Coffee in Ethiopia are harvested primarily by hand-picking. This is a laborious process and requires a keen sense of skill. The colour of the coffee cherry at harvesting, which indicates the state of maturation, is critical to cup quality. Varying shades of red amount to a fully matured fruit but nonetheless an even, medium to rich red is mostly sought by a skilled and diligent pickers.
Quakers or green immature fruits, lack the high sugar content and acidity of a fully matured fruit, giving coffee an astringent like and grassy or straw-like taste.
The coffee beans are usually light weighed and pallid and do not roast properly. Over-ripen fruits have deep, dark red or purple red colour. These are usually avoided as they lend a sour or fermented taste to the coffee. In some worst cases, the beans may give foul tasting coffee, commonly referred to as stinkers. A correctly processed coffee bean with no defects will produce sweet, clean coffee.
Coffee cherry picking is either done by carefully picking one cherry at a time or by breaking off a shoot bearing a large number of ripe cherry in single stroke. Careful cherry picking undoubtedly improves quality of coffee.
The coffee cherry doesn’t ripen all at the same time, with trees bearing green (unripe) and red (ripe) simultaneously. Pickers many a time have to return to the same tree multiple times, to harvest all the mature fruits.
This extends the harvesting season considerably. During harvesting the cherry is collected in a small container and then filled inside a standard size stack for transport to either a drying or washing station.
The timeline between picking to processing of coffee beans are critical, because the fresh Cherry must reach processing as soon as possible, at minimum within a day of harvesting. Or else the coffee cherry would ferment and the quality will be seriously affected.
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