many African coffee farmers operate within cooperatives, which help smallholders gain better market access and ensure fair prices. There is also a growing focus on sustainable farming practices, such as organic farming and agroforestry, to preserve the environment and enhance coffee quality.

Asia Coffee Harvesting:

Asia is home to some of the world's largest coffee-producing countries, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and India. The continent's diverse climates and unique growing conditions contribute to a wide range of coffee flavors and qualities. Asian coffees can vary from the robust and strong Robusta beans of Vietnam to the distinctive Arabica beans found in the highlands of Indonesia and India.


  • Season: Coffee harvesting in Vietnam typically takes place from October to December.
  • Process: Vietnam is the world's largest producer of Robusta coffee, which thrives in the low-altitude regions with warmer climates. Harvesting here is largely mechanized to manage the large-scale production. In regions where mechanization isn't feasible due to terrain, handpicking is sometimes practiced.
  • Characteristics: Vietnamese coffee is known for its strong, bold flavor with a higher caffeine content compared to Arabica beans. Robusta beans from Vietnam are often used in espresso blends for their intensity and depth.


  • Season: In Indonesia, the coffee harvesting season varies by region but generally occurs from May to October.
  • Process: Indonesian coffee is harvested by both mechanized and traditional handpicking methods, depending on the region and farm size. The country's unique processing method, known as "wet hulling," gives Indonesian coffee its distinctive earthy and full-bodied profile.
  • Characteristics: Indonesian coffee is famous for its rich, earthy flavors with hints of spice and chocolate. Coffees from Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Java are particularly sought after for their complex and syrupy profiles.


  • Season: Coffee harvesting in India typically runs from December to March.
  • Process: Indian coffee is primarily grown in the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Harvesting is mostly done by hand, as the coffee is often grown on small to medium-sized plantations. The "monsooning" process, where harvested beans are exposed to moist monsoon winds, is unique to India and adds a distinct flavor profile.
  • Characteristics: Indian coffee is known for its mild acidity and full body, often with spicy, nutty, and chocolaty notes. Monsooned Malabar coffee is especially unique, with a mellowed, earthy flavor resulting from the monsooning process.

General Practices in Asian Coffee Harvesting:

  • Selective Handpicking: In regions where quality is prioritized, such as parts of Indonesia and India, selective handpicking is common. This method involves multiple rounds of picking to ensure that only ripe cherries are harvested, maintaining a high standard of quality.
  • Processing Methods: Asia employs a variety of processing methods. The wet (washed) process is common in India and some parts of Indonesia, leading to cleaner, brighter flavors. The natural (dry) process is also used, particularly in Vietnam, contributing to a stronger, more robust flavor. Indonesia's unique wet-hulling process, known as "Giling Basah," results in a distinctive rich and earthy profile for its coffees.
  • Sustainability Efforts: Asian coffee producers increasingly focus on sustainable practices and certifications such as Fair Trade and organic certification. Efforts include agroforestry, shade-grown techniques, and improving socio-economic conditions for farmers.



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