A Bean for all Seasons

In-season coffee from Intelligentsia

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You wouldn't break out a can of Niblets in peak sweet corn season, but that's basically what you're doing whenever you open a bag of vacuum-packed coffee beans from the grocery store.

Like most crops, coffee beans are seasonal, and now you can enjoy them at the peak of their freshness, thanks to Intelligentsia Coffee.

Even if you buy fair-trade beans from a local roaster, there's a good chance they were harvested more than a year ago. And as the period from crop to cup increases, moisture and flavors recede, until a coffee tastes "baggy" or takes on the taste of the burlap sacks it's been stored in.

So what's an armchair barista to do? Order Intelligentsia's "In Season" single-origin beans, which are no older than 10 months from the completion of the harvest. (Eventually the Chicago-based roaster aims to reduce that lag time to six months.)

The South American harvest ended in January, so you'll get the most bang for your mug by ordering some smooth and silky Bolivian Anjilanaka beans or the brown-sugar-and-caramel-tinged Agua Preta from Brazil. Up next: Central American beans harvested in March.