Added: 01st December 2015
It starts as a fruit and goes through various processes to become the drink we know.
Each growing region has a different harvesting season and uses different processing techniques depending on climate. There are 6 stages:
1. The plant matures into a sapling in a nursery for a year before being transplanted into a main farm.
2. The plant self-pollinates and displays magnificent blooms for only a few days until they wither and fall, leaving behind a ‘node’ that grows coffee cherries.
3. These cherries grow green for 6-11 months, depending on climate and the wet season.
4. When the wet season ends, the cherries ripen, turning either red or yellow depending on the variety, and fill with a sweet pulp surrounding the seed. The cherries ripen at different times, at which point they’re picked. Each tree produces approximately 1 pound of coffee a year, although Arabica is grown at altitude in mountainous areas so picking the cherries is more difficult.
5. Once picked, the cherries are selected, sorted, peeled, washed and dried using one of 3 techniques – wet, dry and semi-dry.
In wet processing, the skin and pulp are separated before the fruit is dried. This is mechanical and water intensive as the cherries are immersed with unripe or bad cherries rising to the surface and discarded. Pulp residue is removed and the bean is then dried in the sunshine and carefully turned to avoid mildew.
In dry processing, the cherries are cleaned, laid in the sun and monitored to avoid over-drying, which renders them brittle. Too little, however, can leave them vulnerable to fungus or bacteria.
Semi-dry processing combines both of the above. The cherries’ outer skin is mechanically removed and the beans stored for 24 hours, at which point the pulp’s washed off leaving a thin layer of skin on the bean, which is partly dried in the sun.
Irrespective of method, the beans are finally cleaned, sorted and graded before bagging and shipping.
6. Once at their final destination, the beans are roasted at very high temperatures to produce the flavour, after which they’re lighter but nearly double the size. The flavour is protected and they’re blended and bagged.