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PC 1.01 The Harvest

In this video, green buyer and Barista Hustle Coach, Nikolai Fürst travels to El Libano, Tolima in the central-west region of Colombia to talk to the owner of Finca San Luis about their selective harvesting methods.

Unripe cherries range through several shades of green; overripe cherries range from grayish-red or yellow to full black (J. N. Wintgens, 2004). Farmers who harvest only ripe coffee cherries are practicing selective harvesting. This leads to higher-scoring lots of coffee, but it also means harvesting costs are higher because it is a far more labour-intensive process (J. N. Wintgens, 2004). Other farmers practice strip picking, which involves removing all the coffee cherries from the branch of a tree in one go. Mechanical harvesting, one method of strip picking, removes all the ripe and overripe cherries indiscriminately, leaving behind only the most unripe cherries that cling more firmly to the branches of the tree.

Wintgens (2004) offers fiscally responsible advice to farmers deciding whether to selectively harvest or strip pick: ‘The decision facing the grower is whether the savings in harvesting cost offset the loss of income from less quality coffee. If they do, the grower should move away from selective hand-picking and into stripping and modern mechanical harvesting systems to maximize his profits.’

In regions that experience a distinct dry season, such as Minas Gerais or Paraná in Brazil, the harvest usually coincides with the dry season (Clifford and Wilson, 1985). In regions with clearly segregated dry and rainy seasons, the main flowering occurs only once or twice, soon after the end of the dry season. This can dramatically reduce the labour costs associated with selective harvesting because trees don’t need to be revisited as many times as they do in regions without distinct dry and rainy seasons. By comparison, a large number of smaller ‘flower showers’ over the year is characteristic of regions with a more evenly distributed rainfall (A. Carvalho and L.