Once the coffee tree bears fruit, the coffee cherry turns from green to yellow to red and finally a bright deep red, this is when the cherry is ready to be harvested. Harvesting can be either mechanical or by hand.
The mechanical harvesting of coffee is fast and less labour intensive than the other method of hand picking. Some describe harvesting as being either “Strip-Picked” or “Selectively-Picked” and as you can imagine both result in different quality of coffee.
Strip Picked – This will involve a single visit to the coffee tree and, either by hand or mechanically, all the cherries are striped from the branch at once, this method does not take into consideration the naturally varying degrees of ripeness.
Selectively Picked – This method will involve several visits over 8 – 10 week period to the same tree and only the cherries that are at the optimum ripeness will be selected and picked.
The selectively picked method costs more in labour and therefore is used on the finer Arabica coffee beans.
A single harvest occurs in most countries, however in countries like Colombia they have a major harvest and a secondary harvest as there are two flowerings in a year.
A good coffee picker can harvest approximately 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherry in a day, this produces around 20 to 40 pounds of green coffee beans. Once a days picking is complete, the pickers harvest is weighed and the picker is paid based on the weight of beans they have picked. All the daily crops from the Pickers are combined and then transported to the processing factory for the next stage of the journey from seed to cup.