Heading Toward Early Harvest in Central America 


While our selection of late-harvest Centrals narrows on the Shrub offering list, the crop is in full swing in the lower and middle altitude farms. I traveled to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua in the past couple weeks. It’s too early to cup and select lots really, but more as a planning trip, to see how the harvest is going, and find out how Roya and other problems are affecting the crop.

On the subject of Roya, the coffee leaf fungus, it’s effect is highly variable depending on altitude, weather and (most importantly) how the farmer is combatting it. Simply trimming back shade trees, selecting rows of coffee plants  for the 7 year pruning, and being aggressive to trim and clean up stray leaves in affected parts does a lot. In the photo, you see leaf litter with Roya spots on it … not a good sign.

Of course, use of the triazoles-based fungicides is necessary on non-certifed farms, but this is not wholesale crop-dusting as you might see on corn and soybean farms in the midwest. The treatments are expensive in material and labor, so you can trust that most farms are very prudent in chemical use. These are foliar sprays, usually done 2 to 3 times early on, with directional hand sprayers. All the workers I have seen using these are well-protected too.

In some countries with lower altitudes I see a lot of experiments in processing. Sadly (for me at least) these involve dry-processing, tree-dried coffee, raisin coffee, black honey, red honey, orange honey, and on and on.

These climates are not at all suited to drying naturals or parchment that has a lot of mucilage glomming on to the outside of the pergamino, so there is often a need to overdry in direct sun, or else you get el mojo … mold. While these coffees can have wonderful sweetness, especially when they are young, they tend to drop off rather dramatically after several months in the US. I am told that some emerging markets like Australia, Korea, and East Borneo are nuts about these types of Centrals for espresso. I do think there is a place for alternative process, especially a more conservatve yellow honey with up to 40% mucilage intact. But what I hope to see is more innovation in wet-processing methods, fermentation times, holding or soaking baths, and less rapid drying methods. But thats just me, and the world of coffee is as diverse as the cups it produces. -Tom

Related Posts