I wrote about Antigua Guatemala on a previous blog and Gazy, from Hacienda El Porvenir in Colombia, commented about it. He said: “you are short on talking about colors. I've never seen such a colorful country as Guatemala”. He was right; colors go beyond a decorative style. They are everywhere: people, handcrafts, houses, buildings, landscapes, food, sunsets; you name it. Color matters, as it matters especially in the harvest season.
If you visit a finca you will hear the owner repeating over and over again: “Pick only the red cherries”. Color matters for quality but it also matters for productivity and costs. A recent study made by the Guatemalan Coffee Association (Anacafé in Spanish) showed that 40% of unripen cherries (the “green” ones) in a sample represents a loss of $26.00 per bag of 100 pounds parchment coffee with an estimated price of $155.00 per bag.
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Textiles of the Tz'utujil Mayan group located in Sololá, West of Guatemala City.
How about cup quality? The report indicated that five percent of unripen beans in a sample results in an astringent, harsh and sour cup. The aroma in the cup is dirty if ten percent of these beans is present. It also showed that a hard bean type of coffee (a classification by altitude above sea level) with five percent of unripen cherries would result an extra-prime type (grown at lower altitude).
Ripen cherries guarantee the natural and ideal sugar concentration in the bean. Wet process can either maintain it or waste it. If you do a proper wet mill, then the fundaments of exemplary coffees will be kept: cleaness and sweetness.
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But picking only the red ones, is not an easy task. Hundreds of pickers should be hired and trained in order to choose only those with the right maturation. Since not all coffee cherries will mature at the same time, growers would need to send in the pickers about three times. Then, when the coffee cherries are brought to the beneficio, bags are weighted in order to pay each picker. If many greens are found, he/she would have to separate the greens before emptying the bag into the receiver.
Harvest is now on its pick. The feast has just began and red is the color. Happy Valentines Coffee Lovers!
Coffee depulper at El Injerto Huehuetenango removing the red skin in the wet process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=8E2WLdLgmw8
i El Cafetal magazine. Guatemalan Coffee Association, October, 2011. http://portal.anacafe.org/Portal/Documents/Magazines/2011-10/68/Portal%20Revista%203%20El%20Cafetal%20Anacafe.pdf