Skip to content

From Red Cherry to Green Bean: Harvesting and Processing Coffee in Ocobamba, Peru

Hidden away in the lush mountains of La Convención province lies the farm of Dania and Ruther, two young Peruvian coffee growers. While visiting the couple I got the chance to live and experience the hard work that goes into harvesting and producing high quality coffee.

The soil and climatic conditions in the district of Ocabamba provide the perfect conditions to grow some of the best coffee in the country. At 1800 m.a.s.l., Dania and Ruther grow specialty organic coffee on their 1.5 hectare farm. Most of it is Geisha, a variety known for its sweet and floral notes. Two to three weeks after harvesting, the couple bring their green dried beans to the city of Quillabamba, located 4 windy hours away. There, their coffee will be roasted and sold on local and regional markets.

From cherry to bean: a step-by-step guide

Step 1: Harvesting

Three to five years after the coffee tree is planted, the cherries start to blossom. The rough terrain with tight bushes, steep slopes and mosquitos makes harvesting hard work.

For Dania and Ruther, quality is key. When harvesting conventional coffee, all red cherries can be picked at once. But harvesting specialty coffee means picking only the ripest of cherries, one cherry at a time. The cherry needs have to be a specific nuance of dark red, but also to have a particular feel. Picking the right cherries is a skill that takes time to acquire, something I could not fully do in two days.

Every day from 7 am to 4 pm, Dania and Ruther are out in the field. A lunch break with nutritious food, chicha (drink made of fermented corn) and some coca leaves is thus essential. On the second day Daria brought some home-raised guinea pig – a delicious Peruvian delicacy!

Having lunch after harvesting coffee

Around 4 pm, the days harvest is assembled and carried down the steep slopes to be processed. Dania and Ruther’s house is “only” a 20 minutes’ walk away. Some of their neighbors need to carry their harvest for up to several hours.

Step 2: Washing after harvesting coffee

The working day does not end at 4 pm, however. To get the high quality that specialty coffee requires, the cherries need to be processed the same day.

Harvesting coffee

Like most coffee farmers in the region, Dania and Ruther process their coffee using the wet method. First, the cherries are washed, and the ones that float are removed. These are defected and can be sold as commodity coffee, but would lower the quality of specialty coffee.

Step 3: De-pulping

The washed cherries are then put into a machine to remove the red pulp. This was until recently done by hand, but the new technology makes the process easier and quicker. The de-pulping machine sorts the beans and out of each cherry come two beans ready to be fermented.

Harvesting coffee

Step 4: Fermentation

The beans still have a layer of mucilage which needs to be removed through fermentation. This can last from 24 to 96 hours, but Dania and Ruther have found 36 hours to give the best result.

Step 5: Second washing

Once 36 hours have passed, the beans are once again washed to remove any remaining mucilage or dirt. Now the green beans are clean and ready to be dried.

Step 6: Drying

The final step is putting the washed beans to dry. While many farmers dry their beans in the sun and on the ground, Dania and Ruther dry theirs on beds with double ventilation. Although this takes more time and space, drying them this way ensures higher quality coffee.

Harvesting coffee

The beans will dry for 15-20 days to produce fine beans which will be ready to be toasted. Yet for them to fully dry, the beans have to be moved 4-5 times a day. This means someone has to stay in the house while the others are out in the field, harvesting new cherries.

Know how your coffee is produced

Despite long working hours and humble living conditions, Dania and Ruther are happy with what they do. Coffee is their passion, and they do it all with great pleasure.

What they want is for people to know the tremendous amount of work that goes into producing a good cup of coffee. So next time you enjoy a delicious coffee, take a moment to think about and appreciate all these steps.

Want to know more about harvesting coffee?

Any questions? Do not hesitate to contact me on Whatsapp +51997161323!

Spread the love