First the coffee tree grows from a planted seed in the ground. From 4-8 weeks it develops into a seedling and after 3 years the tree will start to grow their fruit known as cherries. After another 3 years, the tree will be full with fruit and ready for harvesting. This is usually done in bulk coffee plantations in over 50 coffee producing countries around the world.
Coffee trees only grow in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Brazil being the largest, it produces just over 28 percent of the world’s total output. A well grown coffee tree can produce over 1 kg of raw coffee a year; however it needs perfect temperatures between 17º and 23º as well as good rainfall and soil conditions. Coffee grows as a red cherry carrying two beans inside, which is the golden product.
The next stage is to take the bean from the tree. The bean is the seed of the coffee plant, and comes from inside a red or purple fruit known as the cherry. The plants are grown several feet apart, and are almost always handpicked. A good coffee picker can pick up to 50-60 pounds of coffee per day.
To keep up to with the current coffee demand in today’s world, we all need to contribute towards more than 5,000,000 metric tons per year. That’s a lot of afternoon tea! The average lifespan of a coffee tree is 20 years, and each will produce around 40,000 beans during this period.
If the beans have been processed by the wet method, the pulped and fermented beans must now be dried to approximately 11% moisture to properly prepare them for storage.
These beans, still inside the parchment envelope (the endocarp), can be sun-dried by spreading them on drying tables or floors, where they are turned regularly, or they can be machine-dried in large tumblers. The dried beans are known as parchment coffee, and are warehoused in jute or sisal bags until they are readied for export.
Hulling machinery removes the parchment layer (endocarp) from wet processed coffee. Hulling dry processed coffee refers to removing the entire dried husk — the exocarp, mesocarp and endocarp — of the dried cherries.
Polishing is an optional process where any silver skin that remains on the beans after hulling is removed by machine. While polished beans are considered superior to unpolished ones, in reality, there is little difference between the two.
Grading and Sorting is done by size and weight, and beans are also reviewed for color flaws or other imperfections.Beans are sized by being passed through a series of screens. They are also sorted pneumatically by using an air jet to separate heavy from light beans.
the bean size is represented on a scale of 10 to 20. The number represents the size of a round hole's diameter in terms of 1/64's of an inch. A number 10 bean would be the approximate size of a hole in a diameter of 10/64 of an inch, and a number 15 bean, 15/64 of an inch.
Finally, defective beans are removed either by hand or by machinery. Beans that are unsatisfactory due to deficiencies (unacceptable size or color, over-fermented beans, insect-damaged, unhulled) are removed. In many countries, this process is done both by machine and by hand, ensuring that only the finest quality coffee beans are exported.
From this point, the coffee bean goes through a tasting test for quality in every stage. Known as “cupping”, an experienced coffee taster could test hundreds of coffee beans and taste the fine difference between them.
The milled beans, now referred to as green coffee, are loaded onto ships in either jute or sisal bags loaded in shipping containers, or bulk-shipped inside plastic-lined containers.