Green Coffee Beans
After crude oil, coffee is the second sought commodity in the world. It’s valued 100 Billion dollars worldwide; exporting it is a 20 billion industry alone. 25 million smallholders are responsible for producing 80% of the coffee. Resulting in around 125 million people worldwide depending on coffee for their livelihoods. It is the most valuable and widely traded tropical agricultural product.
The coffee supply chain is complex as beans pass through the hands of growers, traders, processors, exporters, roasters, retailers until finally reaching the consumer. Most farmers have little idea of where their coffee goes or what price it ends up selling for. Many of them are unable to earn a reliable living from the coffee they produce.
A coffee bean is a seed. When dried, roasted and ground, it’s used to brew coffee. If the seed isn’t processed, it can be planted and grow into a coffee tree.
Coffee seeds are generally planted in large beds in shaded nurseries. The seedlings will be watered frequently and shaded from bright sunlight until they are hearty enough to be permanently planted. Planting often takes place during the wet season, so that the soil remains moist while the roots become firmly established.
Depending on the variety, it will take approximately 3 to 4 years for the newly planted coffee trees to bear fruit. The fruit, called the coffee cherry, turns a bright, deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested. A mature coffee plant can be productive for 20 to 30 years.
In most countries, the crop is picked by hand in a labor-intensive and difficult process, all coffee is harvested in one of two ways:
Strip Picked: All the cherries are stripped off the branch at one time, either by machine or by hand.
Selectively Picked: Only the ripe cherries are harvested, and they are picked individually by hand. Pickers rotate among the trees every eight to 10 days, choosing only the cherries which are at the peak of ripeness. Because this kind of harvest is labor intensive and costlier, it is used primarily to harvest the finer Arabica beans.
A good picker averages approximately 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherries a day, which will produce 20 to 40 pounds of coffee beans. Each worker's daily haul is carefully weighed, and each picker is paid on the merit of his or her work. The day's harvest is then transported to the processing plant.
Once the coffee has been picked, processing must begin as quickly as possible to prevent fruit spoilage. The goal is to wash, peel and separate the beans by size eliminating the spoiled ones in the process. Depending on location and local resources, coffee is processed in one of two ways:
The dry method which is the old practice and still being use in some countries where the water resources are limited. The cherries are put to dry whole until moisture reach 11%.
The wet method where the beans are washed and left to rest for 12 to 48 hours where a naturally occurring enzyme will dissolve the slick layer of mucilage leaving only the parchment. The pulped and fermented beans must now be dried to approximately 11% moisture to properly prepare them for storage.
Dry parchment coffee bean pass through a hulling machine that removes the parchment. The beans are then graded and separated by weight and size. Beans that are unsatisfactory due to deficiencies (unacceptable size or color, over-fermented beans, insect-damaged, unhulled) are removed. In many countries, this process is done both by machine and by hand, ensuring that only the finest quality coffee beans are exported.
Living Proof Coffee
We work with coffee farmers from Dominican Republic and Papua New Guinea promoting sustainable coffee which is grown in a way that conserves nature and provides better livelihoods for the people who grow and process it. Working together the worth of their work and product increases by having access to sell the coffee directly to the global market.