The Coffee Harvest

January and February is the coffee harvest in Mexico. Here's more or less how it gets to your mugs.
  1. These are coffee seedlings. Aren't they cute? They'll be carted up the mountains to coffee fields in trucks, on mules and horses, and on human backs.
  2. Way up on that mountain is a coffee field. This is where the coffee plants grow. The best coffee grows at the highest altitudes.
  3. All year, every day, people drive, ride, or hike up to their coffee fields to clear the shade trees, weed, spray pesticides, and maintain their plants.
  4. These are grown up coffee plants. The red beans are ripe for harvesting, which happens in January and February, depending on how high up they are.
  5. Then the beans are put through this machine to remove the outer shell, or the fruit, leaving just the white seeds.
  6. Next, they are spread out out patios and roofs to dry. They are blond now, and won't turn the dark color we buy in the store until they are roasted.
    The sign says "no littering," btw.
  7. Roasting the coffee takes about 7 minutes. But after it is roasted, it triples in value. Because roasters are expensive, most coffee farmers don't have their own and sell their coffee raw, meaning that the company that does 7 minutes of work makes most of the profit instead of the farmer who spent all year cultivating the coffee.
    Cooperatives do exist to buy machines jointly and help recover some of that loss. But the fact remains that they make very little for their work.
  8. In the last few years, a plague has struck the coffee plants here in Chiapas. The rusty orange spots on the leaves eventually kill the plant, or vastly reduce its yield. It has devastated the local economy, as the new plague resistant plants are still too young to yield much either.
  9. Then it is ground, shipped, and sold to you.
    Please buy fair trade coffee if you can.