After the visit to Hacienda La Pradera we visited its equally important sister property down the road, the beneficio where all of La Minita’s coffees are processed after harvest. The buildings and their equipment are not as charismatic as the coffee farms, but the quality of the coffee we procure depends as much on the beneficio as the farms.
It starts with the African beds where the freshly picked coffee cherries are placed immediately after harvest. The sun “naturally” does the work that traditionally was done with water in the Costa Rica “washed” process to get the skin, the fruit and other elements of the cherries removed to reveal the beans. Not only is this a more efficient use of natural resources–it also imparts more flavor into the beans as the sun dehydrates the juices surrounding the beans, and sugars of those concentrating juices absorb into the beans. After the drying on those beds the real work begins for the people who operate the equipment inside two buildings.
The building in the photo to the right is where all those beans land after being sorted for quality. Water is still important, even though much less is used in the natural method, to clean the beans of residuals from the fruit and skin. In the foreground of the building above you can see the washing tanks that all beans pass through.
Inside the building are drying machines that get the beans to an ideal level of humidity before a final sorting prior to packing.
In a final post on this process tomorrow, I will do my best to explain how the African beds, the drying, and the sorting are so important to the exceptional coffees we receive.