Coffee Harvesting Newsletter

Share the Tradition - Harvesting Coffee
Coffee beans are ready for picking when the green "cherries" brighten to a dark cherry red color. Once ripe the cherries must be picked promptly since ripeness and selectivity affect the quality of the coffee produced. Only ripe cherries must be picked. If green cherries are mixed with ripe cherries the coffee will taste bitter while overripe cherries will leave the final product with an unpleasant, acrid taste. Harvesting times vary according to location usually occurring in April to May in the southern hemisphere, September to March in the northern hemisphere and throughout the year on the equator. Hand picking is the most selective method of harvesting coffee and produces the best coffee. Crews of coffee pickers carrying large sacks or baskets around their waists make several passes among the coffee trees at 10 day intervals to ensure that only fully ripe beans are harvested. Hand picking is labor intensive, expensive and used only for arabica beans. Strip picking also involves walking the rows of coffee trees but the entire crop is picked in one pass. Pickers grasp the branch near the center of the tree and pull everything, leaves as well as cherries, at once. The resulting product tends to be rough and harsh. Mechanical picking makes use of mechanical harvesters that, when the terrain allows, drive next to rows of coffee trees shaking off ripe cherries and leaving green cherries until the next drive-by. Mechanical picking achieves the same selectivity as strip picking. Seasonal coffee pickers remain at the bottom of the power pyramid of the coffee industry frequently living in abject poverty without plumbing, electricity, medical care or education. offers coffee from the Bosque Lya estate in El Salvador. The Bosque Lya estate has been in the same family for four generations. Shade grown jungle coffee is grown in high altitude tropical forests with expertise and meticulous care. In addition to producing some of El Salvador's finest estate select coffees, Bosque Lya is also at the forefront of the fight to preserve the El Salvadorian ecosystem and provides a living wage to its workers.

Harvesting Coffee is the second in our series of articles on Coffee. See the Coffee Growing Newsletter for an article on growing Coffee Beans.

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Castle, T. J. and Nielsen, J. The Great Coffee Book. Berkeley CA, Ten Speed Press, 1999.
Dicum, G. and Luttinger, N. The Coffee Book; Anatomy of an Industry From Crop to the Last Drop. NY, New Press, 1999.
Pendergrast, M., Uncommon Grounds, The History of Coffee and How It Trbansformed Our World. NY, Basic Books, 1999.