The ripe coffee cherries are usually picked from the trees by hand. The cherries take about 9 months to ripen after the coffee tree flowers and do not ripen at the same time, so each tree must be picked up to 5 times per harvest. Each mature tree yields between 1 and 1-1/2 pounds of coffee a year.
The cherries are then processed in one of several methods: washed, semi-washed or natural. How a coffee is processed greatly affects its taste profile.
In the washed process, the pulp of the cherries is removed mechanically. The beans are then allowed to ferment in order to loosen and remove the remaining pulp. Next, the beans are thoroughly washed, drained and dried in the sun or in mechanical dryers. Hulling machines remove the remaining parchment surrounding the bean. This process produces a clean, classic coffee profile.
In the semi-washed process, also referred to as honey-process or pulp natural, the skin of the ripe coffee cherry is removed. The beans are then allowed to dry on patios in their mucilage. Much care is taken to rotate and monitor the beans until completely dry. Hulling machines then remove the dried mucilage and parchment surrounding the bean. This process enhances fruit notes and produces a creamier mouth feel.
In the natural process, the cherries are spread out for up to 2 weeks to dry in the sun. Several times a day, the beans are turned by raking. Hulling machines then remove the dried pulp and parchment surrounding the bean. This process results in a full-bodied, sweet and fruity taste profile.