Never forget that coffee farming is an unpredictable business. As Octavio points out, sudden rain can damage crops, causing over-ripeness. Producers need to be ready to take immediate action if this happens, possibly even changing the planned processing methods. And if they are unable to prevent too much damage to the cherries, they may see a significant reduction in cup quality.
There is no way to eradicate risk. However, it’s imperative that producers and buyers work together to minimise it. Let’s look at how Ronald, Friso, and their partners do this.
1. Quality Separation
Minimising risk starts, as always, with good planning. My interviewees tell me that the first step is to work out which plots will probably create the best micro lots.
As Friso says, “During picking, all lots are picked on the same day at the Peralta farms. Some farm plots will have the right microclimate for niche production, while others might lag behind. Experience will obviously play a role [in determining the best plots], but also agronomy (inputs and use of shade) and signalling good lots at the beginning of the harvest and testing this during the first pick.”
It’s important that rigorous care is taken to keep each lot separate, as well as to follow the planned harvesting and processing methods.
For example, at Peralta Coffees, they use multiple drying methods depending on their aims for the coffee: African beds with complete sun exposure, raised beds in a polytunnel, or standard poly mesh. A red or yellow honey, Marilec tells me, might be dried for 12 to 15 days, while for a natural, it might be closer to 18 to 20 days.