By: Liz Dorhman, CSR department volunteerism maven Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. offers its employees the opportunity to visit the communities we purchase our coffee from. Each year different groups of employees travel to these communities to visit farmers, pick coffee and follow its journey from tree to your cup. I was lucky to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity and traveled to Nicaragua with twelve co-workers from different departments and locations. We spent six days together learning about coffee and the communities that grow it. One of the things I’ll remember most about this trip is how much work is behind my morning cup of coffee.
Our first day in Nicaragua we traveled to a sustainable coffee estate called Selva Negra. Selva Negra was the first place most of us had ever seen a coffee tree. Picking coffee is more challenging than you might think. Each cherry (the coffee bean is inside it), needs to be the perfect shade of red. When picking that perfectly ripe cherry you had to be careful not to remove the stem. The stem is where the next flower and then cherry will grow. Remove the stem, remove the chance for a new cherry and bean to grow. Picking was done by hand on each farm we visited, no matter the size. Most workers can fill a basket in an hour. It took me 45 minutes to just cover the bottom of my basket.
After picking, the pulp or fruit of the coffee cherry needs to be removed. Then the coffee needs to be washed and is partially dried at the farm. Next, it’s transported to a dry mill and spread on large cement patios where it is periodically turned to ensure uniform drying. It’s then bagged and moved to a warehouse where it needs time to rest. Throughout this rest period, samples are taken from each bag. The coffee is roasted and tasted on site at a lab, where cuppers can tell if it needs to rest for longer. Once it’s ready, the coffee is sorted by size and quality and re-bagged for export.