Farmers work year-round to get the most out of every harvest. While the green coffee beans ripen to a reddish colour for the harvest, a farmer uses a hoe – a traditional tool of the Maya – to “clean” the weeds that grown under the coffee trees during the heavy rainy season. Pruning, cleaning, fertilizing, and trimming the shade trees also must be done throughout the year to ensure the best crop.
When the harvest begins in November/December, a new kind of work begins. Only the dark red beans are picked, and because beans ripen at different speeds, there will be several “cuts” throughout the season. A farmer picks the best beans in his field.
The harvest is a joyous time; women and children join the men in the fields, and take advantage of the time of year where everybody has an extra few cents, children are on school holidays, and they breathe in the fresh air. “You want to wake up here,” one farmer comments in regards to his fields. To read about the culture of the coffee harvest, check out our Winter 2010 Newsletter.
Farmers sit, leaning against their 100-pound bags of ripe beans, waiting for their turn to sell their product. The Juan Ana Coffee Program pays farmers 210 Quetzales (about $28) for 100lbs of the red bean coffee. This price was set by the farmers themselves in 1992 when the project was founded; project leaders asked a small group of six families what they needed for their best product and since then the price has remained constant and consistently higher than world market prices.
As the process begins, the red beans are dumped into a bath of water and rinsed. All the beans are dumped into the same basin and unripe beans are picked out. The labour-intensive process begins here.
A coffee processor pauses after dumping several hundred pounds of coffee into the tank. In addition to the farmers, the processors themselves benefit from the extra hours and the work they do during the harvest. The coffee must be treated and washed the day it is picked, so these workers often stay at the “beneficio” until late, often past midnight.
The beans, ideally a rich red colour, are then washed down a chute to a machine that removes the outer pulp. The water rinses the coffee as it shoots down to the de-pulper.
The machine actually squashes the beans, and if ripe, a yellow slimy bean is extracted. Over the course of two to three days, the yellow beans will be washed and rinsed continually until the honey substance is removed. This process is all done by hand and requires care and attention.
The pulp is not discarded. Here, a worker shovels the husks into a separate pile, which then is turned into compost. Each year, the farmers who sell their coffee to the Mission receive some of the farm’s compost, to which they contributed.
Once the yellow beans have been washed, they are dumped onto large patios to dry. Here, the beans are being spread out in the morning, even before the sun comes up.
As the sun rises, and continually throughout the day, the coffee is raked to ensure an even dry. The processors rake the coffee every 20-30 minutes as the sun beats down on the patios.
After 8-10 days of constant supervision and regular raking, a beige bean referred to as “pergamino” remains. In the pergamino form, there is a dry yellow shell surrounding the bean; this helps protect the bean and keep it fresh. Coffee in the pergamino form can be stored for several months, and is put into 100-pound bags. Here, a processor throws the coffee as he spreads it out.
Throughout the year, the coffee is de-shelled using another machine. The coffee is processed as the lightweight yellow shell is removed by a gentle vacuum.
What comes out the other end of the machine is ‘café oro’ – literally ‘gold coffee’, but because of its colour, referred to as green bean. This is what will soon be roasted. Here, a worker checks the beans by hand as they come out of the de-sheller.
Hours before the sun comes up, our coffee is roasting over an open wood fire. Here, a roaster is closely monitoring the coffee as flames rise around the roasting barrels.
The coffee is roasted in barrels, each holding 60lbs of beans, over an open flame. It is a labour intensive process as the roasting requires constant attention to the fire and the beans to ensure they cook evenly without burning. The rich aroma of coffee and smoke fills the room as roasted coffee is poured on a cooling rack.
This delicious roasted coffee is cooling after a bout in the roasting drum. This batch required a bit more time to acquire the deep brown-black colour of this dark roast.
The final product of this labor-intensive process has a flavor even richer than its enticing aroma. Our high quality coffee stands up to the best of coffees and is available for you to drink every day - order a bag!