It all starts with the beans


From there it spread to Egypt  and Yemen and by the 15th century it had been introduced to Persia (now  Iran), Turkey, Armenia and northern Africa. From there it spread to  Italy, then the rest of Europe and then northern America. Today it is  one of the most popular beverages in the world and recognized everywhere. Coffee typically grows in regions that offer moderate sunshine and  rain, steady temperatures around 70°F (20°C), and rich, porous soil.  There are two main coffee trees – Arabica (the better beans) which make  up about 70 percent of the harvest and Robusta (the harsher beans) which  account for about 30 percent.

Coffee Growing

Coffee is a deciduous shrub-like tree. Most trees are pruned back each year to less than 8 feet and every 8-10 years the tree is pruned almost to the ground. Most trees can have up to 50 years of good coffee production. Most coffee cherries come from Robusta or Arabica coffee trees. At Pónaire, we use only Arabica beans as they are of higher quality, lower in caffeine (50% less than Robusta) and more naturally resistant to disease. The coffee cherry matures on the branch for 5-6 months. It is important to note, however, that the beans do not ripen at the same time and therefore high quality coffee is hand-picked and harvesting is done by continuous passes on the small trees until all the ripe cherries have been picked. After picking, the cherries are processed to extract the green coffee beans inside. This process is either a dry-process or wet-process.

Wet Processing

In the wet-process method, the cherry must be de-pulped within 6-12 hours after picking or it will begin to rot. In wet-processing the coffee cherries are put into large water tanks – ripe cherries sink, unripe one float. The floaters are skimmed off the surface and the ripe cherry enters the pulper. The coffee bean is then put into a water tank to ferment. Fermentation is natural and begins to break down the remaining pulp. This process takes from 24-72 hours (depending on the altitude) and then the beans are channelled out to patios to dry. The beans are left on the patios for 4-8 days until they contain about 12% moisture and then they are sent to the dry mill. Here it is removed from parchment, sorted by density and screen, hand prepped and packed for export. When properly done, wet processing ensures that the qualities of the coffee beans are better preserved, producing a green coffee which is homogeneous and has few defective beans. Hence, the coffee produced by this method is usually regarded as being of better quality and commands higher prices.

Dry Processing

In dry-processing, the ripe cherries are laid out on patios to sun-dry. When the moisture content is down to about 12%, the seed is milled out of the cherry. Dry process is also known as unwashed or natural coffee and it is the oldest method of processing coffee. On larger plantations, machine-drying is sometimes used to speed up the process after the coffee has been pre-dried in the sun for a few days. Coffee cherries that have been overdried will become brittle and produce too many broken beans during hulling (broken beans are considered defective beans). Coffee that has not been dried sufficiently will be too moist and prone to rapid deterioration caused by the attack of fungi and bacteria. The dried cherries are stored in bulk in special silos until they are sent to the mill where hulling, sorting, grading and bagging take place.

Milling, Hulling & Polishing

One of the final steps in coffee processing involves removing the last layers of dry skin and remaining fruit residue from the now dry coffee, and then cleaning and sorting it. The first step in dry milling is the removal of what is left of the fruit from the bean, whether it is the crumbly parchment skin of wet-processed coffee, the parchment skin and dried mucilage of semi-dry-processed coffee, or the entire dry, leathery fruit covering of the dry-processed coffee. This is an optional process in which any silver skin that remains on the beans after hulling is removed in a polishing machine. The purpose of this process is to improve the appearance of green coffee beans and eliminate a byproduct of roasting called chaff. We consider this to be an unnecessary step and detrimental to the taste by raising the temperature of the bean through friction which changes the chemical makeup of the bean.