Processing after our coffee harvest.
I’ll pick up right where the previous blog left off to wrap up talking about my first day there.
Following the harvesting of the beans, we carried what we had back down the hill to Angel’s home. (Angel is the farmer we were with) Once back to his home, we sorted through the beans to find any beans that were not red enough, or not ripe. Those were removed, and we were left with the ripe beans ready to go. Here is where it turns into a choose your ending scenario, A) is this coffee going to be “naturally” processed B) is this coffee going to be “washed” process. The choice was B, washed processed. Most of the coffee you drink is actually washed processed. Next time you order some coffee ask whether it is processed naturally or washed to see if you notice any differences. (Warning – you may sound like you know too much, be careful of how you ask)
After the unripe beans were removed, the next step is to do a test for defects. All the beans collected, were dumped into a large tub of water. The beans that floated were labeled as defective and removed. They floated due to having hollow beans which made them buoyant. The remaining ripe and ready to go cherries were dumped into a hopper of a machine used to separate the bean (seed) from the cherry. Angel told us that he used to have a similar machine, but it was attached to a bicycle and took much longer compared to the new electric powered machine. Let’s stop to think about this because hearing this made my mind drift into putting coffee into perspective. Think of the coffee you drink, now think of each cup being picked by hand, now think that farmers used to (and still do) pedal bikes which would separate the seed from the cherry. I appreciate each cup a little more now.
After a flick of a switch we are up and running, letting the machine do its work. From the hopper, the cherries fell down a chute in which they were pressed together, squeezing the bean out and separating it from the cherry. The bean fell out of the from into a collection basket and the cherries fell down the back into a collection basket. We know have our coffee beans! The beans will now be dried out for several days before going to the next step of the process, the dry mill.
Following this, we went to Angel’s kitchen to roast some coffee the traditional way of using a cast iron skillet (pan / skillet pending on where you’re from). Beans were poured into the pan and placed over and open fire. The coffee beans had to continuously be stirred not allowing them to burn. They were roasted to our desired level and removed from the heat. Next, we were able to see how coffee used to be grinded. The roasted coffee beans were placed onto a volcanic stone and a smaller handheld volcanic stone was used to grind the coffee beans to the desired size. We now had our coffee to drink! This very cool experience was followed up by a homemade lunch in Angel’s home. Couldn’t think of a better way to end the morning. It was great to have to chance to sit down and talk to Angel about coffee from his point of view. It was very cool to see how much he enjoys what he is doing.
Day one was pretty much in the books. I went back to a farmer’s home that I was staying in. Had a delicious homemade dinner talked to Eduardo about coffee. While talking to Eduardo (mainly through his son Moises who helped translate) I learned more about him and coffee from his point of view. Eduardo has been part of the San Miguel co-op for fourteen years and thinks rain is one of the most important factors into a good coffee plant/bean.
After dinner, I sat and chatted with my host family then called it a night. Day one was a wrap.