Yesterday Katherine and I got the chance to visit Good Land Organics Coffee Farm in Goleta, CA. It is family owned farm and also the northern most coffee farm in North America. We got the chance to learn about the process that it takes to get coffee from the tree to the cup. The picture above shows what a coffee cherry looks like while its growing. Once the cherry is ripe (a good cherry will take 10-12 months before it is ready to harvest), it is hand picked from the tree. Each cherry contains two seeds (what people call "beans") unless one seed took all the nutrients throughout the process. If only one seed survived, it grows alone and is known as a "peaberry". Peaberry coffees are round all the way around instead of a semi circle (typical coffee seed).
From there the ripe cherries are put in the "de-pulper" where the outside red skin is removed and a slimy slippery textured coffee seed remains. This process is done on the same exact day as the harvesting of the cherries in order to prevent molding and ensure a fresh cherry. I didn't get a picture of the fermentation process but that is what comes next. After the cherries are pulped, the seeds are fermented (washed process coffee). The point of the fermentation process is to remove the slippery sugary layer on the outside of the coffee seed. While the seeds are fermenting, the "floating seeds" are removed and the seeds at the bottom of the fermenting tank are put out to dry.
Here the coffee seeds are set out to dry for 7-14 days. There are many different processes in which coffee is dried before it is roasted. The process we got to see is the "Washed Process". This is the fermentation process where coffee is "washed" and set out to dry. Another common process is the "dry process". Ethiopian coffees are commonly the result of a "dry process" in which the coffee cherry is set out to dry before it is pulped. The result is a raisin looking cherry that is very sweet. This is why Ethiopian Yirga Cheffe coffees are very inconsistent in color (before and after roasting).
After letting the coffee seeds dry for 7-14 days it is ready for "REPOSO", also known as the resting period. The coffee seeds will rest for 2 to 3 months before it is ready for transit or roasting. This is the form of the coffee we receive here at Penny Wagon Coffee Roasters. But as you can see, there is so much work and labor that goes into the process before the roasting. If not meticulously cared for before the roasting process, the result will still be a poor cup of coffee.
This is the final product that you receive at your door. However we forget about how much work goes into the process before we get our coffee. As you can see on this bag of Good Land Organic Coffee, the harvest date was on 7/1/14. This is almost a year before it was roasted. There is so much love and care that these coffee farms put into growing, picking, washing, and resting that we do not see. A lot of the time we try and find the cheapest coffee we can and forget that the price of the coffee is also reflecting the wages we pay those who are harvesting our coffee. Many small farmers in central america are working on wages of less than 2 dollars a day. Today we got a small glimpse into how much work these farmers put into creating the drink 75% of American's consume every morning. We bought this 5 oz bag of coffee for 30 dollars for Good Lands Organics. You might read that and say "30 dollars, are you crazy?". Yet a lot of people are willing to buy a 100 dollar bottle of wine and get 5 maybe 6 glasses out of it. We got a chance to a have a cup today and it was well worth what we paid for. More importantly, we feel blessed to be able to support this farm and all the work their family puts into making a great product. It was fun watching their two little boys and one girl run around the farm teaching all of us all about how to pick, de-pulp, and ferment the coffee. We hope that each person that drinks our coffee will become aware of the hard work and love that many small farm growers put into making your daily cup of coffee. It is worth a higher price than we charge, because so many workers are being underpaid for the work they put into this process.
If you are in the Santa Barbara area, please go visit Good Land Organics Farm and support them! It is a once in a life time experience where you will get a chance to develop a sincere appreciation for the work that goes into putting that delicious drink in your system.