After picking ripe coffee cherries for hours in the early morning, farmers load their baskets on their heads and then walk them over to our washing station. Once they arrive, we float each farmer’s coffee in a tank. Any underdeveloped or low-density cherries float to the top, where they can easily be skimmed off.
Then, we spread out the coffee cherries on a mesh table, and any under- or overripe cherries are “triaged” out and returned to the farmer. After the triage, we place the farmer’s coffee cherries in a large bucket and hoist them up onto a hook connected to a scale. We record the weight in the farmer’s logbook, which acts as a receipt for their daily delivery.
Once the coffee passes through our station doors, the farmer travels back home and our hard work begins. We separate the coffee by hill, and then we depulp the lot. The depulper, which is the machine that removes the coffee cherry from the coffee bean, is the only machine used at the washing station. Every other step is done by hand…or by foot. After depulping and quality separation, we ferment the coffee for 12 hours overnight. This process loosens the mucilage around the coffee seeds. In the morning, we agitate the coffee. That might sound fancy, but really it means that a group of workers stomps all over the coffee while they sing their stomping song.
After the sing-and-stomp, the fermentation process is halted. We halt the fermentation by pushing the coffee into channels that are flooded with fresh water. Here, our workers use rustic wooden paddles to further grade the coffee and to ensure clean parchment. Parchment is what the coffee will be called once it hits the drying tables. At this stage the coffee is dubbed “parchment” because it still has a small protective layer of “skin” on it.
After the coffee finishes its final bath, we transport it to pre-drying tables. These tables are located under shade so that the coffee doesn’t dry too quickly and crack. While the coffee is drying, workers pick through it by hand to ensure that all the defects are removed. Then, we move the beans to the drying tables, where they will dry in the sun for anywhere from eight days to three weeks. To prevent mold growth, we frequently turn the coffee during this time.
Once it is fully dry and reads correctly on the moisture meter, we bag it up and safely store it until the season closes, at which point we’ll move all the coffee to the dry mill and then, finally, export it.