Saturday, October 21, 2006

A New Phase.

So I was walking past the plant a couple weeks ago and wondered if the beans were okay. I thought that they were looking a bit like the green was fading. Hmmmm...are they drying out and dying? A couple days later a say something I had been hoping for a couple of months now. Red!

Over the course of the next week or so I began checking it incessantly. Slowly but surely the red spread, and just as you see at source, the beans began to ripen a few at a time.

There really seems to be no rhyme or reason which ones ripen first. There are some fully ripe cherries right next next to some that are still deep green.

I left on one of my regular weekly work trips thinking it was probably time to pick some upon my return. I was a bit concerned about waiting too long. I am not sure why, but at this careful stage I don't want to make any wrong turns. Heck, I only have about 50 cherries total and I need to make the most of them.

I was delighted upon returning home last night to see a nice little batch of what I thought were fully ripe cherries. Seems like the time had finally arrived for my first pick. It was an difficult minute of work. I glance around the plant, carefully choose my victims, and with great care cautiously twisted them off.

I finished with what was a lovely batch of 10 cherries. They immediately began to smell just like I remember from my trips to Central America. Now the big decision was upon me. I have been think about how to try to process them for weeks. The decision has little to do with flavor profile, I will be happy if the finished product doesn't make me gag or pucker, to be frank. The choice was mostly based on what I thought I could pull off. Drying is such an important part of what makes coffee taste good (or bad), and I really want the cup of gold to be drinkable. I decided on pulped natural. To be completely honest, part of the reason was so I could pop the beans out and get a little taste of the mucilage. It seemed sweet and pleasantly tangy, offering a faint honey like flavor and a touch of citrus.

As I pulped them I found a couple of interesting things. Perhaps the most unusual was three beans in one cherry. I suppose it probably happens all the time, but coffee people don't talk about that like they do peaberries.

Speaking of peaberries, I was fortunate enough to get a couple of those too....

Check out the little deformed bean that shared the cherry with the peaberry. Another trait I was not aware of. I thought only one bean was present at all.

Here are the skins of the cherries. The left over mucilage made them very sticky.

Autumn is upon us, so sun drying was concerning to me. The sun is out and bright, but I don't think the 60 degree highs we are experiencing right not will do the trick. While it may not be the method of choice amongst third wave coffee buyers, I settled on the Window Screen Sitting on a Heating Vent method. It is only running for a few hours at night right now, so I don't think it will dry them too quickly.

I am really starting to think this may happen, this little quest of mine. I have already started thinking about pruning and repotting the plant after the harvest is complete (about 40 cherries to go!). I must admit I have even been fantasizing occasionally of a giant greenhouse full of plants harvesting a much sought after bag or two of coffee from North Carolina every year. Sure it is a little silly, but stranger things have happened. Little old Hillsborough, NC produces some of the best black truffles anywhere in the world. Heck, why can't I get a bit of coffee going around town once in a while!