Welcome back for the second week of the blog series, From Farm to Cup! This series will continue to explore aspects of coffee science: farming, processing, grading, roasting, cupping, and brewing. Today we are going to talk about how coffee is harvested, picked, and sorted from the coffee plants. Last week we learned that coffee is actually a fruit, a cherry. Like all fruit, coffee cherries have a peak season to be harvested. Depending on the climate, each coffee plant will be harvested at a different time. Coffee cherries reach their ripest when they turn from green to red. When the cherries are ripe, they will then be harvested for best and high quality coffee beans within. The trickiest part about harvesting coffee, however, is that the majority of high quality coffee is grown at a high altitude in mountainous terrain. This makes the process include more manual labour and skilled workers.♦1

       Due to the difficult conditions of harvesting, the majority of coffee cherries are picked by hand. In a few regions, the workers are able to do picking with machines, hand-picking is the route most coffee farms implement for safety, efficiency, and quality. Though it takes time, hand picking also means that only the high quality cherries are picked. Once the cherries are picked, they are usually placed into bins or baskets. Hand-picking does require a lot of manual labour by the workers, leading to the pricing going up for all involved in the specialty coffee industry. This not only ensures that the high quality coffee is sold at or above fair pricing, but it also ensures sustainability for the farms, which is the biggest concern within the specialty coffee industry.♦2

       After picking, the workers have to sort through the picked cherries. Sorting is the last step to check to see if only the ripest cherries are being sent off to be processed. Coffee picking is an extremely hard job and we are so grateful to the workers who do such an amazing job picking the coffee cherries for our own coffee. By buying our coffee, you are actually able to support the farmers and the workers in Africa, along with their families, and sustain their farms! We appreciate you joining in this From Farm to Cup series and come back again next week as we delve into how coffee is processed.

◊ Written by Andrew Watson, Manager at Ntaba Mellwood, v60 lover, and Interstellar‘s #1 fan

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♦1 – Easto, Jessica. “Craft Coffee, A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup At Home.” Surrey Books: Agate Publishing, 2017.

♦2 – Hoffman, James. “The World Atlas of Coffee.” Octopus Books, 10.4.2018.

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