A cup of coffee in the morning is the best day to start your day. Once it is brewing your home fills up with the smell of roasted beans and your eyes open up immediately. There is nothing better than a cup of good coffee while getting ready to go to work going over your plans for the day. Coffee is the main ingredient for breakfast in many places of the world, millions of people enjoy it not only in the morning but all through the day. It is not only used to drink but it is used in food and desserts too adding taste to them. Some even say it is medicinal, but where does it come from, how does this magic beverage get to your table?
Coffee is grown in the mountains of many countries around the world, Brazil being probably the greatest producer in the world. Followed by many Central and South American and African countries. Old varieties that took five or six years to start producing beans were seven to ten feet high, harvesting was hard and plants were damaged. Cross-breading and technology has reduced the waiting period to two to three years and plant height to four to five feet. With the reduction of height and width more plants have been added per acre thus increasing production but not necessarily financial gain.
Even though coffee plantations do not require a lot of care during the year there is always work to be done. The aisles and coffee plants rows must be kept clean and free of weeds. Plants must be fertilized twice a year and they must also be pruned right after the harvest is finished. Many coffee “fincas” do not allow visitors inside the actual plantations, if you want to visit you must change your clothes and boots and used gear that has already been disinfected. Diseases like the Roya can decimate a coffee plantation very fast and the medicine that has to be used to stop it is very toxic so prevention is the best solution. Today it is possible to drink organic coffee which was grown free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, many farms all over the world have already gone through the certification process that declares their coffee completely organic. You can see on the label of your favorite brand if it is organically grown or not.
Coffee is planted under huge trees that provide shade to the plantation below. The plant itself has luscious dark green leafs, very small white flowers, and the beans turn from green to a dark red as they mature. The taste and aroma of each coffee bean depends on several factors, climate, type of soil, height in which it is planted and how and when it is picked and dried. Beans picked when they are completely mature have the best taste and aroma, they also contain higher amounts of caffeine. Coffee plantations that pride themselves on having excellent quality coffee pick their beans by hand. Yes, thousands of people, men women and children walk through the shady forest collecting the dark red beans one by one. From row to row they walk all day picking only the ripe beans, the dark red ones. Once collected the beans are put through a machine, many times moved by hand for lack of electricity that removes the skin exposing the light brown beans. The beans are then washed again with stream water that comes down the mountain and through the plantation and spread out on concrete patios to dry under the sun.
All day groups of men move around on the patios with wooden rakes moving the coffee from one place to another, turning the beans so they dry evenly. At night the beans are collected and stored in bags made of yute or cloth so the air will circulate inside and keep them fresh and cool. The process takes eight to ten days depending on the humidity in the air and the amount of sun pushing through the clouds. When it has finally reached a 30% humidity level it is weighed in one hundred pound bags and loaded into the trucks to be transported to the processing plant. Once there the beans humidity is brought down another notch to between 15 and 20% and stored in temperature and humidity controlled facilities. From there on, it is either exported like it is or ground to make the coffee you drink at home every day.
It takes a total of four or five years for you to be able to enjoy the aroma and flavor of great coffee at home. Five years for the efforts and all the work of thousands of people to reach your table is totally worthwhile, there is nothing like a cup of good, dark coffee in the morning. The next time you sit on your breakfast table to drink one, close your eyes and think about those beautiful mountains, full of trees and covered by early morning fog where acres and acres of coffee plantations grow and thrive year after year so you can enjoy the tastiest coffee you can find.