We all have heard of and most of us have drink coffee of different brands. But have you thought once how the coffee beans are cultivated? Or which Climatic condition is suitable for coffee cultivation?
Or how the coffee leaves are converted into beans? So here is an article to tell you details about coffee cultivation.
What is a Coffee Bean?
Basically coffee is a popular name among the beverages we have nowadays. Coffee is an end product of species of plant Coffea Genus, which is cultivated to produce beans. These beans are highly used for preparing stimulating drinks. Coffee cultivation is an evergreen crop that means it can be produced throughout the year. The average life of a coffee tree is about 20-30 years and it primarily comes in two varieties that are- Arabian coffee or Arabica and Robusta Coffee or Cenephora.
About 65percent of worlds need is fulfilled by Arabica and rest of 35percent is fulfilled by Robusta. Arabica Coffee is milder while Robusta is known for its strong flavored taste.
Coffee has its origin from the continent Africa(mainly in Countries- Ethopia And Congo) but today it is cultivated all around the world.
How coffee beans are cultivated?
- Planting and Harvesting:
Before the coffee ends up in your cup. It goes through a very large process.
The traditional process of planting the coffee tree is to place 20 seeds in every hole at the beginning of the rainy season and as expected half of the seeds rushed by the rain.
A better way for growing coffee was used in Brazil was to grow a coffee plant at kindergarten initially and then planted to the main farm after the plant has grown up to the 10 to 12 months and now it has to go through a various number of steps.
Coffee is the seeds which have been dried roasted and grounded to provide you a perfect cup of coffee and those seeds which don’t walk through this process that can germinate into coffee plants.
Firstly the greens beans are picked by hand depending upon the variety of the coffee it approximately takes 3 to 4 years of coffee bushes to bear fruits that fruits are known as the cherries. The degree of ripeness keeps on changing as the fruits grow older from being green to dark red.
Cherries ripen faster under high temperature and low altitude atmosphere cherries are hand harvested by people so as to ensure that only the ripen once are picked up.
The temperature must be 15 to 25 degree for Arabica seeds and for Robusta its 24 to30.
The coffee plants can grow to the height of 10 meters and the farmers grow it to the height which is better for harvesting. The flowers of the plants are white in colour and smell like Jasmine and Orange.
- Cherry Processing:
After harvesting cherries are undergone certain processes to avoid their spoilage. Depending upon the various locations and resources different methods are used.
- The dry method
This is one of the traditional methods of processing the cherries and still is being used in the area with water deficiencies. This is also called as unwashed or natural processing.
People with small scale farms mostly use this method. The Cherries are spread out on the ground and left to dry under the sunlight for 15-20 days. They are regularly turned and raked throughout the period to avoid the fermentation and ensure they are dry evenly and at night they are covered to avoid the absorption of moisture.
The drying makes it easy to remove the outer skin of the cherries and to extract the beans. This process depends upon the weather conditions.
- The wet method
This method is new and popularly used nowadays to remove the skin of the cherries. Its called wet because it uses water to remove the outer skin and to extract the beans. It involves cleaning of the cherries and removing unripe and overripe cherries.
Then the cherries go through a pulping machine that squeezes out the skin without harming the beans. This is possible because the beans are so hard. This process of removing the cover of the cherries is used mostly in the areas with plenty of water. The dry beans are also called parchment coffee.
- Coffee Milling process:
Before sending the beans to the market, The dried coffee bean is processed as follows:
Hulling parchment coffee involves removing the dried husk. The Next step is polishing it.
Coffee polishing is an optional step which can be skipped. It involves getting rid of the silver skin that may have found its way through the hulling. However, the polished coffee beans are called better than the unpolished ones.
There is still a difference in the beans which leads to the grading. The beans are then sorted and graded as per their size and weight.
- Coffee tasting process:
The packed coffee is repeatedly tasted to put on a continuous check and define its taste and quality. This is called capping. It takes place in the special room designed to enhance it. This step helps the people to tell where the coffee came from.
- Coffee Roasting:
Unroasted coffee is also known as green coffee and such beans have all the flavors locked in them. This step transforms the green coffee into the aromatic brown beans you buy of your favorite brands. It is carried out a temperature of approximately 550F during which time the green beans are turned to avoid burning.
Green beans are firstly dried until they turn yellow and develop a roasting smell. Once the beans register a temperature of 400F the step is called the first crack during which the beans get double in size and start to turn light brown. After that, as the temperature continues to rise the color changes to medium brown and fragrant oil starts to emerge.
There are different types of roasts i.e. light, medium, and dark.
- Coffee Grinding:
The goal of grinding is to make a good tasting cup of coffee which enhanced flavors. The kind of coffee brewer used to determine how fine the coffee should be grounded. This grinding determines how fast the coffee will release its flavor.
- Coffee packaging:
This is a vital step, as any exposure to air can turn the coffee into a lump. This is especially the case of ground coffee which can quickly lose its flavor if got in contact with air. That’s the reason that coffee is packed in an airtight container.
Coffee Growing Areas And The Countries:
Coffee generally grows in the regions between tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. The top five major areas where coffee is cultivated
- South America
- Central America
Coffee is produced in almost 60 countries worldwide. And the bigger players are
Brazil reports 23000000 sacks of Kg per year
The condition required for the cultivation of Coffee:
- Climatic Conditions: For Arabica seeds, suitable temperature is around 15 to 25 degrees while for Robusta seeds, suitable temperature is 24 to 30 degrees.
- Soil Conditions: To fulfill the worldwide demand for coffee, coffee trees require a large number of nutrients and the source of these nutrients in the soil. This nutrient delivering soil is formed from the breakdown and erosion of rocks. Also, the flavor of the coffee depends largely on the nature of the soil.
- Coffee can be grown on many soils but the ideal kind of soil is fertile volcanic red earth or deep sandy loam. Well-drained soil is an important aspect for a coffee tree to grow in an ideal way with enhanced flavors.
- The best coffees are grown on the slopes of volcanoes or in Volcanic soil. The soil nutrients also contribute for a coffee tree to grow well, to say that, a combination of factors affect the taste would not be wrong, Even though a minor change during the plantation is enough to feel that change in the taste and quality.
- Rainfall: Abundant rainfall is one of the most vital elements for coffee cultivation, that is, it should lie between 100 to 200 centimeters annually. The main reason that hill slopes are the best place for the coffee cultivation is due to the organic rainfall receive by them.
- Shade: Direct sunlight is harmful to coffee cultivation. Therefore, Coffee trees should be planted in the areas under shades of taller trees like a banana.
- Topography: Generally the places with the slope having a height between 600 to 1800 meters are best suited for coffee trees. This suitability for the coffee is because these are well drained and also cooler. Another reason for these places to be good for coffee trees is that the water stagnation is not good for coffee and the slopes don’t hold the water.
- Manure and Fertilization: Timely application of manure and fertilizers is the key factor to grow the best quality coffee. Proper and timely application of nutrients like Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium, Zinc, and Boron all are very important.
Economic Conditions required for coffee cultivation:
- Labor: Coffee cultivation is a labor-intensive process because it is fully hand-picked as there is no machine yet been developed to do this job. The process involves various steps which can only be done by human itself like a plantation, field preparation, transplanting, cultivating pruning, weeding and lastly harvesting. These steps almost take a year.
- Capital: Coffee cultivation is a capital-intensive activity as in the initial period, trees take the time of 3 to 4 years to grow old and give cherries, so the profit generated in the initial years is almost nil and only expenses will be there. It is also labor-intensive work, so it requires a huge amount of capital.
- Transport: Even you have grown good quality coffee, you need to have a good network of both internal and external transport. Because the coffee has a huge market so that, you can touch every edge of the market and for that, you need to maintain good transport services.
Yield in Coffee Cultivation:
Though the yield depends on a large number of factors that is soil, climate, irrigation, and many other factors. But I have some figures:
For Robusta Coffee, the yield is somewhere between 2,800 kilograms to 4,000 kilograms of cherry per acre. But, you have to dry them and then it lowers down to 1,200 kilos to 1,500 kilograms of dry cherries that means a reduction in almost 60 percent in weight.
According to Indian prices of Robusta cherry, The price is around 7000 per quintals i.e. 100 kilograms. So, that technically means you can make 83000 per acre i.e. 63 rupees per kilogram.
But, This is when you have to think about the expenses. You have to maintain various processes like pruning, weeding, irrigation, harvesting, and many other tasks. Maintenance costs come close to 45,000 per acre per year and generating you a profit of around 35000 per acre per year. The figures become lucrative when the tree grows older than 15 years.
While in the case of Arabica Coffee, the maintenance cost is quite high and it will add up another 20 percent to your costing. Also, the market price of Arabica coffee is a little higher than Robusta and hence it even out the profits.
Making you a perfect cup of coffee is not everybody’s cup of tea. Bringing a cup of coffee with enhanced flavors requires a lot of painstaking efforts and years of sweat and patience. Coffee Cultivation is labor and capital intensive activity and these are not enough to grow a quality coffee, you also need to take care of various other things like the type of soil, climatic condition i.e. temperature, rainfall, etc and many other factors.
So, this is how you can be the origin to cultivate a quality coffee which will bring smiles to millions while drinking.