The Art of Coffee: Harvesting and Processing the Finest Beans
Our quest for exceptional coffee starts with handpicking only the most flawless cherries.
The beans you’re about to order were meticulously picked by us. Coffee in Costa Rica is picked by hand because you can’t drive a coffee-picking machine on our steep mountainsides, where the best coffee is grown. Also, coffee cherries (which contain coffee beans) ripen at different times of the year. If you want the best coffee, you have to pick each bean at the exact ripest time. We go carefully plant by plant picking only the reddest rubies, coffee beans’ perfect color. That’s step one.
For high-production, low-quality commercial coffees this is not a concern. Coffee farmers in high-volume operations will sweep through coffee plants, picking green, overripe, discolored, beans without a second thought. We’re sure you’ve figured it out, but to be crystal clear, this is the coffee you find at supermarkets.
Honey coffee and why do plants want their fruits to be sweet and irresistible?
Most seeds are hidden inside fruits, why? Mother nature is clever and a long time ago trees figured out that mammals (yes, you are a mammal) are attracted to sweetness because it’s super easy available energy. Back then, we gathered fruits from trees and ate them while walking. This means we would carry the seeds and disburse them through forests, making us key helpers in the plant reproduction process. Because we love sugar so much, we’d keep coming back for more, and the sugar-swap-seed-spread cycle kept on going!
Mucilage is the scientific name for the layer that’s full of sugar and surrounds the seeds. This is the part of the fruit we eat, a more common word for this is pulp. In coffee cherries, we’re after the seeds but the mucilage also plays an important role. Remember when we were talking about the ruby redness of a coffee cherry? The ruby red ripeness means the coffee is full of lovely fruit sugars… and we’ll get into what those sugars do riiiiiggght now!
Fermented Mucilage Sugars will create an exceptional cup of coffee
After being carefully harvested, red cherries are taken in for micro-milling. This process involves the coffee being moved through small water tanks, where it’s re-sorted, this time by weight. The heavy cherries sink and go into the pulper (peeling machine), while the lighter beans float away. The pulper is the machine we use to remove the red peel. In this stage, the machine will take only specific beans size (third selection) and leave the mucilage intact.
When you read the words honey process on our bag, it means we keep all those tasty sugars from the mucilage on the bean. Unlike other processes, we remove the peel, BUT we don’t wash away the mucilage, which has the added environmental benefit of using less water. The last step to get our precious beans ready is to remove one final layer.
Achieving the ultimate cup of coffee involves meticulously sifting through the beans at every stage of the process.
Coffee seeds have a second peel or skin called parchment. The parchment layer is removed after the drying process. This is where the mucilage plays an important role. In the drying process, the sugars from the mucilage will oxidize and add more taste to the coffee beans. Naturally, we dry your coffee on our farm using sunlight beds. The beans are dried in the sunbeds for about 15 days. The drying process requires to shake manually the beans up, to make sure they dry evenly. The more evenly the beans are dried, the better the flavor.
We know the coffee is dry when it reaches a moisture ratio of 10% to 12%, at which point it’s ready for storage. After all this work, the coffee needs to nap. We let the coffee rest for the ideal time frame of 30 days, which allows the flavors to settle. The next step (we’re almost at the end!), is removing the second peel, the parchment. At this point, we move the beans to the milling machine, which removes the parchment and sorts the beans yet again! But this time it’s sorted by size, shape, and density. The coffee is ready to be graded for quality, which is a whole other massive topic! Once graded, is ready to be shipped to Canada, where it will be roasted after a peaceful and enjoyable boat ride.
Now when you read your label and it says, planted, grown, harvested, picked, processed, dried, milled and sorted by us, you know what it means and all it takes to get to you as perfect as it is!