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Coffee Plants


Coffee Plants
Coffee production starts with the plantation of a species of coffee plant, such as the arabica species. Plants are evenly spaced at a set distance to ensure optimal growing conditions (access to light, access to soil nutrients, space to expand). Roughly four years after planting, the coffee plant flowers. These flowers last just a couple of days, but signal the start of the plant’s berry-growing process.

Roughly eight months after flowering, the plant’s berries ripen. This is indicated by the change in shade, beginning a dark-green colour before changing through yellow to a dark-red. Once dark-red, the berries are then harvested by strip picking or selective picking. The former is an often mechanised technique where an entire crop is harvested at once, regardless of being fully ripe or not. By doing this, the producer can quickly and cheaply strip a plantation but at the expense of overall bean quality. The latter technique is more labour-intensive, where workers handpick only fully ripe berries over consecutive weeks. This method is slower and more costly, but allows a greater degree of accuracy and delivers a more consistent and quality crop.
Once the berries have been harvested, the bean acquisition and milling process begins. Processing comes in two main forms, wet and dry. The dry method is the oldest and most predominant worldwide, accounting for 95 per cent of arabica coffee. This involves cleaning the berries whole of twigs, dirt and debris, before spreading them out on a large concrete or brick patio for drying in the sun. The berries are turned by hand every day, to prevent mildew and ensure an even dry. The drying process takes up to four weeks, and the dried berry is then sent to milling for hulling and polishing.
The wet method undertakes hulling first, with the beans removed from the berries before the drying process. This is undertaken by throwing the berries into large tanks of water, where they are forced through a mesh mechanically.
The remainder of any pulp is removed through a fermentation process. As with the dry method, the beans are then spread out on a patio for drying.
The final stage is milling. This is a series of four processes to improve the texture, appearance, weight and overall quality. Beans that have been prepared the dry way are first sent for hulling to remove the remaining pulp and parchment skin. Next, the beans are sent for polishing. This is an optional process, in which the beans are mechanically buffed to improve their appearance and eliminate any chaff produced during preparation. Third, the beans are sent through a battery of machines that sort them by size and density (larger, heavier beans produce better flavour than smaller and lighter ones). Finally the beans are graded, a process of categorising beans on the basis of every aspect of their production.

Coffee Plants