Have you ever wondered how the raw materials of that extraordinary drink we call coffee are harvested? Well, there are two main methods…
The most common systems for coffee collection are picking and stripping.
Picking is a manual operation that allows for greater accuracy in the selection process. Pickers take the cherry, (the fruit of the Coffea plant), and, with a quick movement, take it from the branch, without detaching it from the petiole.
This technique requires considerable skill and experience. The picker must evaluate the color and feel, with his or her fingertips, whether or not the cherry is ready to be picked. It’s complicated! Due to particular climatic conditions, cherries on the same plant – even on the same branch – can have different maturation times, so the picking season can last for 3 or 4 months.
Stripping, on the other hand, can be natural or mechanical and it collects of all cherries on the tree in one go. This is the cheaper method: you grab the branch near the trunk and pull outwards, making all the cherries, fall to the ground. Then, the fruits are separated from the leaves, branches and topsoil.
Once you have obtained the fruit, the seeds can be extracted in two ways: by washing or drying.
During washing, the fruit is mechanically stripped and then immersed in water, in order to ferment the pulp residue and facilitate removal. The seeds are then dried and the membrane that surrounds them is removed.
Alternatively, using the natural drying method, the cherries are laid out in the sun for 25 – 30 days, until the dry fruit exposes the bean – but this system doesn’t allow for precise selection.
Once the process is completed, the green beans obtained are classified based on shape and size: usually, the bigger they are, the more they’re worth!