Newly harvested coffee beans attracting attentions

Just like shimmai (newly harvested rice) or Beaujolais Nouveau, new coffee beans are beginning to enjoy high popularity in Japan. They seem to be attracting attention thanks to their fresh taste and people’s strong preference for the first batch of beans.

Kofi Raifu Zeitaku Kurabu, a Web site run by Doi Coffee, based in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, put on sale a set containing three kinds of new coffee beans in January. It immediately sold out.

The set contained three 200-gram packs of beans grown on farms in Brazil, Honduras and Panama that were harvested in September and October before being roasted.

Coffee beans can cost as little as 1 yen per gram, but this three-pack set cost 3,900 yen.

New coffee beans are those from the current or most recently available harvest. The sources said the time spent between the harvesting and sale of these new beans has become shorter.

Doi Coffee’s Yosuke Doi said coffee beans offer especially good flavor and aroma for a year after harvesting because “the large amount of water they contain makes them juicy.”

“People in Japan tend to favor the first supply of produce as they like newly harvested green tea and rice. This may be why new coffee beans have attracted attention, too,” Doi said, as there are also many consumers who place importance on the freshness of food.

Key Coffee Inc. sells the first harvest of its Toarco Toraja Coffee beans from its farm in Indonesia for a limited period once a year. The Tokyo-based company delivers beans harvested around April to consumers around July.

The new beans can be expensive–as was the case for the 2007 crop, when four packs of 200-gram beans cost 8,400 yen. It is more than double the price of usual beans, but Key Coffee said they are often flooded with orders when they begin accepting orders over the Internet in early May.

There also are companies selling canned coffee using newly harvested or the first supply of beans, helping to establish the notion of new coffee beans.

Satoru Kakutani, head of the Japan arm of major Swiss coffee company Volcafe, said businesses and consumers began to pay attention to new coffee beans about 10 years go. However, he warns the beans should be considered an Internet product as it is difficult to maintain both the amount and quality.

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