Harvest Series #2: Picking the Coffee Cherries

harvesting-coffee-farms

It’s harvest time for Cafe Solar. All over those 250 or so coffee farms in the Yoro mountains, family members are busy dawn to dusk.

They are picking coffee cherries, fruit of the coffee bush, which fully ripen sometime between November and mid-April. Early and late in the season, not so many ripe cherries. But now, the bushes are laden.

coffee-haverasting“Timing is really important. You must wait until the cherries are fully ripe, but you must also pick them before they fall to the ground,” says Cindy Dubón. She is an experienced coffee farmer, and president of the Cooperativa COMISUYL, where the coffee beans are processed.

“Right now, peak season, people are getting up at 4 a.m. These are family farms, everyone will be involved—including the kids, because it’s school vacation,” says Cindy. registering domain name . “A quick breakfast of rice and beans, coffee, maybe a banana, and they’ll be picking by 5. It’s barely light by then.”

For Cafe Solar farmers, agricultural practices have seen some changes—including ways to protect the rainforest and promote biodiversity—but picking methods are still very traditional. Farmers fill their hand-held baskets with coffee cherries, empty the baskets into big collection sacks dotted around their 1.5-hectare fields, and repeat the cycle all day long.

They work hard, and they are fast—some are very fast indeed. An expert picker can fill around 15 baskets in a day: that’s enough to fill three sacks. And that’s 136 kilos (300lbs) of coffee cherries.

But their day is not over. “Next comes de-pulping,” says Cindy. “It must be done immediately—otherwise, the cherries will start to rot.”

fertilizer-coffee-farmsSo, before heading home, farmers take their day’s yield to their area washing station, run by one of their colleagues on behalf of the Co-op. Here the coffee cherries are washed and have their skin and pulp removed, exposing the seeds (beans), still encased in their membrane.

Each farmer’s produce is entered in the records, and he—or she—takes the “wet beans” back to the farm. The pulp is preserved at the washing station, and will later be made available to all the farmers, free of charge, as rich, organic fertilizer.

Now the farmers can bathe, eat and sleep. Tomorrow, they’ll pick more coffee cherries, while today’s wet beans will be taken down the mountain, in transport arranged by the Co-op, for processing in the solar-powered dryer.

  • Keep checking this page: we will be writing more, step by step, about the process that brings Cafe Solar from the mountains of Honduras to your coffee cup.
  • Next week: Coffee’s Journey Down the Mountains
  • And mark your calendar: the 2014-15 harvest will be available this May!