• back

  • Introduction to quality in relation to production

    Much but not all quality evaluation is subjective, and many people buy certain coffees because they get what they want from them. All exporters should know the market for the type of coffee they produce; it is pointless to offer the wrong coffee to the wrong market. Once the 'right' quality is established, it then needs to be produced in the most efficient and consistent manner.

    Production and processing systems influence quality. Exporters can never be certain of all the components and inputs that make up consistent quality, but they should know the basic norms in climate, soil, and other agricultural factors in the growing areas. Once this is known exporters can adjust their processing techniques to get the best result for the given agricultural environment. Even annual variations in climate can often be at least partly offset by processing adjustments.

    The best quality is obtained from selective picking in which only red, ripe cherries are gathered, by hand, in successive picking rounds until most of the crop has been harvested. When coffee prices are low this time and labour consuming method is expensive whereas stripping allows individual pickers to harvest between 3 and 4 times more per day, thereby reducing the number of picking rounds quite considerably

    Mechanical harvesting is carried out using hand-held machines or by large wheeled mechanical harvesters, often self-propelled. Obviously this reduces the number of picking rounds still further. However, mechanical harvesting is not feasible in areas where coffee trees may carry ripe cherries and flowers or pinheads at the same time, i.e. where the year's harvest is split between early crop and main crop for example.

    It is true that modern technology allows for fairly effective separation of ripe, unripe and overripe cherries that can then be processed separately. But even so, it is impossible to produce exemplary quality coffee when the cherries are simply stripped, all at once, regardless of the degree of maturity.