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Coffee Production From Flower to Raw Bean

Abundant coffee plant in Colombia
Abundant coffee plant in Colombia
Today we visited the Finca Santa Ana, a smaller scale locally owned coffee farm. The farm was owned by Jesus Martin and his family. We set off this morning with our guide Natalia, who worked for the farm. We went by bus to a nearby field and then set off on foot up the coffee-filled hillside. Natalia explained the coffee plant in great detail, showing us the flowers, and cherries starting from little, hard and green, all the way up to plump, soft redish-purple cherries. She then opened the ripe cherries to show us the two seeds inside - these were the raw coffee beans. She went on to describe a common parasite that has been affecting coffee production world-wide, and unfortunately has been found in Colombia. It is a microscopic bug that burrows into the berry and affects the quality and taste of the final product. 

We then strapped on picking-buckets and were set loose to pick our own harvest. We needed to pick a couple small handfuls of cherries to get enough to produce a cup of coffee. And we had to pick only the ripest of berries for the best tasting cup. After about 15-20 minutes, we had each harvested our small stash, and we headed back to the farm. Once there, each bucket was inspected by a professional and we were ranked based on the quality of our harvest. Being the competitive one, I was hoping I’d gotten the best pick, but sadly I came in second. 

We then walked through the production area where there were cherries laying out in the sun in the traditional dry method of processing coffee. The cherries are dried in the sun, raked over several times a day until the moisture is nearly gone. They also showed us the wet method where the cherry goes through a pulling machine to separate the skin from the pulp. They then go through a series of wet tanks to sort before entering the fermentation tanks. This method certainly speeds up the process but requires additional equipment and space, so for smaller scale farms, the more traditional sun-drying method is still often used. After the beans are dried, they then go through a machine that removes the outer “husk” layer. The final product that the farm produces is a dried, nearly white coffee bean that has very little moisture. 

We then had a traditional farm-meal served by Jesus Martin and his family. We sat under fruit trees in the yard and ate chicken, soup, corn, plantains and several other things that I still have no idea what they were! But all was delicious and the setting was even better!

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