From Seed to Cup
Coffee seeds are planted in large beds in shaded nurseries. The seedlings are watered frequently and shaded from bright sunlight until they are ready to be permanently planted. Planting often takes place during the rainy season.
It takes about 3 to 4 years for the newly planted coffee trees to bear coffee cherries which are deep red when ripe and ready to be harvested. The crop is picked by hand in a labor-intensive and difficult process. Only the ripe cherries are harvested, and they are picked individually by hand.
Each farmer’s daily harvest is carefully weighed and paid on the merit of his or her work. The day’s harvest is then transported to the processing plant.
3. Drying and sorting
The freshly picked cherries are simply spread out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun. In order to prevent the cherries from spoiling, they are raked and turned throughout the day, then covered at night or during rain to prevent them from getting wet. Depending on the weather, this process might continue for several weeks for each batch of coffee until the moisture content of the cherries drops to 11%. High quality coffees are sorted to remove any defects that may appear. This is one of the most important and most skilled positions in the process. Sorting is done by hand, removing all of the defective beans from the line of production.
Coffee experts, called cuppers, test samples from a variety of batches and different beans daily. They analyze the beans for quality and taste, and for the purpose of blending different beans to create different roasts.
8. Roasting the Coffee
Green coffee is turned into brown beans when roasted. Roasting brings out a fragrant oil locked within the bean, producing the flavour and aroma of the coffee we drink. Roasting is generally performed in the importing ountries because freshly roasted beans must reach the consumer as quickly as possible.
The objective of a proper grind is to get the most flavour in a cup of coffee. How coarse or fine the coffee is ground depends on the brewing method. Grinding is done to a coarseness appropriate for the brewing method that will be used. For example, an espresso machine will require a finer coffee grind than a French press.
Each way of brewing coffee can greatly impact on the flavor of your cup. Part of the fun of coffee is experimenting with different roasts, grinding techniques, and brewing methods to discover the true variety of coffee.