Coffea is the famous coffee plant originally from Ethiopia, but which is now found throughout the whole tropical world. The homogenous climate of these latitudes means the plants are always green and bearing fruit in a continuous cycle. Flowering and subsequent fruiting do not depend on spring’s higher temperatures, as in our part of the world, but rather depend on the rain. The more it rains, the more substantial the flowering will be.
The fruits borne by the plant, known as drupes, do not all ripen simultaneously, but rather, a combination of flowers, unripe and ripe fruits can all be found on the same plant at the same time. The harvest can either be mechanical, using equipment that shakes the plant and picks the fallen cherries, or manual. To produce high quality coffee, drupes must have reached an excellent level of ripeness.
Manual harvesting can be performed in two ways: by picking or stripping. The picking method is expensive and involves the workers going through the plantation several times, which allows them to collect only the ripest and healthiest cherries on each run-through, leaving behind the fruits that are still not ripe or unsuitable. This system is usually reserved only for the finest coffees. The stripping method of bean harvesting, on the other hand, consists of a single run-through once most of the fruits are ripe, thus collecting all the plants’ drupes regardless of their level of ripeness. Fruits are collected by stripping the branches from the inside, pulling out and letting the fruit fall on special nets or baskets previously placed on the ground. Stripping results in unevenly ripened beans that yield a lower quality product, but with much more contained costs due to speed and efficiency.
This is how drupes, and their small cherry-like fruits, which are green when unripe and ruby red when ripe, and which contain two precious beans within them, become (after several processes) the exquisitely dark powder that we use to brew our cups.