Coffee Seedlings

Last week, using Borbón coffee seeds graciously given to us by the Doka estate, we started growing new seedlings to eventually plant in the ground at Xandari. José Luis showed James and me how to prepare a substrate of earth mixed with decomposing leaf litter he had put through a sort of wood-chipper to make a soil that closely mimics the forest floor where coffee often grows wild here.

In a wooden box with a corrugated tin floor (so water can drain easily), we made a bed of about an inch of soil. Then we put the two varieties of Borbón on either side of the box. Once the box was full, and we had removed all the rounded seeds that wouldn’t be as healthy as the seeds with a flat face, we added another layer of soil on top and watered the box.

After we had gone, José Luis remembered to add a layer of dead leaves on top of the soil to help keep in the moisture and recreate natural conditions of the forest floor. Later, we went to visit his friend who had sold us the Borbón we planted earlier last month, so that James and I could see what our seedlings would eventually look like as they were transplanted into the black plastic bags we knew so well.


We learned that you don’t want to put an artificial shade-provider, like plastic or cloth, too close over the seedbed because they might grow hunched over, where the stem could then be burnt by the sun rather than covered by the seed cap. We also saw the stage of plant development known as a copita, which translates into “little cup,” because of the lower semicircular leaves that form a concave girdle around the stem. The copita leaves protect the stem from the sun while the seedling becomes strong enough, and then they drop while the center leaves grow up into new branches over time.

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Somewhere between August and September, the seeds we planted should be ready to be transplanted into the bags that we’ll have prepared with soil, where they’ll spend another year growing large enough to be put into the ground at Xandari.

5 thoughts on “Coffee Seedlings

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