I volunteer several days each week on the organic, sustainable El Toledo Coffee farm that is pioneering permaculture in the hills outside of Atenas, Costa Rica, just above 4,000 feet. Seventeen months ago I volunteered on this same farm during the peak of harvest. The pictures below were taken during that harvest from December 2010 - January 2011. (clockwise, beginning at top):
1) Ripe organic coffee beans prior to picking. The coffee is grown in a bio-diverse shade forest. Much of the Costa Rican coffee crop is harvested by seasonal workers from Nicaragua.
2) Preparing the picked coffee berries before the berries are shoveled into a gravity-fed processing machine that separates the berry fruit and mucilage from the coffee bean. Eight farms belonged to the El Toledo Organic Coffee Cooperative 17 months ago. Now just five farms remain: two farmers retired, and a third farmer found it necessary to spray his farm that had been overrun by poisonous snakes.
3) Preparing the coffee processing machine that separates the berry fruit and mucilage from the coffee bean. One operator can easily run the machine. During harvest this machine runs several hours nearly every day producing hundreds of pounds of sticky coffee beans ready to be sun dried.
4) Sticky golden yellow coffee beans after the beans have had the berry fruit and mucilage removed. Six to seven days of sun drying will turn these beans the color of bone white, ready to be sacked and stored. The coffee bean will still be encased in a thin shell that must be removed before the bean can be roasted. Much of my volunteer time now (in May/June 2012) is spent operating the peeling machine that strips the shells from the beans.
5) Hundreds of pounds of beans drying in the sun. The beans are turned every 45 minutes or so using long wooden rakes. The weather is ideal at this time, with temperatures in the high 70s, mild breezes and the occasional butterfly flitting by. Six to seven days of solar drying does it.
6) The finished product, packed for sale: El Toledo Organic Coffee, among the best I have ever tasted. Much of the 30,000 pounds produced annually is now sold to the USA; 17 months ago much of it was sold to Japan. The coffee can also be bought in stores around Atenas and at the weekly farmer’s markets in Atenas and Grecia. A pound of El Toledo organic coffee costs about US$9.00 in Atenas.
You can discover more about permaculture and the El Toledo Organic Coffee farm at:
and the April 8, 2012 edition of:
(Click on any image to enlarge.)