Arriving at the farm I felt like a kid in a candy store. As soon as we had been shown our accommodation it was down to the drying patio, then the wet mill and collecting station.
Edwin gathered us to explain what happens. At Finca Vista Hermosa the pickers come in with the cherries in the afternoon. I got a look at some of the bags and the picking quality was obvious. Only the ripest red cherries in there. Selective picking means leaving the unripe cherries on the tree and picking several times during the harvest season, which is key to the quality. Even so, afterwards the pickers go through the cherries and sort out any greens (unripe) and overripe cherries, which will be processed as naturals for local consumption (it’s actually illegal to export anything other than washed coffees in Guatemala!).
Here at the collecting station at the wet mill, the amount of cherries is measured and the picker is paid.
Green coffees sorted. In the last pick of the trees, all cherries must come off. Then the greens are sorted out afterwards.
In the reception tank, which is full of water, any unripe, over-ripe or single-bean cherries will float on top, and only the ripe sink to the bottom and goes to the de-pulper. All cherries are being pulped same day as picking. FVH only has one de-pulper running, with a spare if it should break down.
From there they go to the fermentation tanks, which at FVH are quite small. In fact their whole 5 tanks could fit into one of the ones I’ve seen in Costa Rica for example.
According to Edwin the smaller tanks give a more even fermentation of the coffee. He also explained to us the procedure they’ve developed for knowing when the coffee is done and should be washed. Instead of the typical use of a stick to see if the beans leave a hole and stick to the rod, they squeeze a handful of beans between their fingers. When the beans shoot out, the coffee is done! This has proven so effective, that Anafé has adopted the method.
It was great to hear Edwin tell about the wet fermentation, washing and drying of the coffee, and with the afternoon sun shining on the drying patio it felt magical. In the evening we had a great Sopa Verde (green soup with chicken) and then proceeded to dry mill (hull) a bunch of FVH samples from the different lots. It was quite an experience to crush the parchment between your palms. It was a good thing we were twelve people doing this as I think our hands would otherwise have suffered badly.
Next morning we got up early to hand grind a bag of the TCC roast of Finca Vista Hermosa that I’d brought with me. Then we brewed a batch on a filter machine and gave it to the farm workers, who were already busy preparing for the day’s work. They looked quite happy to try it, but to be honest I’m not so sure if they like it. See, they are used to a much weaker brew and lots of suger. This was the usual 60 g/liter and no sugar (why would you need any in such a sweet coffee?!?), but they were very polite and even called over another guy to try it. For me it was just great fun to present our roast to them.
After breakfast we watched the coffee being washed in the washing channels after the fermentation was done. The mucilage covering the parchment beans are at this stage quite dissolved and needs to be washed off with clean water. Small inserts in the channels hold the beans back, so any remaining pulp or light-weight beans will float ahead and be sorted from the rest of the coffee. The coffee is continually being stirred with large paddles against the stream, which removes the mucilage, and makes sure the fermentation process comes to a stop. This is the actual washing of the coffee.
Then the coffee is laid out on the drying patio to dry in the sun. At Finca Vista Hermosa they are very careful about keeping a very thin layer of coffee while drying and turning over the coffees very frequently (more than every half an hour) to ensure a very uniform drying of the beans and avoid the risk of mold in the bottom part.
In the afternoon we went on a long (!) hike around FVH to the Michicoy lot. We saw the steep slopes on which they grow coffee and the many “Chalum” shade trees that protect the coffee trees against heavy sun and rain and provide nutrition to the ground through their debris.
This was part 2 of 3 on the FVH 2008 Origin Trip