In Panama City you have to watch out for fake cops. Criminality is common in these areas. In the profession I chose there are some inconveniences, but when I get to the plantations everything changes and I realize it was worth it. Many years after my first trip, seeing coffee plants still excites me. Its fruits resemble cherries for their shape and colour, sometimes they are yellow. The pulp is sugary, the peel is thick.
All the plantations are far from the cities, they are completely immersed into the nature. And in Colombia geography is arduous. This means long bus or jeep trips, or waiting at the pueblos traffic lights, where you may meet some hormigas culonas (a typical local snack) sellers. I have not tried them… for now I still prefer coffee to fried ants!
Coffee flowers are white, they resemble jasmine’s for their intense fragrance. Their blooming is even more enchanting than that of cherry trees. My first trip to India was magnificent. I must admit that being surrounded by the scents of the plantations is the most exciting part of my job.
In India every work step is diligently performed and is also extremely elegant: women, with their colourful dresses, sit on the ground with such a natural posture we do not even know in the western culture, and carefully select the coffee beans, eliminating the broken or imperfect ones. It is a long and hard job that they transform in exquisite lightness.
Coffee farmers are a big family: the production processes can change from continent to continent, details and uses may vary, but the recognizable, palpable passion people have is the same everywhere. Getting to the plantation after a long trip is always a magical and welcoming moment. In India I have been hosted by the farmers that I visited and I have always had dinner with their family.
Bean drying can be eased by short passages in ovens powered by pruning branches from the plantations. This is what I saw in Brazil. In certain areas they perform ground drying in patios or outdoors, while in other areas I saw the so-called “African beds”, or raised meshes on which seeds are dried.
In India, plantations are surrounded by tea, cocoa, pepper and vanilla plants which have their roots in the same soil. Often, in India, indigenous farmers go barefoot into the flora in order to pick the coffee cherries. It is important to remember that among the flora there is the fauna: spiders, snakes, cobras and other nice beasts. I prefer to wear long-sleeved shirts… It is the price to pay for hand-picked coffee.