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Learn how to be an even better green buyer, no matter where you are in your journey.

It starts by getting involved earlier in the harvest. Here is a quick guide for navigating forward contracts and learning how to use our harvest planner tool. Timing is important. So is communication. Put them together and we get better, more intentional coffee every time.

Buying in this way unlocks early access to a wider range of coffees, at better prices. It also allows us to be better partners all the way down the line. And knowing how this works is critical to getting the most out of working with Crop to Cup.


Harvest timing varies based on altitude, rain fail, age of trees, annual harvest patterns, and on-farm practices. Ultimately, it boils down to us receiving samples over a 6-10 week period, starting around the peak of the main harvest and continuing through the end of harvest at top altitudes. Our lab provides feedback and recommendations to producers. We use these samples to present ‘pre-shipment offers’ to roasters who have expressed an interest in buying ahead.

Pre-Shipment contracts are put in before a coffee is shipped; approval is against the pre-shipment sample. This is good for repeat relationships, core menu items, fixed price contracts (like grocery or white label), and for those who simply like to get more hands-on.

Once an offer is approved we ask our partners to mill the coffee and send us a contract sample that is directly representative of what’s being put in the container.  We approve this pre-shipment sample (PSS) 2-6 weeks before shipment, which takes another 4-8 weeks to come here and clear customs. Over that time we list the coffee on the ‘forward offer’ section of our website so that roasters can reserve as many bags as they’d like, or simply sign-up for samples.

Pre-Arrival contracts reserve coffees that are on their way, but not here yet. Confirmations come once a coffee lands and everyone gets to taste the arrival sample. Pre-arrival contracts are good for those who know they have a need to fill and want to lock-in a set number of bags at a known quality and price for small-to-medium-sized needs.

All in all, our buying season is 12 – 24 weeks for each harvest which is split into two phases: Harvest (pre-shipment offers) and Afloat (forward offers). After that, a coffee is here and published to all as a ‘current offers’, which can be bought spot (one by one) or contracted as well.

Current Offers are landed and available lots. While they are not the point of this article, they are useful for so many reasons. From our point of view, it allows us to promote new suppliers, take bets on coffees we believe in, and showcase our favorite flavors from every harvest. For buyers, this is the best place to shop for last-minute needs, backups, bridges between contracts, short-term features, or other special use – like competitions, R&D, or internal education. Spot coffees are great for sniffing out new suppliers or for when you aren’t sure exactly what you want and want to cup across a variety of available options.

Our hope, however, is that once you find a coffee that speaks to you, you will consider coming back the next year. And if you do, you might as well let us know. Once we know you’re interested, we’ll present ‘pre-shipment’ or ‘pre-arrival’ offers to you depending on when you catch us in the harvest.

Forward contracting will save you money as well. Let’s get completely transparent: Our margin is 35-45c over cost for current offers. This drops to 20-30c for those who buy ahead from our forward offer menu and 10-20c more for those who commit to buying with us based on PSS approval. Timing is the biggest variable in our pricing structure because good planning makes the biggest difference to us and our partners.  The only other variance (10c) is lot size–some micro-lots simply take more hands-on time than others. Check out our pricing and contracting FAQs for more information on this topic.


Timing is essential, which is why we’ve created an easy-to-use Harvest Planner tool to keep you informed across all producing countries. It’s the first thing you’ll see scrolling down on our homepage. You can see what is going on and what you can be doing country by country, month by month.

Change the month to see what's happening at origin

Change months to see what countries are in harvest

The date automatically shows the current month so you can see a list of countries that are harvesting, shipping, and arriving right now. Change the month to peek ahead in the year. Clicking on a country will pop-up a preview of our purchasing strategy there and link you to a list of active producer partners. Click on the (?) next to Harvest, Afloat, or Arrival and you’ll get a list of recommended activities for that phase of import.

HARVEST – It’s time to contact your importers to see what’s crossing their table. You’ll get options by email that include price, cupping notes, and estimated timing. If you like what you see you can commit to any number of bags to grab the reduced price. When samples come available, oftentimes upon export, you can cup for approval.

AFLOAT – It’s time to check out forward offers on our website. If you like what you see, sign-up for samples and/or contact us to reserve as many bags as you need. When the coffee arrives you’ll get a sample to cup for approval.

ARRIVAL – It’s time to request samples. If you like what you taste, order a few bags spot or contact us to reserve as much as you need.


Communication is important. Transactions that require more trust require more communication. Get in touch with your rep or email us to talk about pre-shipment offers.

Also, check out our journal page to read Harvest Updates, Projects, and Initiatives in areas where we work.