Are you an avid coffee drinker? If so, do you know how your coffee is harvested? Actually, most people have no idea where their favorite delicious drink comes from! A coffee tree will produce its first full crop when it is about five years old. With the proper care and attention, it should produce consistently over the next 15 to 20 years. On average, most trees yield about 1 pound of coffee cherries annually. At harvest time (this will vary depending on the region of the world the coffee is grown), the coffee trees are filled with coffee cherries. They will be ready for picking when they are bright red, glossy, and firm. An un-roasted coffee bean is basically the pit of the coffee cherry.
The coffee cherry has a skin that is very thick and has a slightly bitter flavor to it. The fruit under the skin is very sweet, having a texture very similar to that of a grape. Under the fruit layer is the parchment, which is covered by a thin, slippery, honey-like layer, called mucilage. This parchment serves as a sort of protective area.
After removing the parchment, there are two translucent bluish-green coffee beans, which are coated with a thin layer called the silver skin. Most coffee cherries have two beans, but 5% to 10% of the time only one bean is produced. When a coffee cherry has only a single coffee bean, is called a peaberry.
The ripe cherries are harvested from the coffee tress by using one of the following methods: selective picking, stripping, or mechanical harvesting. Selective picking involves picking by hand only the ripe cherries from the tree and leaving behind the unripe beans to be harvested at a later time. On the other hand, stripping involves collecting the ripe and unripe cherries. The third method, mechanical harvesting, collects all the beans using a harvesting machine. The method used will depend on many factors, such as time, cost effectiveness, availability of workers, length of the harvest, difficulty of harvesting conditions, and availability of water.
After being harvested, the coffee beans must then be processed either by dry-process, wet-process, or the pulped natural method. In the dry-process, the coffee beans are allowed to dry while they are still in the cherry. This produces a coffee heavy in body - sweet, smooth and complex. A relatively new method is wet-processing. This process removes the four layers surrounding the coffee bean, which results in a coffee that is cleaner, brighter, and fruitier.
The pulped natural method involves "pulping" a coffee bean, but emitting the fermentation stage to remove the silver skin. This method offers a coffee that is sweeter than wet-processed coffee, yet has an acidity of a wet-processed coffee. The pulped natural method can only be utilized in countries where the humidity is low.
Coffee is harvested during the dry season, which will vary from country to country and region to region. Coffee in Brazil, for example, can be harvested between March and October; however in Columbia it is harvested between October and February and then between April and June.
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