Harvesting is one of the most important activities in the Specialty Coffee calendar. Therefore, any inappropriate harvesting practice can mean that all the previous efforts taken over many years in the nursery and at the farm can be jeopardized.
At Cuatro Caminos Coffee Estates all of our coffee comes from our own 11 farms, located in different geographic regions around Boquete. As a strict, internal protocol we harvest only perfectly ripe cherries.
This means that we have many picking cycles in one harvest season, moving several times through each farm, which allows us to harvest only the best quality coffee, at the right time.
Even with the best trained pickers there is always a degree of “human error” so we have invested in state-of-the-art Pinhalense equipment that is able to separate any unripe or overripe cherries when necessary. And, as part of our environmentally sustainable “closed loop” system, this equipment dramatically reduces the amount of water used. And, that water is then recycled!
After the coffee has been harvested, our transportation teams bring the coffee to our centrally located, wet and dry processing mill. Once here, we use our traceability system to record each batch, the date it harvested, what varietal it is and what farm it came from. Then we weigh the total amount of coffee cherries harvested during the day and start to process it, as either natural or Washed coffee.
This demanding activity takes place annually in Panama, and is becoming a more demanding activity each year for us, as the new farms that we planted over the last 3 and 4 years, are starting to produce coffee for the first time.
Traditionally we would hire temporary workers, mainly from la Comarca, to assist during this busy time of the year.
However, for this 20/21 cycle the story will be a little different, due to the global pandemic and precautionary measures in place in Panama and at our company.
For these reasons, and in order to preserve the health of our permanent workers and their families, we decided not to hire any additional temporary workers. Instead, we will manage all the harvesting activities with our permanent staff. A complicated activity to coordinate, but our team is doing an amazing job.
The plan consists of organizing the staff by farm, and keeping a very tight schedule prioritizing those farms that reach a level of ripeness quicker than others.
Having our own permanent workers in the field will reduce the infection risk by avoiding outside influences, and our team has been trained and equipped to follow all the necessary sanitary controls, measuring temperature, regularly washing hands and the mandatory use of masks.
The coffee industry is constantly changing, not just under pandemic scenarios, and there is always a need to assess and adapt.
We are doing our small part to protect our team,their families and our community, while still delivering the very best specialty coffee we can produce.