Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Community & Coffee

11-17-14 Community & Coffee
Today was a little less hectic than the days previous. From 8:30am to Noon there was a meeting for the community leaders to meet with the Pastoral Team. This is a regular meeting that happens every other month. It’s not usually on a Monday, but they were flexible so the Compañeros groups could meet with them. As usual, there was a prayer and scripture readings. Then it was Compañeros turn to talk. We spoke again as we had the day before about our group and our functions. Blanca took time to explain a little further as well as talking about the community and church relationships.
I left the meeting a little early to help with lunch. Betty and I helped to bag up the pineapple drink that everyone got. Yes, I said, “bag up.” Drinking juice out of bags is common here. Then we helped serve up the food on plates and put it in black plastic bags to keep it hot (also very common). When the meeting was out, everyone came to pick up their food. A woman from one of the communities brought us a turkey. He is going to be our Thanksgiving lunch tomorrow. Not long after the meeting people began to leave. And then it began to rain. I took a nap.
Pineapple juice

Pineapple juice in bags

Mr. Turkey

In his bag

Misael playing with Chiquita
Maurice and Chiquita


Senor Turkey

Beautiful feathers
Around 2pm we left for the finca (coffee farm) where the Don Justo coffee is grown. The coffee is fairly traded. Though we are not officially fair trade (very expensive) we follow internationally recognized fair trade standards to ensure the workers at the finca are paid a just wage. Almost all the money we collect from coffee sales goes back to El Salvador. Below is an explanation of the coffee harvest and photos. Enjoy!
Cultivation: In order to grow coffee trees (more like bushes) you take seeds from existing trees and put them in a bag with some dirt. There is one seed per bag. It takes about 1–1½ years for the coffee to be ready to plant in the ground. After they are ready you transplant them where there are no trees. It takes 3 years before they begin to produce. Once they start to produce they will continue for 15- 20 years. If they are properly pruned, then they can last 30-40 years. Each tree produces about 10 pounds of coffee per year.
Harvesting: Coffee beans are three different colors: green, yellow, and reddish purple. When harvesting gourmet coffee (like Don Justo) you don’t pick the green or yellow ones, only the red ones. These are called cherries in English and uvas (grapes) in Spanish. You basically start at one end of the finca and pick off all the red ones in a row and then continue to move forward. You do sweeps of the finca to get the cherries; at our finca they usually do two sweeps. To do this you have a basket (canasta) in front of you that’s tied to your waste very tight. You pick the cherries and put them in the basket. Once you get about 20 to 25 pounds you put them in a sack you carry with you. Then you drag the sack with you as you collect more cherries. Most people collect 150 to 200 pounds per day. The average wage is $4.50 a day (at least that’s what it is at our finca where the workers are paid a fair amount according to International Fair Trade guidelines). Sometimes they can make as much as $8 a day.
Cleaning: After each person has their sack full of cherries they take it back to the building where coffee is processed. It is weighed and then put into a machine that takes of the peel. The peel is later used for compost. From each cherry we get two coffee beans (pepitas). Those are sent down a chute into a big pila to be washed. A pila is a big cement basin used to hold water. First the coffee cherries remain there overnight without any water. The next day there is a person standing in the big pilas that are then filled with water. They mix around the water to ensure all the peels and anything else stuck to the coffee cherries is off. This takes about 2 hours. Thinking about a person standing in a pila to get off the extra shells reminds me of grape stomping. Coffee stomper; that would look good on a resume.
Drying: After the coffee beans have been washed they go to a different part of the finca where they are laid outside to dry in the sun. The drying process takes 7 to 15 days. Groupings of coffee beans are set out at different times so they are able to continually dry coffee. There are machines that are used to dry coffee but this finca doesn’t have one. When the beans are dried they are a grayish brown color.
Storage: From there they go in a burlap bag and are stored for 6-12 months. This does not negatively affect the quality of the coffee. That’s just how it’s done. It’s not until you roast the coffee that the beans start to diminish in quality.
Second cleaning: The coffee beans then go through a second machine to take off the final husk. The final husk is then used to help grow the baby coffee plants.
Crop maintenance: Major maintenance of crops is done 2 to 3 times a year. They have to trim and prune the trees, prune the weeds, put down fertilizer, and control insects. In order to control the insects, mainly grasshoppers, they use little bamboo traps. Grasshoppers normally sit in bamboo so when they enter the traps they can’t get out and can be disposed of later. The fertilizer they use is organic. It is made of weeds, dried leaves, the leftover shell from the cherries, leftover vegetables, and manure. It is mixed together in a compost area and dried. Then it is ground into a fine powder to put directly on the base of the coffee plants. How well a crop does depends on the amount of rain, sun, fertilizer, and wind.
Seasonal responsibilities:
° February, March, April, May- the flowers on the coffee plant bloom. Some maintenance is done on the plants and weeds trimmed.
° June, July, August, September- the beans begin to form and some pruning is done.
° October, November, December, January- the cherries turn red and are picked, cleaned, and dried.
Taste differences: One of the differences in the taste of coffee is a result of toasting it. But the elevation at which coffee is grown also makes a difference. There is Bajo (lowland) which are usually small beans, Medio (midland) which are a little bigger, and Alto (highland) which produce the biggest cherries and are considered to be the best. Minimal elevation for growing coffee is 1500 feet above sea level. Several other things can affect the taste of the coffee including soil, when the coffee cherries are picked, type of tree, climate, processing, roasting, etc. For example, the coffee cherries picked for large corporate companies (pick your company) may be green, yellow, or red, thus resulting in a poorer quality than places like the finca we visited today.
Toasting the coffee
When the coffee arrives at the toastery from the finca it is put into an electric de-pulper machine which removes the final layer of peel on the coffee bean. From there someone moves the beans to the sorting table where they pick out the bad ones. Then the beans go into the toaster. How long the beans are in there and what the temperature is what produces different tastes and the strength of the coffee. On average, it takes about 35 minutes to roast 35 pounds of coffee. If the coffee is flavored with any oil it is done at this time.

After it is roasted the coffee is weighed, put into bags, and sealed. Don Justo has 5 different kinds of coffee: Regular, Dark, French, Mocha, and Snickeroo. If I am remembering correctly, the flavored coffees are the lightest, followed by regular, dark, and French being the darkest/strongest. The French is roasted for the longest period of time and at the highest temperature. It is all considered gourmet coffee because of the quality of the coffee beans themselves and also because all the “bad” beans are picked out
More about Don Justo – Coffee With Dignity from the Our Sister Parish website: http://www.oursisterparish.org/  
Don Justo Finca

Baby coffee plants

Baby coffee plants

Green coffee cherries

Red & green coffee cherries

The finca

1-year old coffee plant

3-year old coffee plant

Mature coffee plant

All of us in the finca

Ripe coffee cherries

Coffee seeds inside the coffee cherry

Coffee cherries

The seeds

Dried coffee

Bag of coffee cherries

Machine to take the pulp off the cherries

Betty & Maurice with Manual & his son at
the coffee finca in front of the de-pulping machine


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