I Special Coffees are excellent products that can be described as the perfect mix of several important factors. Their rarity and supply difficulties are a direct testimony, because Special Coffees’ peculiarity is not attributable to an isolated aspect, but it comes from the whole circle of life that respects the commodity, from cultivation to packaging to the extraction method.
Knowing Special Coffees and Coffea cultivation
The coffee plant is part of Rubiaceae family, that has more than five thousand species. In this big family there is Coffea, trees and shrubs cultivated for coffee and special coffee production. It’s difficult to give an exact number of the species: some people say that Coffea family has 60 types, some others 90 or 129. The last one is the number given by the identification work by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (England).
Coffea’s peculiarity is that it grows where the climate is tropical and inter-tropical: the sun is very important, but at the same time it doesn’t have to warm the plantations too much because they can suffer a property and quality variation of the product.
Rain is abundant and for a Special Coffee there are several key factors that combined can give a very high quality product, rare and impossible to copy.
The main features of Special Coffees: from coffee cultivation to harvest
What we call Special Coffee is an evolution of a commodity that is subjected to its sorrounding environment.
The ground, for example, needs the presence of some characteristics, such as humus and some nutritional elements like phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. It has an important role also the grade and the wind orientation, that determine the development or not of particular aromas and flavours.
Every plant needs 2-8 square meters of land: their productive life can be even 30 years long, starting bearing fruit from the forth, to reach maturity at seventh-eighth, with a yield of 2000-4000 fruits per year.
The beans come from a white flower, after a self-pollination process that needs 6-8 months to become red and to ripen.
A Special Coffee is the result of selected beans, harvested just when they become deep red. To do that, it is necessary to check the maturing process several times because the beans ripen in different times. After every rain, in fact, there is a new flowering and so the plant has in the same moment flowers, unripe fruits and beans ready to harvest.
Special coffees and beans harvest: picking and stripping
The beans harvest, particularly in Special Coffees, is an operation that needs close attention, especially if we think at the time they need to become deep red, ready to harvest. Furthermore, in relation to the period for a plant to become productive, it is very important to consider the climatic, atmospheric and ground influence.
The coffeas are very delicate and very complex plants, especially in relation to the presence of ripe beans or not at the same time.
The harvest methods are different, and there are three main ones:
- Picking,it is expensive because the harvest is made by hand, but at the same time it guarantees that just the complete ripe beans are picked. The Speciality Coffee are the result of this harvest method that, before the production, needs another manual selection where unripe beans are eliminated.Picking is an onerous harvest method, because it needs high costs and much working time, but on the other hand it obtains a homogeneous and high quality product. This method is used on small quantity of commodity that has all the characteristics mentioned above, such as ideal climatic factors, and it is destinated to become a Speciality Coffee.
- Stripping, Stripping, on the contrary, allows a faster and cheaper harvest, but it doesn’t assure that the plant doesn’t suffer and that the product is of best quality. To proceed is necessary to wait for the right moment, when the plants have a good quantity of ripe beans; later they are picked by hand from the branches and put on a cloth on the ground.
- Complete mechanical harvesting: there is also the possibility to pick the ripe beans through a mechanical procedure that is usually used in big plantation on flat lands. By some brushes, the beans are stimulated to fall on the ground and to lay down in holds by a conveyor belt. In this case the harvest is complete because also the unripe beans are picked, and the plant is also damaged.