After a long blogging hiatus, I wanted to take a moment and update everyone on our progress on this year’s harvest. For the last ten months we have been working hard building, planning, and preparing for the months of October, November and December when all of the coffee in our area is picked. Here’s a few pictures and updates of everything that has been involved:
This spring we built our wet-mill - which allows us to pulp coffee cherries, ferment the remaining coffee parchment in water tanks, and then clean/check quality in a wash channel.
We also had to import several pieces of equipment in order to process the coffee. A not-so-fun-side-note is that we had to re-wire our main electricity from the meter (over 200 meters away) because the original electrician didn’t do it correctly.
In order to dry our coffee properly we built a solar drying house. This sounds much fancier than it really is (essentially a plastic greenhouse). Because we’re trying to do everything in the village, which has colder temperatures and rain showers, the drying house has been a great addition. We spent the rainy season building all of our wooden drying racks, which keeps the coffee from getting dirty and also helps with airflow for better drying.
Finally we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know farmers in our area and figuring out what types of coffee they have. One thing we’ve learned is that our village has very little coffee of high genetic quality (at least until our seedling program takes off in a few years). We met a man from a neighboring village last Christmas that invited us to work in his village about 15 minutes away. Thankfully they have lots of high quality coffee there. We’ve been working with villagers to improve their quality of picking and we’ve been very happy with their hard work.
So every afternoon about 4pm we drive over to the neighboring village and buy the coffee cherries that the farmers pick during the day. A lot of this time is spent sitting around waiting on farmers, so this has given us a great chance to talk to people in that village. We have met dozens of new people and look forward to getting to know them more throughout this next year.
We arrive back at the mill around 5:30, run the coffee through our pulper and let it sit overnight in the ferment tank (thankfully our local guys in the village run this part so we can get back to town at a decent hour). The next morning we empty the coffee out of the tanks, clean the coffee of the remaining sticky mucilage and float it in the wash channel to help with quality. Finally it goes onto the drying racks for 10-15+ days of drying.
After all of our coffee is dry and has time to level out moisture inside of each bean, we’ll run it through our coffee huller to take off the parchment. Then we’ll hand sort all the coffee to remove defects and bag it all up. Thankfully all that will be a job for the spring.
This year has been a great year of learning, implementing systems and also figuring out what are our capacities and bottlenecks. We’re looking forward to more coffee in the coming years and getting great coffee exported to the US.