Coffee knowledge - From the bush to the cup

The coffee bean can tell you stories…
Before your coffee ends up in the cup, it goes through a long and complex process.

Coffee facts

The Swiss love coffee! Per capita consumption is 1084 cups per year, or about 3 cups per day. That’s quite a lot! Therefore, it is even more important which coffee ends up in your cup. 

  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity after oil
    Coffee is the second most consumed beverage next to water 
  • 2.6 million cups of coffee are drunk worldwide every day
  • Up to 150 liters of water are consumed per cup of coffee (with the treatment method fully washed)
  • 10% of the coffee consumed in Switzerland is of fair trade origin 
  • only 2-3% of the coffee is grown organically 
    the remaining 97% is produced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides and mostly on monocultures 
  • 80% of coffee is produced by 25 million smallholder families. Their wages are often less than 2 dollars per day. 
  • Annual coffee consumption is increasing worldwide. Rainforests have to give way 3/4 of coffee comes from countries with high deforestation risk
  • The well-known Swiss capsule manufacturer is estimated to sell 11-12 billion capsules annually, with each capsule consisting of 1.13 g of aluminum*. This results in an annual aluminum waste of about 15,000 tons, which, when strung together, is enough to go around the world. 
  • Capsules are filled with only 5-6 g of coffee. Thus, the kilo is available from the well-known Swiss capsule manufacturer from 90 francs…
  • Coffee production can account for up to 70% of the environmental impact of a cup of coffee. In the best case, however, it accounts for only 1%! 

The right choice of coffee is therefore crucial…

* The aluminum problem
Aluminum production involves mining bauxite, a mineral found primarily in the tropical belt. The production of 1 kg of aluminum produces 1.5 kg of waste product called red mud. This sludge is a toxic and highly corrosive cocktail of poisons that destroys everything it comes into contact with. No one wants the red mud and they put it where it can’t be seen: To remote areas in the Brazilian rainforest, for example, and store it there in lakes. Aluminum production cuts down rainforests, destroys landscapes, and requires enormous amounts of energy: for 1 kg of aluminum, 16 kilowatt hours are consumed and 8 kg of carbon dioxide are emitted.

Coffee knowledge

Typical monoculture

Coffee knowledge

Kafi Kolibri farm

The coffee plant

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world and yet many do not know exactly about the cultivation and the coffee plant itself. We would like to clear this up; coffee grows in subtropical areas, about 20 degrees around the equator. This means that about 80 countries in South and Central America, Asia and Africa offer the perfect conditions for coffee cultivation. In these countries, you can now find over 100,000 square kilometers of cultivated land for all types of coffee.

Contrary to what some would think, coffee does not grow on trees, but on coffee bushes. Even the term “coffee bean” may be misleading, because the fruit is not a legume, but a drupe. The coffee bean is located inside the coffee cherry. The ripening process is reminiscent of real cherries, which slowly turn from green to yellow to a rich dark red. In rare varieties, the coffee cherry remains yellow-orange.

Coffee knowledge
Coffee knowledge

Coffee cherry structure

Inside the coffee cherry there are usually two coffee beans, which later form the main ingredient of our popular pick-me-up. In some cases, there is only one bean, called the pearl bean or peaberry inside the coffee cherry.

Whether it is one or two coffee beans; each individual bean is protected inside the cherry by a very thin silver skin and another layer of parchment. In fact, these two layers also ensure freshness, which is why they are removed just before export to the consumer.

Between the pulp of the cherry (pulp) and the protected beans there is a third, sweet-tasting layer. Because of its taste, “honey-processed” drying has also received its name. But more about that later…

Coffee knowledge

From the bush to the cup

1. coffee cultivation

The term “coffee plantation” might sound familiar to many. Unfortunately. Because these plantations are mostly monocultures, which are responsible for the deforestation of species-rich forests.

2. harvest

Once a year, coffee bushes produce ripe coffee cherries, which can then be harvested. In Costa Rica, the main harvest period runs from about October to February.

3. preparation and drying

After harvesting, coffee cherries must be processed within a few hours, as they quickly begin to rot or ferment. Before the cherries can be dried….

4. categorization, trade and transport

After drying, the coffee beans are made ready for export. For this purpose, machines are first used to remove the parchment layer that has kept the beans fresh until then.

5. roasting

Only through roasting the coffee gets its incomparable taste. Here, too, there are different…

1. Coffee cultivation

The term “coffee plantation” might sound familiar to many. Unfortunately. Because these plantations are mostly monocultures that are responsible for the deforestation of species-rich forests. In Costa Rica’s best-known coffee-growing region, Tarrazú, these monocultures are also increasingly becoming a problem.

It is not only deforestation that is responsible for less biodiversity and environmental damage here. The use of toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is also a problem for people and animals. While the chemicals drive away bugs, they also drive away other animals, such as hummingbirds. At the same time, the toxic substances get into the groundwater, where they can harm people and nature.

Coffee knowledge

Kafi Kolibri works together with the farming families against these monocultures. Instead of plantations, our coffee is grown in mixed cultures and natural forests, where it is treated exclusively with specially produced fertilizers and protective agents from nature.

This is how coffee is often grown…

Coffee knowledge

This is what it looks like on the Kafi Kolibri farms….

Coffee knowledge

2. Harvest

Once a year, coffee bushes produce ripe coffee cherries, which can then be harvested. In Costa Rica, the main harvesting period is from about October to February. During these months, a coffee bush produces only about 3-5 kg of ripe coffee cherries, of which only 1-2 kg are of export quality. 

 

In total, there are the following 3 picking methods:

Coffee knowledge
Coffee knowledge

Kafi Kolibri has chosen the most economical method (picking), in which the unripe coffee cherries remain on the bush to be harvested later.

3. Preparation and drying

After harvesting, the coffee cherries must be processed within a few hours, as they quickly begin to rot or ferment. Before the cherries can be dried, they must be checked for quality and sorted out if necessary. Here there are 2 procedures: Smaller coffee growers usually pick the coffee cherries by hand, sorting out the unripe or bad fruit. Larger producers or companies use water channels for this purpose, in which unsuitable coffee cherries float to the top and can be sorted out more easily.

Coffee knowledge

After selection, the cherries must be dried quickly. Here, too, there are different methods. Kafi Kolibri uses the dry or semi-dry method to save large amounts of water.

Coffee knowledge

trocken - natural

Coffee knowledge

The most natural and environmentally friendly way of drying is the “natural” method. Here, the cherries are spread out on drying beds in the sun pure, without peeling or washing them beforehand. Several times a day, the cherries must be turned over to dry evenly from all sides and to counteract the formation of mold. The coffee farmers repeat this process for 3 weeks until the coffee beans inside the coffee cherry have reached a moisture level of just over 10%.

In addition to the ecological benefits, after the Natural drying process the coffee beans have an exceptionally soft, sweet and very varied taste, which is also noticeable in the finished hot beverage. The sweet note is created during the natural fermentation process; since the cherry is not peeled, the fructose can penetrate the coffee bean and deliver its full-bodied sweet taste.

Kafi Kolibri works with farming families who also process their coffee naturally. Here you can find the different natural varieties.

semi-dry - honey

Honey-processed coffee also develops a sweet, honey-like taste during the 1 – to 3-week drying process. Depending on the length of the drying process and the amount of sunlight, this sweet taste can be stronger or weaker. These different intensities are then referred to as “yellow”, “red” or “black honey”.

The difference between this and the dry process is that the coffee beans are first removed from the coffee cherry using a so-called pulper. It is important that the sweet mucilage remains around the bean. This gives off the intense flavor and, for freshness purposes, is removed together with the parchment layer only shortly before export.

Here you will find our honey varieties with a particularly fruity-sweet taste.

Coffee knowledge

fully washed

Although the fully washed method uses up to 150 liters of water for one cup of coffee, it is used in many coffee production operations. The entire process is highly mechanized, saving labor and time. For environmental reasons, Kafi Kolibri has made a conscious decision not to work with producers who use this method. Save water!

In the first step of the fully washed processing, the coffee cherries are mechanically skinned and the pulp is removed. Unlike the semi-dry method, the mucilage is also removed in the following step. For this purpose, the coffee cherries are placed in another machine – the fermentation tract – for cleaning for 12 to 24 hours. Once the beans have been freed from the mucilage and pulp, they are washed again to remove any residues.

Only now does the actual drying begin, during which the beans with their parchment layer are dried either in large drying machines or in the sun. The method usually depends on the size and location of the coffee production.

The procedures at a glance

Below you can see the procedures at a glance.

Coffee knowledge

Many farmers do not have the necessary means and contacts to prepare the coffee themselves. They sell their entire harvest to cooperatives. These in turn process the coffee, trade and sell it. For the farmers’ families, very little comes out of this…

4. Categorization, trade and transport

After drying, the coffee beans are made ready for export. For this purpose, machines are first used to remove the parchment layer that has kept the beans fresh until then. Now the coffee beans are checked for quality – also by machine or manually – and sorted once again.

Now the beans must be quickly packed into bags. The size or weight of the bags depends on the importing country, but in most cases it is around 60 kilograms. The prices for the coffee are then not determined by the sellers or the producers, but primarily by the so-called coffee exchanges.

The large coffee sacks are then shipped to the countries of transport.

Coffee knowledge

Kafi Kolibri deals directly with the farming families and imports itself by ship from Costa Rica to Basel.

5. Roasting

It is the roasting that gives coffee its incomparable taste. Here, too, there are different intensities, with a distinction being made between light and dark roasting. Depending on the roast, the coffee bean varieties are suitable for special types of preparation, such as for portafilter machines and fully automatic machines, or also for special coffee drinks such as espresso.

Coffee knowledge

Kafi Kolibri sells both roasted bean coffee from a small roastery in Bern and unroasted green coffee for home roasters who want to refine exquisite coffee.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps now that you’ve deepened your coffee knowledge, you can better understand the many processes behind a single cup of coffee. From coffee cultivation, to proper care, to the various harvesting and drying processes, to export, it may not take very long to end up enjoying high-quality coffee.

Unfortunately, there are still many coffee farmers in Costa Rica and other coffee regions who are not paid anything close to fair wages for their hard work. Many do not have the means to process their coffee themselves and have to sell the harvested coffee cherries to cooperatives. The payment they receive from these cooperatives is often not enough to live on.

Kafi Kolibri therefore works directly with Costa Rican farming families to promote high quality fair trade coffee from environmentally friendly production. We pay the farmers well above market rates and are happy to promote natural and environmentally friendly production. See for yourself the mentality and satisfaction of the coffee farming families on a coffee tour of Costa Rica’s growing regions.

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