Saturday, February 13, 2010

Café Journey, from the tree to the cup

The coffee trees are typically planted after 3 months of growth in small plastic tree nursery bags. After about two or three years, the tree will start producing enough fruit to harvest. Producers in Jiguina, Nicaragua typically plant the coffee in rows throughout their hillside family plots that often surround the family’s home. The coffee grows in a humid, shaded environment and in our case, at a higher elevation than most of Nicaragua. The trees have narrow trunks and long, thin, flexible branches. The branches have shiny deep green leaves and bright green fruit that mature to bright orange, yellow, red, and when very ripe, a dark cherry red—such a berry needs to be picked! There are many varieties of plants, some with larger fruit than others. I walk through all this coffee, growing under the shade of the banana leafs…

The harvest in this climate, at this altitude, begins in December and sometimes lasts into March. Larger coffee plantations in the area open their doors to migrant workers from other areas of the country. The community comes alive, bustling with the hustle of the harvest. People have more money in their pockets, sometimes there is more crime, and on Sundays, there are more men drinking in the streets (los bolos).

The coffee is hand picked by the townspeople, each with a straw basket tied around their waste. They take pride in the speed at which they can pick—and with good reason because they are paid accordingly. A good day of work may pay approximately $10.00 and often includes at least lunch.

Workers seek to pick only the ripest berries and only the berries, because pulling off too many stems damages the tree. This is where the coffee begins its journey to your cup…

Then the process continues as follows:

  1. Wet milling to depulp, ferment, wash, and sort for quality
  2. Drying, usually in the sun; more sorting for quality
  3. Small farmers then bag the pale beige coffee beans to sell in the market
  4. Coffee then enters a dry mill in which it is dried (often in the sun) more before husk
    removal; the dehusked bean is referred to as oro or gold
  5. The beans can then be toasted
  6. The aromatic toasted beans can then be ground
  7. Ground coffee is brewed with hot water
  8. A cup can be poured and enjoyed!

A helpful webpage...


  1. One thing I didn't learn when we were picking the berries...when do the flowers bloom? Before the berries start to grow? I didn't see any flowers on the trees..

  2. The flowers are blooming right now! I was amazed how quickly the trees start to flower after harvest time. So, it seems they flower between Feb and June depending on the climate. The flowers are so fragrant too, kind of like orange blossoms.