Since my topic was make, the majority of what I’ve learned the past two weeks relative to my topic has been in the coffee and banana plantations. Throughout this trip, I have learned the processes of growing coffee cherries and bananas and how to harvest them. Coffee cherries are grown, then picked from November to January, and then processed usually through a wet mill. Coffee can only grow at high altitudes and different regions that coffee is grown will have different tastes based on the acidity and quality of the soil. In addition to learning about the process of growing coffee, I have also learned some of the ways to be more sustainable. By adding nitrogen-fixing trees and plants, it protects the coffee trees while adding important nitrogen into the soil and contributing to the biodiversity of the plantation. In terms of banana plantations, I learned that bananas are all clones of each other on plantations and they don’t actually have seeds. Through the visit to the banana plantation, I became familiar with how the bananas are grown and harvested.
In regards to the processing mills and exporters, I learned the steps needed to extract the coffee beans from the cherries. First the cherries are checked for quality. When placed in a large basin of water, the higher quality beans sink to the bottom. After that, the cherries are peeled and then fermented for 24-36 hours and then either sun-dried for five days or machine-dried for 24 hours. At Doka Estate, I was able to look at the steps needed to export the already processed beans. The beans are put into large bags and then into shipping containers and then primarily shipped to the United States. With bananas, I was able to look at how once the fruit is harvested, they must be cut from the bunch, washed, and packed. Once cut from the tree, the bananas have about 18 days to be shipped before they start to ripen.
With coffee roasters and retail stores or cafes, I learned about the different types of roasting, packaging, and sales. A light roast coffee means the beans must be in the oven for about 15 minutees, a medium for 17 minutes, and a dark for 19 minutes. Additionally, since Costa Rica is known for growing premium coffee, they are able to charge more money for each bag of coffee. Coffee is placed into packages that protect the coffee from exposure to water and oxygen. There is a one-way valve on high quality coffee to avoid oxidation of the beans that would otherwise alter the taste of the coffee.
Finally, the main thing I learned for customers is that many care about how the coffee is made. Customers like to hear that the coffee is grown organically or with free-trade because it makes them feel better. Additionally, if a customer sees that they are contributing to a good cause, like the protection of endangered animals, they are more likely to buy that product. Also since the coffee is of a higher quality, many consumers care about the taste of the coffee, which is determined by how it is grown and processed. Sun-dried coffee has a higher quality and better taste since the sun enhances its flavors.
Overall, learning about the coffee and banana growing and making process has made me appreciate more what I am consuming. After seeing how tedious the work is for a coffee worker and how little they’re paid for a hard days work will make me aware of the coffee I’m drinking. I also want to start looking at the morals of the company before I buy their product. Although Cafe Britt has a high quality coffee, I would think twice about buying their product because it doesn’t seem like they really care about the environment. The banana process is the same way. The conditions that the workers work in are very hot and humid and although it is less tedious than harvesting coffee, a great amount of skill goes into growing bananas. This trip has been such a great experience for me to learn and appreciate how things are made and grown rather than just having something placed in front of me and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica.