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Friday, December 21, 2012

Visit to Coffee Processing Plant near Aticama

This is the second post today, to read the begining of this one read the one below first. How did we find out about this coffee producer? On Sundays there is a tiangis (farmers market) in Aticama and one of the vendors is the owner of Capulin, the Coffee Company - for lack of a better description. John and Carol tasted some of his coffees and got to talking with him. He invited them to visit his “plant.”
So as I said in the first post we finally found the right place. To us it looked just like a house, which it used to be. We parked in the driveway and a young man came out to greet us. Daniel is the son of the coffee man.
He gave us a tour and explained every step in processing the beans. I took notes but am having trouble reading them and remembering every thing he said. So I will do my best.
At one time this whole area was rain forest, very little of that remains. Now most of the land is planted in mangos and bananas. In the 1800s Germans were immigrating to Mexico and they brought very good coffee plants with them and started large coffee plantations. Through the years it became unprofitable to grow coffee so the plantations were allowed to go wild. Now very few coffee plantations are cultivated. The major coffee companies from the US  think Folgers, Hills Brothers etc pay a very low price for coffee beans – right now 7 Pesos per Kilo.
This company, Capulin, is locally owned and is trying to promote the local producers and pays double the price of the US companies – no matter what it is at any given time. Right now 14 Pesos per kilo. This way the money is returned to the community not going out of the country.
Coffee harvesting time is very short from November to Feburary. We are here right in the middle of it.   
Daniel took us around to the back of the house to show us a coffee plant growing there.
As the beans grow they go from green to yellow to red. The red beans are the mature ones.
The ones they make their coffee from.
The red ones are the only ones Capulin buys as opposed to the major companies who buy everything on the plant, mature or not. The big coffee companies dump all the beans into huge vats of water to separate out the immature beans – the yellow and green float to the top and are skimmed off. However the water changes the flavor of the mature beans making them more bitter.
And here I am jumping to the last part of our tour – back up into the hills to visit The Patio. This is where the first part of the processing begins. The beans are spread out on this concrete slab to dry. Notice the different colors of the piles. From red to dark brown.
These beans have only been drying one day – they are still pretty red.
These beans have been drying about three days – more brown
And these about ten days – almost all dark. It takes about 15 days to complete the drying process.  If it starts to rain all the beans have to be quickly gathered up and protected from the rain.
Every night the beans are pushed into a pile, using snow shovels, and covered with the burlap sacks hanging on the fence. This protects them from the heavy dew. Then they are spread out again in the morning.
Now back to the processing plant. When the beans are sun dried theey retain their sugar and flavor. The first step in the process is to remove the outer husks of the beans. This is done by pouring the beans from a bucket in front of fans. The husks are lighter so they blow off. Usually two fans are used but for demonstration Daniel only used one. The husks are blowing off.
The heavier beans drop into a pile in a tray lined with cloth. The darker husks are  blown to the left of the lighter colored beans. The husks can be used to make Kahula (sp?) as they are very sweet. Tasted one, they are sweet. 
Beans without the husks.
From there the beans go to the ladies who sort them.
They remove any remaining husks and separate any deformed or broken beans.
broken or misshapped beans
The boys are cleaning the buckets used to carry the beans around.
Next the beans are taken to a home made “milling” machine. Here the beans are separated by size. The beans go into the hopper on top and are blown out onto the shaker part. The smaller beans drop through the wire screen the bigger ones stay on top.
Next step is the roaster. These beans are hot air roasted. At 210 degrees. The longer they are roasted the darker and richer they get. The force of the hot air keeps the beans tumbling so they won't burn. Daniel was telling us that until not too long ago the machine was run not by using electricity but by hooking up to the back wheel of a pick up truck. The truck had to be up on a lift, the tire removed and a rubber belt attached to the wheel and the machine and the truck started up. Spinning the wheel and the machine engine.
While we were there some beans were being roasted – what a great smell. The worker checks the progress of the roasting by shinning a light on this little window. Checking the color.
The roasted beans right out of the roaster. Cooling off before being put into buckets.
Lightest colored roasted beans for Continental Coffee
Darker and darkest roasted beans. Darkest used for French Roast coffee.
The beans are stored in buckets waiting for packaging. The buckets keep the beans dryer than if stored in bags.
And that is your coffee processing lesson for today.
Phooey just found out the tiangis for this weekend is not going to be held – to close to Christmas I guess. So we will have to wait to taste and buy some.
After a pretty sunset
We went in to town to eat at either Chef Tonys or La Isla – not sure which it is called.
One of the pictures inside the restaurant that is completely made of shells.
So that was our wonderful adventure for yesterday. Today has been almost equally as interesting.

1 comment:

  1. great post! Is this brand of coffee only sold in Mexico?