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Quality coffee begins with its harvest and initial processing

How is coffee harvested?

Two harvesting systems are used most widely in coffee growing:

  • Picking: Coffee picking is a totally manual harvesting process in which the ripe cherries are selected and picked one by one, requiring pickers to pass through the crop several times. This yields a more uniform, high-quality crop.
  • Stripping: Coffee stripping is a process that may be manual or mechanised, in which all the fruit is removed in one go when it's of average ripeness. It often requires a further check to eliminate impurities and under-ripe or already fermented cherries.

Extracting the coffee beans  

The next step is to extract the coffee bean from the fruit, using a wet or dry processing method:

  • Wet processing is used for fruit that's been harvested by picking and produces a coffee classified as washed or mild. Wet processed coffee beans are the most highly prized variety,with a uniform appearance and no defects. 

This processing method requires the use of coffee cherries with uniform maturation and consistency. A machine removes the skin from the coffee beans, which are then placed in water to ferment, so as to eliminate the mucilage(pulp). The beans are then washed and left to dry in the sun or in a dryer. Finally, the husker eliminates the beans' two remaining protective membranes.

  • The dry processing method produces a type of coffee with a less uniform appearance, known as natural. The freshly harvested fruit is spread out in the sun to air-dry for two to three weeks. This exposure to the sun, followed by the action of the machines, eliminates the beans' skin, pulp and protective membranes.
  • There is also a coffee processing method that produces a semi-washed coffee by employing a machine to remove both the skin and the pulp, only using water for washing. The beans are then put out to dry in the sun or in dryers.