The Miraflor community Sontule picks and processes their coffee together.  The coffee goes through a number of stages before it leaves the community and travels to the nearest dry mill for export or to local markets.

For most of the harvest the coffee berries, or cerezas in spanish which actually translates into cherry, are picked red.  At the end of the harvest the bushes are stripped, which makes the picking slower because the last berries are up at the top of the trees.  Coffee trees are flexible, but sometimes it’s a struggle to bend them over and reach the top branches.  Stripping all the green and red berries together also makes the sorting process alot longer, because the ripe berries are sorted out before being depulped.

The berries are then measured into latas, or buckets, which is the measurement by which the pickers are paid, and everyone calculates their days work.  How many latas can you pick in a day?  Our best record was one lata each, given that the end of the harvest is alot of work for little yield, but one elderly villager told me he has picked up to six in a day!

After picking out all the green berries if it was the last pick, the berries are depulped, either at the community wet processing mill or at the family farm.  The depulping removes the coffee seeds from the fruit around them.  The green and over berries that are sorted out are dried first, and then pounded until the dried fruit comes off.  Those berries are considered lower quality, and are consumed by the families but not sold.

At the hand depulper on Henry’s farm the coffee beans come out one side into a sack…

… and the coffee-bean-less fruit comes out the other side.  We all took turns cranking the depulper, which you can somewhat adjust the flow on.  Coffee beans are actually very sweet, but the skins are tough.  The kids would grab handfuls of the pulp out the back and suck the honey like juices out.  The pulp is used for compost for the coffee trees and vegetable gardens.

After the depulping the beans are fermented slightly and washed at the wet mill.  The family has the choice of bringing the beans back to the farm to dry them or drying them at the wet mill.  Here is the lengthy sort #2, picking out the lesser quality or broken beans.  The seconds will either be consumed by the family or sold at the local market.  The firsts will make it to the dry mill, which is a larger regional processing plant.  There a finer layer of parchment is removed from the beans before they are exported.  Evaline, the lady on the right, is from France and was participating in a community tourist project run by the UCA Miraflor which offers tourists rooms in the village and the chance to participate in rural activities.

One of the houses I stayed at had this coffee roaster.  Sort of like a barbecue, the basin is filled with burning wood, and an old propane tank with bars at the ends and filled with coffee beans is set into the grips so that it can be turned slowly for an hour, roasting the beans over the wood fire.  I took this photo after the batch was taken out, you can see the embers from the fire cooling on the ground where they were scraped out.

Marlon, whose house I stayed at, with the cooling coffee beans straight out of the roaster.  The whole yard smelled delicious while they cooled.  This batch will be drunk by families and guests in the village – strong, black, and very sweet.