Harvesting exceptional coffee is an arduous job and carried out in a difficult working environment.
The finest Arabica coffees are grown on perilously steep mountain slopes at high altitudes. Simply climbing the mountain side farm is guaranteed to leave the average city-dweller winded. Coffee farmers on the other hand, climb the slopes repeatedly and haul sacks of coffee berries on their backs or on their heads as the women do it in some parts of the world.
At some Coffee Heritage Project’s origin, each ripe coffee berry is picked by hand. Handpicking is necessary since the steep mountain side makes it virtually impossible to mechanize coffee harvesting.
To complicate things even further, coffee berries do not ripen at the same time. On the same branch, there will be berries of all colors from the unripe green to a ripened, deep reddish color – and unlike other fruits, unripe coffee berries do not ripen after being plucked. For this reason, coffee pickers have to be careful and pick out only the red berries from the tree. Pickers also need to come back to the trees every so often to harvest other berries that have already ripened. This is why handpicking coffee beans is so crucial in producing quality-focused coffee. Comparatively, coffee harvesting is 10 times the hand labor of competing products such as beer, wine, cigars, etc.
There is no better way to truly understand “handpicked” coffee than taking the opportunity to handpick coffee with coffee growers at the farm. For some coffee enthusiasts, the trip can be a life altering experience. And at the very least, the experience is guaranteed to give anyone a greater appreciation for coffee (which makes everything else in coffee even more important) and a deeper respect for what it took to bring exceptional handcrafted beans to your cup.