FROM THE SEED TO THE CUP

Depending on the variety, it will take approximately 3 or 4 years for the newly planted coffee trees to begin to bear fruit. The fruit, called the coffee cherry, turns a bright, deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested. In most countries, the coffee crop is picked by hand, a labor-intensive and difficult process, though in places like Brazil, where the landscape is relatively flat and the coffee fields immense, the process has been mechanized. Whether picked by hand or by machine, all coffee is harvested in one of two ways:Strip Picked – the entire crop is harvested at one time. This can either be done by machine or by hand. In either case, all of the cherries are stripped off of the branch at one time.Selectively Picked – only the ripe cherries are harvested and they are picked individually by hand. Pickers rotate among the trees every 8 – 10 days, choosing only the cherries, which are at the peak of ripeness. Because this kind of harvest is labor intensive, and thus more costly, it is used primarily to harvest the finer Arabica beans.In most coffee-growing countries, there is one major harvest a year; though in countries like Colombia, where there are two flowerings a year, there is a main and secondary crop. A good picker averages approximately 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherry a day, which will produce 20 to 40 pounds of coffee beans. At the end of a day of picking, each worker’s harvest is carefully weighed and each picker is paid on the merit of his or her work. The day’s harvest is then combined and transported to the processing plant.