From ‘crop to cup’ – part 2 of 4.

Is that a fact?
We drink about 1.5 billion cups of coffee a day, with the USA drinking a 1/5 of this. In 2004 the coffee plantations of the world would have covered the country of Portugal. The 17 billion pounds of coffee grown worldwide in 2004 would have formed a pyramid with a base of more than 305 metres long on each side and would have towered to a height of more than 640 metres distracting tourists from the decidedly lesser Eiffel Tower at 318 metres.

There are currently 42 coffee producing countries in the world, with Vietnam and Brazil producing 60% of the worlds coffee. The number 1 producer is Brazil, number 2 is Vietnam, Colombia is number 3 – (growing 8% of the worlds coffee), and Indonesia is number 4.

A woody shrub, coffee can reach 10 metres in height, depending on the species and growth conditions. In cultivation however, it is usually pruned to about 2.5 metres to allow harvesting. Following pollination, the flowers wither, and each is replaced by a fleshy fruit surrounding a hard seed, like a cherry. Each “cherry” usually contains two seeds or coffee “beans”, although occasionally only one seed develops (called a “peaberry”).

Although there are more than twenty species within the genus coffea only two account for the vast bulk of the coffee drunk worldwide. Coffea arabica (known familiarly as arabica) is the original coffee and is native to the highlands of Ethiopia. Coffea canamphora var. robusta (known familiarly as robusta), is native to the hotter, wetter lowland forests of west Africa. Robusta entered the general commercial market relatively recently, after World War Two.

Coffee production in Colombia.
Colombia grows 1 million hectares of coffee. There are 500,000 families relying on this crop making the average size plantation 2 hectares. Hacienda Venecia grows nearly 200 hectares, making it an extremely big player.

Coffee grows best between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. In Colombia It is grown in the mountain regions, at 1000 to 2000 metres above sea level, where the temperature is between 18 and 25 deg C. Colombia lies about 5 degrees north of the Equator – this unique feature facilitates multiple harvests. This phenomenon is similar in Peru, Kenya and Tanzania (Mount Kilimanjaro).

Clouds pass over Central Colombia twice a year. First semester in the south, second semester in the north, therefore 2 rainy seasons and 2 dry seasons in the central region. The dry season encourages the flowering, the wet season encourages the berries to fill.

A coffee plant usually starts to produce flowers 1 to 3 years after it has been planted, and it is from these flowers that the fruits of the plant (commonly known as coffee cherries) appear, with the first useful harvest possible around 3 to 4 years after planting. The cherries ripen around eight months after the emergence of the flower. The berry changes colour from green to red, and it is at this point that they are harvested. In most coffee-growing countries, there is one main harvest a year; though in countries like Colombia, where there are two flowerings a year, there is a main and secondary crop, the main one April to June and a smaller one in November to December.

Due to the mountainous terrain, all coffee in Colombia is picked by hand.



About Richard Griffith

My first independent travel experience was a trip to Israel, in 1997, it was here that I caught the 'travel' bug! In 2001 I took an 8-month sabbatical and traveled around South East Asia. Since then I have managed to visit most of Eastern Europe along with India, Bangladesh, and a few other destinations in between. I love travel and I love meeting new people.
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