Together with our partners Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung is working with young coffee farmers around the world. Coffee is a great and popular drink and we do not only support young coffee farmers’ future, we are also ensuring young coffee drinkers like Vanessa Sielmann to enjoy the drink in the future. She joined our HRNS-Team in Tanzania as intern. Today she takes us to the second part of her trip to the roots of coffee.
After picking and washing the fermentation process starts. The pulped beans get filled into a fresh water basin where they soak and start to ferment. Wet fermentation is undertaken in 12-72 hours depending on the weather conditions. You can check if the fermentation progress is complete by slowly rubbing over the seeds. If they still feel slimy, they need a little more time (this was actually my favorite part of the day, sliding my hands into the slimy sticky tanks).
Afterwards they get washed to prevent any discoloration during the next step: drying.
This, as simple as it sounds, is actually one of the most important steps. The farmers must be doing it in complete, thorough and efficient manner otherwise the coffee will lose some of its quality.
In Tanzania sun drying is implemented. The parchment coffee (bean enclosed by inner integument) gets spread out on an even surface which is exposed to the sun nearly the whole day. In the smallholder sector it is quite common that the coffee gets spread out on plastic sheets on the ground. This, however is not recommended by agronomists. Coffee tends to pick up the scent of basically everything that comes in contact with it.
The Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung agronomy team therefore teaches farmers better methods for coffee drying. The agronomists’ prior approach is to make sure every Rural Primary Society (RPCS) that operates a CPU is equipped with enough drying tables. HRNS does not simply pay for these tables but rather educates the farmers in building them themselves or calculating and saving good enough to buy them.
The coffee gets spread out on the drying tables. This should happen in moderate layer thickness (4 to 6cm). It is very important to stir the coffee about four times a day. Also there are some more rules and behaviours that need to be followed like covering the coffee overnight and at midday since the sun is too strong at that time and might burn the coffee.
The coffee farmers have done their work and now deserve some rest. The dried coffee is packed in bags and now on the way to the dry mill. I had the opportunity to visit the City Coffee Ltd. mill in Moshi which was a very loud but even more interesting experience. One of the staff members, Mr. Kisanga, a lovely older man, showed me around.
The first thing that happens at the dry mill is the peeling. As you already know from previous posts the parchment coffee still has this papyrus – like skin around the bean. The mill takes the skin off which is later sold as organic fertilizer.
During this process the coffee passes some “sorting checkpoints where all non-coffee particles are removed. Believe me, you would be surprised what can be found in a coffee bag.
Now a machine, very creatively called “the Grader”, grades the coffee in seven different categories. AA is the highest quality coffee, F the lowest. They specifically differ in weight, size and colour.
Afterwards the coffee beans get polished and then filled into the export bags.
The coffee is now called the “green coffee” and is the product international companies trade with. The coffee is bought by traders at the national coffee auction in Moshi. Whoever expects screaming people in full rage mode will be disappointed. It is a very quiet gathering and to put a bid the traders only have to press a button.
Hopefully they press a lot of buttons so that the coffee can be shipped to Europe, quickly roasted and ready for me to drink when I come back to Germany.”