How Is Organic Coffee Harvested?

Organic coffee is good for you and good for the environment. From planting to harvesting to storage and transportation organic coffee is kept separate for regular coffee. That having been said the harvesting of organic coffee is similar to that of regular.

Harvesting Coffee in the Eje Cafetero of Colombia

The coffee harvest in Colombia has more in common with picking fruit in Southern California than combining soybeans in Iowa. Coffee is most commonly picked by hand. And coffee grows on slopes up of up 60 degrees. Coffee pickers go out with a bag, sometimes rappelling down a mountain side and then filling the bag with picked coffee beans on their way back. This is selective picking of coffee. When coffee berries are ripe they have a distinctive and somewhat offensive odor. Pickers remove ripe berries by hand. This method is the only way to pick coffee on slopes and is the only way to pick shade grown coffee among the trees.

Sun Grown Coffee in Brazil

The alternative on flatter land is called strip harvesting which can be manual or mechanical. This method is used on large Brazilian coffee farms which are typically not organic. Casa Brazil describes methods of coffee harvesting.

Selective harvesting is the picking of only ripe coffee fruit by hand. Unripe coffee is left on the tree for future harvesting. Overripe coffee can either be left on the tree (not recommended) or picked and kept separate from the ripe fruit (recommended). After several weeks the picker will go back and again pick only ripe fruit. This process is repeated until the producer determines that it is no longer worthwhile to harvest.

Manual Stripping

In the first method, pickers place a canvas on the ground. They then grab the branch next to the trunk with their hands and pull outward, knocking all of the fruit onto the ground. After doing this with all branches and trees for the length of the canvas, the pickers then collect the coffee in bags and take it to be weighed. Pickers are usually paid by weight or volume.

Mechanical Stripping

The second strip harvesting method is similar to the first but with some mechanical assistance. Here pickers use derricadeiras, mechanical strippers that look like Freddie Kruger’s hands attached to a weed whacker. As with the previous method, the pickers first put down a canvas. They then use the mechanical strippers to knock all of the coffee onto the canvas. The accumulated coffee is then put into bags, which are weighed at the end of the day.

For the farmer the advantage of stripping that he only needs to send the pickers through the field one time. The down side is wasting unripe coffee beans that would have been good in another week or two.

Stripping works on flat areas and works for large commercial operations that produce large volumes of regular coffee. How organic coffee is harvested is different because of the slopes where organic Arabica coffee is grown at higher altitude and because of the care organic coffee farmers put into their final product. Organic coffee commands a higher price than regular. This is because people like saving the planet so long as they are having a really good cup of coffee. If the quality goes, so do the customers, so high quality organic coffee is harvested by hand.

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