is an Art
by Les Drent
Hand harvesting Kona
A ripe coffee bean - plump and red - signals harvest.
Each year in Kona, where hand picking is the norm, one
by one, the coffee beans come off the tree. Red coffee
cherries must be picked without disturbing the unripe
coffee beans on the coffee branch. This is a critical
step in quality coffee production, according to George
Yasuda, agricultural consultant for Tiare Lani Coffee,
Picking coffee in its most ripened stage is a challenge,
as well an art. Yasuda, 44, of Holualoa, says coffee
is no different from any other fruit, in that it has
its peak, ripened stage. But unlike most other fruit,
it has little ripening leeway after it's picked. "The
deterioration begins immediately after the cherry's
off the tree," he said. "The sugars begin
to be converted to starches right away." This naturally
occurring process leads to rot, and Yasuda recommends
not letting coffee cherry sit for more than 10 hours.
Kona coffee farmer,
George Yasuda of Tiare Lani Coffee
Coffee is best picked when fully red. Yasuda said coffee
picking varies from year to year - sometimes there are
breaks between rounds, sometimes not. Leaving mostly
ripe coffee on the tree is fine if the farmer's harvesting
crew has time to go back and pick it before it becomes
over ripe. Understanding these dynamics, Yasuda, who
oversees Tiare Lani Coffee's 42-acre coffee orchards
in Holualoa and Kainaliu, instructs pickers to harvest
cherries half red to completely red.
The immature beans - green, yellow, orange and those
less than half red - are left on the tree for the next
picking round. Yasuda said immature coffee beans promote
below average taste. Another problem occurs when under
ripe beans are pulped. Pulping is the initial step in
coffee processing -removing the outer skin. The under
ripe beans jam the pulping machine, causing damage to
the good beans, which become stuck and knicked. Yasuda
said it is critical and an "art" to pick the
coffee that's half-red or better, and to get back to
the other ripening beans before they turn dark purple
to brown in color. "Those beans are over ripe and
their sugars are already breaking down," Yasuda
explains. Over ripe beans cause pulping damage, as well,
and negatively affect taste.
Yasuda encourages farmers to pulp their coffee within
about 10 hours of picking. If left to sit for 10 hours,
the coffee should be stored in the shade, as moisture
and heat hasten the deterioration.
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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