After about three or 4 years a coffee tree, or shrub begins to bear fruit. A long process to for the hopes of seeing these small cranberry, like coffee cherries that will emerge. A coffee cherry turns from green to a beautiful red when it is ripe. Underneath the outside layer is the mucilage, or pulp of the cherry. This is a sugary, protective layer for the bean that would make the coffee cherry taste sweet as well as be caffeinated.
Farming of coffee trees occurs all around the world within a 10-degree band of the equator, and between 3,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation. Coffee can be grown at lower elevations, but the higher the coffee is grown the denser the bean will become. This is what creates such amazing flavors. Watering of the coffee trees is typically left up to Mother Nature. That is why drought, rainfall, storms and other naturally occurring weather can have such an influence on the world’s coffee supply.
Harvesting the coffee cherries is a season long project. Unlike other fruit trees, coffee trees will produce cherries multiple times during one season. It is important for us to find farms that have skilled harvesters to ensure only the ripest of cherries are picked from the available ones. A coffee tree during harvest season will have a variety of blossoms, green and pink cherries, as well as dark red cherries and brown, overripe cherries.
Once a cherry has been picked, then next step in the journey is exposing the beans inside. Most small farms send their coffee cherries to larger mills to be processed. Other farms have the option to process the beans on site. This comes from the demand for more specialty coffee and micro lots. Depending on the location of the farm throughout the world the process of exposing the bean can be done one of two ways, dry or wet. Wet process entails a series of washing and soaking to remove the layers of skin. Where sunshine is more prevalent than water, the drying process comes into play. This consists of a raised beds, mats or patios to spread out the cherries and let them dry. This is the natural way to process coffee and typically gives the coffee less acidity and more body.