A fantasy series that I once read revolved around the premise that “all knowledge is worth having” (among many other premises). I’ve always loved that quote because it echoes my own sentiments to very closely. I love to learn. And I love to tell other people about the cool little fact’s that I’ve learned – that being one of the key characteristics that you either love or hate about me.
So as I was attempting to drown out the annoyingly load music at my hostel in Antigua, Guatemala I somehow managed to overhear another traveler complaining about an hour and a half long coffee tour that went into the entire process of how coffee is made.
And I thought, sign me up for that!
So, come with me on this journey to the Finca Filadelfia Coffee Plantation located walking distance from Antigua to discover just how coffee is made, because I found it fascinating that such a long and drawn out process produces that aromatic and steaming cup of pure, liquid joy.
Not All Beans are Created Equally
It all starts with the seed. There are two main types of coffee – the tastiest: Arabica, and the hardiest: Robusta.
At Finca Filidelfia they produce Arabica beans. But, because the Robusta trees are heartier and more resistant to diseases and bugs, they splice together baby plants. Women do this work at the plantation because their fingers are smaller and better suited to the task.
Ripe Like a Cheery and Ready to Pick
More than 150 families move onto the plantation during harvest season – kids and all. Parents pick the beans while children attend make-shift schools and run through the rows of trees helping (though not officially so they say because of child labor and all…).
The cherry actually tastes like a sweet pepper – completely bizarre. It has a distinct vegetable flavor when you suck on the juice and the closest flavor my group could come up with is akin to a sweet green or red pepper.
Fight Fermentation and Separate Immediately
The coffee cherries are picked up by huge trucks and immediately brought for processing to ensure that the beans don’t ferment. The cherry-like skin is removed, along with sticky part outside of the seed.
Sort and Dry and Sort Again
Once the coffee beans are free from their gooey-outer layers they are sorted by color – which is an indicator of quality. Dark and irregular colored beans are sold within Guatemala because it’s a cheaper brand of coffee.
The better beans are a uniform creamy white color and are laid out and turned in mass for two weeks to dry in the sun.
The beans are then sorted by size – another indicator of bean quality.
A Final Hand-Sort Determines a Premium Roast
All of the beans with slight defects are eliminated by hand at this point on a conveyor belt apparatus.
Walking into the roasting room my nostrils were flooded with the rich aroma of coffee beans that smells like a little slice of Sunday mornings.
The beans are roasted on the various machines according to roast – light, medium and dark. Darker roasts have more flavor because it’s through the roasting process that the caffeine and flavor is released into the beans through the tiny coffee seed at the center of the bean.
Most beans are actually sent out before they’re roasted so that they have a longer shelf life for the buyer.
Yep, That’s Some Tasty Coffee
It’s good. In fact it’s amazing.
And maybe it’s knowing all that it took to make that beans that makes it taste so much better, but it did taste and smell like a little slice of heaven.