November 30, 2008
We calculate that we may begin the “pepena” as early as December 15 or 22. Pepena is what we call an initial picking where we prep the plant as much as possible for a uniform maturation. Not only on each coffee plant but uniformity from one coffee plant to another so harvest can be done in multiple efficient waves. The activity of pepena is simply picking what is ripe early.
This activity helps send maximum nutrient to developing ripe fruit as opposed to maintaining an already ripe fruit on the tree that may otherwise naturally begin it’s course of fermentation. Think of a large family where the oldest kids are ready to be financially independent and move out on their own allowing some more breathing space for those still at home. In coffee this space is important.
There is a fine line between over feeding and starving. There is a time for feasting, and in order for a slow and complex development there is also a time and season for pacing yourself at a slow and steady rate to get through the dry season.
This dry season coupled with soil type and elevation directly correlate with acidity. Having unexpected rain towards the end of a dry season can begin to mute the intensity of the acidity. As a result a more sporadic harvest doesn’t have to be, but often leads to more under and over ripes being harvested. Then depending on the following steps of processing this will have a significant and negative impact either on quality and or quantity of exportable coffee. Some choose high QC standards and realize a smaller yield towards export and others attempt to retain their volume, but are capped on the premium they may get based on quality.
Often the biggest factor in this decision is market conditions. Lets say the C is over 150, than for many it is all about quantity, if the C is below 100 then it quality becomes a stronger consideration for some. The logic is why spend more money on labor on a product that may have a cost to produce that may be above what it is worth. This is a VERY REAL and common predicament. As you can see if you’re striving for the best quality possible as a producer you have tough decisions in any market. Coffee is the one commodity that tends to confusing to economists. It sometimes SEEMS so simple, but it isn’t. When the price is high, everybody seems to be buying it and it’s quickly scarce, when the price is low, no one wants it. Go figure.
A large farm will produce enough through their pepena that it is actually moved all the way through processing and it is exported. So if you are a broker, this is what you’re getting when your supplier tells you this first shipment is from the “first picking”. Of course it’s not the tastiest coffee! This is something we don’t even bother wet milling other than we do like to have a test run on the depulpers before entering the formal harvest which will begin mid end January 2009. That being said, every coffee has a home, and home should be a place where you are content and comfortable. This does not look the same for everyone. So be careful not to judge another’s “home”.