Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Basic Training Part 5: Planting, Growing, & Harvesting

When the ripe cherries are picked they are soaked. Lower quality seeds with often-times rise to the top of the soaking bath, to be separated from the rest of the crop leaving only high quality seeds to be planted. The remaining seeds are quickly planted in very rich soil called humus. As the coffee bushes grow to 10-15cm they will grow their first leaves. After the young trees have produced not only leaves, but branches, a few of those branches will be cut off and transplanted into nurseries to develop into coffee producing trees themselves. Once a tree begins to produce fruit, which takes at least 10 years, the tree will continue to produce fruit for 40 years.

Growing conditions for coffee plants are very precise and the slightest detail can affect the overall production and quality of the fruit it bears. Nitrogen and Potassium content, slope of the land, amount of exposure to the sun or frost, and even the direction of the wind all have parts to play in the overall quality of the coffee grown. Covering coffee trees with tarps or mesh blankets, effectively shading the plants protects them from damaging sunlight. Coffee grown like this is known as “Shade Grown” and is worth premium prices for its increased quality. Depending on the amount of rain a particular region receives, coffee trees can produce multiple times a year. In regions that experience multiple rains per year, the trees will produce cherries 7-9 weeks after each rain. Regions that have one primary rainy season will produce one crop at the end of the season.

There are three main methods for harvesting coffee. The first and most labor-intensive method is hand-picking. This method is tedious and time consuming; therefore it requires a large workforce for even mediocre sized farms. This is the only method that ensures the greatest percentage of ripe-fruit harvesting, which leaves unripe on the branch. Only harvesting ripe cherries produces the best tasting coffee product after the roasting, so much of the gourmet coffee industry demands this method of harvesting. The next method is called Stripping. Stripping involves removing entire branches of a coffee tree and does not search for only the ripest cherries. Machine Picking is the final method. Machinery is used to harvest on a huge scale and is usually reserved for lower quality distributors.

Lord, thank you for great coffee and the people who propagate and harvest it. Please keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

No comments:

Post a Comment