Personally, I don’t drink a lot of coffee. And when I do it’s more like a sugar-milk-bomb. Nevertheless, I was very excited when I had the chance to visit a coffee farm in Colombia’s „Zona Cafetera“. Apart from the beautiful green hills, the valleys, rivers etc. it was very interesting to learn from first hand about the production of coffee. From planting the seeds all the way to harvesting the bean and ultimately to your house for your morning coffee – a long and cumbersome way. A rather quick overview of the coffee production:
Planting and picking
It takes a coffee plant at least two, usually three to four years to start producing its flowers. It is from this flowers that the fruits appear and it takes roughly another year. So in total that makes up to five years until the first fruits start to grow. It takes them around eight more months to turn from green to red, i.e. to get ripe, in order to be harvested. Usually there is one harvest a year, in some countries like Colombia there are two.
In flat areas the picking has been mechanized. However, in the hilly region of Zona Cafetera the fruit picking is hand made. And quite some work looking at the huge farms. It takes quite some experience in order to see which beans are ripe already and which still need some more time.
Also, a very important factor to not loose many fruits is to fight against the insects who use the fruits as a breeding place. The farmers generally do this with organic acids and sugar traps to get rid of them.
Once picked, the beans need to be processed – wet or dry. The wet processing uses a substantial amount of water. The idea behind this is that the bad or unripe beans will float in the water whereas the ripe beans sink.
In the dry processing, the beans are dried and selected by hand with a sieve.
Ultimately, the beans have to be dried (mostly in the sun – sometimes using machines) which takes roughly four weeks. The drying operation is the most important part in the production since the bean shouldn’t be too dry nor moist. Therefore, a lot of knowledge and experience is very welcome.
The final step in coffee processing involves removing the last fine layer of the bean so we are only left with the raw bean. And here we are. After more than five years of planting, taking care, and processing we have the beans.
After that the cleaning, sorting, and grading based on various criteria takes place before further steps are taken place.
There are more steps like aging, decaffeination, or roasting before the beans are packed and sold. Sadly though, the high quality coffee barely stays in the country but is exported to other countries because the price margins are much higher.
After spending a few hours on the farm I had the chance to taste this home made – from scratch – coffee. As I mentioned in the beginning, I am definitely not a coffee expert but even to me this coffee was very intense with a kind of sweet, caramel flavor. Delicious!
Traveling to Colombia? Here you’ll find some useful facts and tips about this amazing country: 11 useful things to know before traveling to Colombia