Despite coffee being the second most traded commodity in the world (behind oil), there is a shocking amount about it that most people don’t know. As a coffee company that has some presence in every stage of coffee’s development, we thought we could enlighten you by sharing what we’ve learned about how coffee comes to be. The first few posts on this blog will focus on explaining the development of coffee from its initial stage as a cherry to its final stage in your cup.
Coffee, in a similar fashion to cherries, grows from a tree. Unlike cherries, however, the flesh of the fruit is inedible, and the pit produces one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world (coffee). In order to ensure that the highest quality of coffee is produced, it is important to pick the cherries when they are a bright red color. If they are picked too early or too late, they will not only have a bad taste, but can also cause machines used later in the process to malfunction, negatively altering the flavor of the beans. After being picked the cherries go in one of two different directions. The beans can either become fully washed, or semi-washed.
Fully washed coffee is prepared at a washing station. Washing stations are large structures built on the sides of hills. Water is pumped through the structure allowing gravity to move the coffee down through the various processes required to remove the cherry flesh from the coffee bean. Every step of the process is carefully monitored to ensure that the bean maintains the high quality the farmers put into producing it. After the bean has been separated from the pulp the bean is sold to processing stations..
Semi-washed coffee effectively goes through the exact same process as fully washed coffee. The only difference is the manner in which it is done, while fully washed coffee is made at a washing station, semi-washed coffee is washed by the farmers themselves. Washing stations having high tech machines to chew the flesh from the bean, while farmers who produce semi-washed have hand cranked machines; fully washed stations have tables dedicated to the rapid drying of coffee beans, while most semi-washed coffee is dried on the ground or on a blanket.
Semi-washed coffee is generally not as high of a quality as a fully washed bean. The lack of attention paid to the details in the process yield a coffee that has acquired some defaults and negative flavor attributes. The next step of the coffee, however, is the same. All the coffee, both fully and semi-washed get sent to processing mills.