The root of the entire coffee and banana industries can be found in the fields. After touring several coffee farms and the Dole banana plantation, my biggest takeaway is that the growing process is very tedious and requires careful, yet physically demanding work. I’ve learned the steps of growing both crops, from prepping the land for cultivation to harvesting the final product years later. I learned that the field labor for both these industries is often outsourced to Nicaraguans who are paid very little. Seeing all this in person has given me a profound appreciation for what these field workers do every day to provide for their families. Actually visiting the plantations and farms has let me see where my product comes from and to know the differences in product quality just by the growing process.
After the coffee cherries and bananas are harvested, we move to the mills where the crops are processed and prepared for shipping. I learned about the ways coffee is stripped of its pulp and treated before it is roasted. I saw the many bunches of bananas sent through a cleansing process to rid them of pesticides and then packed into boxes for shipping. Through our talk with Doka, I became familiar with the intricate job of shipping containers of coffee all around the world in the most protective way possible. Dole showed us that hundreds of boxes full of bananas are stuffed and sealed each hour to be sent to the shelves at our local grocery stores. From these steps I learned that the crops undergo a thorough washing to eliminate as many pesticides as possible, but also the goods we consume are not entirely natural.
From the processing mills, the coffee goes to roasters to be roasted in a certain way and then to retailers worldwide. I got to see how roasting the beans for a certain time will completely change the flavor and caffeine levels of the brew. I learned that coffee experts are needed to test the coffee all throughout the roasting process to ensure the intended roast is reached. We then saw how retail cafes this the roasted beans and from there decide how to label the product so as to maximize sales. While the retailers don’t play a direct role in the making of the coffee beans, they are tasked with the important job of marketing the good as best they can based on what they are given. While I don’t drink coffee, I now have an advanced knowledge into how the quality beans are prepared and what all the jargon on a bag of coffee truly means. While I won’t be using this information much for my personal benefit, I will be able to see through facades put up by some retailers and know what goes into a quality cup of coffee.
Finally, the culmination of the entire coffee production process is the end consumer. The consumer basically determines the entire market because of changing consumer tastes and preferences. The economic status of the costumer and their preferred manner of preparing a cup of coffee will dictate everything about the from the farm to the retailer. Along with all coffee being prepared for consumption differently, the consumer has many different options as to how to make the brew from the beans or ground coffee. Bananas may seem like a one-dimensional food, but similarly a wide variety of ways to consume the herb is available to the end user. This versatility of both coffee and bananas has allowed me, as the consumer, to make the cup of coffee how or like or prepare a dish with bananas to my liking.