Growing and harvesting

Attibassi and its attention to dealers

The rich and enveloping scent of coffee beans comes from the approximately 800 aromas and flavours that they contain. For them to be fully appreciated, all the stages required to obtain a cup of coffee must be carried out in a workmanlike manner, starting from the growing and harvesting of coffee beans.

Attibassi pursues such goals to ensure that its coffee dealers and suppliers and the entrepreneurs who opened a coffee shop through Attibassi licensing know how to offer and share with their customers the experience of a unique coffee, with excellent qualities.

Coffee growing and sowing

The fine art of producing coffee starts first and foremost with growing and accurately harvesting the fruits of the plant.

Characteristics such as soil composition, temperature, altitude and harvesting method play a significant role.

The coffee plant propagates by sowing or cutting, and it takes about four years before it is grown enough to produce fruits (which are called drupes or cherries, being the same colour and shape as cherries).

The coffee plant (or tree) grows well in countries with a hot and humid climate, with temperatures between 18 and 22°C. Ideally, no more than 20°C.

It is grown in about 90 countries and the main areas are located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

In subtropical areas, the plants are grown in open fields, whereas in tropical areas the plants need shade and need to be protected from currents: in fact, they are planted next to taller and larger plants, such as banana trees and castor-oil plants, to make sure they have plenty of shade.

From seed to plant

A coffee drupe normally contains two coffee beans.

For sowing, only the best coffee “cherries” are selected in order to extract, after removing the pulp, the beans/seeds to be planted. In particular, the so-called “pergaminos” are used: beans protected by a casing and that are able to germinate.

The first shoots sprout after about 10 weeks, in which part of the parchment casing of the coffee bean is present. In some plantations, once they reach a height of 5-10 centimetres, they are planted individually in tall pots or in plastic bags and taken to plant nurseries. In the next 4-5 months, the plants, now 30-40 centimetres tall, are transplanted in plantations.

The first blossoming takes place around the third year, whereas the first harvest – although not very substantial- occurs in the fourth year of life. A normal harvest can be obtained only between the fifth and seventh year of life.

Arabica flowers pollinate themselves (autogamous), whereas Robusta flowers are pollinated by insects that are attracted by the strong scent emitted by this species. The coffee flower then produces the drupe.

Coffee plants produce fruits continuously: after every downpour – from the fourth year of life – flowers are born and, after about 7-9 months, cherries ripen. As a result, in certain years when there is heavy rainfall, it is normal to find plants with uneven fruit ripening, which means that there can be flowers, unripe fruits and ripe fruits at the same time.

Harvesting

The harvesting period depends on various aspects: first of all, it varies geographically and not only from continent to continent, but also from country to country. Another important factor is climate, which plays a key role along with altitude and seasons.  For example, the harvesting period in Brazil is from May to September. In Central America it is from October to March. In Africa it is between late October and early April, whereas, in Asia, from November to April.

The fact that the coffee plant blossoms and produces its fruits according to rainfall has a major impact on the harvesting method of ripe cherries. The drupes can be picked by hand, one by one, or by vigorously running fingers along the branches of the plant. In the first case, it is referred to as picking, whereas, in the second case, it is called stripping.

Picking is more expensive because it is done exclusively by hand and drupes are selected directly on the plant. This means that pickers have to go through the rows several times a week to pick all the drupes, since they ripen at different times. In terms of quality, it gives better yields.

Stripping is a slightly more aggressive method. Sometimes, long sticks are used to make the drupes fall on clean soil or on sheets previously laid on the ground, as during the olive harvest. On other occasions, it is done with the aid of specific mechanical harvesters.

With stripping, the drupes are harvested at various stages of ripening: from ripe cherries to unripe cherries, sometimes even rotten; the leaves of the plant and small twigs are also harvested. Therefore, the quality of the harvest obtained with this method is often lower than with picking, but higher in terms of quantity.

Depending on which of the two methods is used, the final taste of coffee is affected: with picking, the beans are selected at the same degree of ripeness, whereas with stripping the presence of cherries in different stages of ripening is likely to give “varying” results.ted

The presence of unripe seeds, for example, makes coffee more bitter and astringent.

These two harvesting methods must therefore be carefully chosen in order to ensure optimum yields and a consistently high level of quality.

To understand how much work is involved in coffee harvesting, just think that it takes two and a half kilos of cherries to obtain half a kilo of coffee.