Thursday 26 April 2018

Coffee cycle

Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

Steep rocky mountainside on tiny plots of just a few acres are the starting point for coffee's long journey from bean to your morning cappuccino.

Banana and orange groves provide the vital shade to allow the bright red Arabica coffee cherries ripen on trees.

They are handpicked at harvest time with all the family pitching in to help during school holidays only as Fairtrade conditions require all children get an education and are not allowed do heavy labour.

It can be a day's journey by donkey or horse to the co-op - though many communities have built rough roads to speed up access by jeep.

Everywhere you go you see coffee patios where the beans are spread out to dry in the sun - though most co-ops are investing in industrial driers to do the job more efficiently.

After drying the green beans are graded by size and checked to remove impurities before being shipped off for roasting and grinding in their destination markets. "Cupping" or tasting labs have been crucial to this, with interest-free loans from Irish Aid to build them quickly repaid as co-ops reap the rewards of selling higher-quality coffee to niche markets.

Sales of Fairtrade products soared by 12pc in Ireland last year to €221m with coffee accounting for 60pc of these purchases.

Irish Independent

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