21 January 2007
We're finally nearing the end of the Kona coffee harvest season.
Since coffee does not ripen all at once as some crops do, our harvest
season lasts for about six months. Every month or so we have to
go through the entire farm and pick the ripe coffee cherries, leaving
the green ones on the tree. This sounds easy until you look
more closely at a coffee branch. The green coffee and the ripe
coffee are all mixed together so each bean must be picked by hand.
Only the dark red and purple coffee cherries are good for picking.
Most of the time we hire a crew to do all the picking. The problem
is that there is a shortage of pickers here in Hawaii. At the height
of the harvest season there aren't enough pickers to go around. We
have good pickers and we take care of them so they usually show up when we
need them but every once in awhile they're late or short of people.
That means there are still plenty of occasions for us to spend the day in
the field picking coffee. A good picker can
pick 500 pounds of coffee in a day. We are much slower.
So far our record is just over 100 pounds in a day. It's best
when we can manage to get the pickers here on time.
We also pulp and dry as much of our own coffee as we can. That
process takes us two or three hours every day whenever we are
picking. Since the barn still doesn't have any stairs (at least
it has a roof!), carrying the beans up to the drying deck means hauling
heavy buckets up a rickety ramp and ladder. It takes about a week
for the sun to dry the coffee then we scoop it into large burlap bags
and haul it back down the ladder. Building those stairs probably
should be bumped up on the priority list, maybe after this next round
of picking is done.