There are 2 methods for the germination of seedlings. One method is for the coffee seeds to be pre-germinated by spreading them on a sand bed and covering with moist burlap bag sacks or straw. The seeds are then watched closely and removed as soon as radicals emerge. An alternative method of germinating coffee beans is to mix the seeds with moist vermiculite or expanded polystyrene and kept in polythene bags (Picture above: Coffee seeds).
The seedlings are grown in Polybags, made of black diothene (200-gauge) and are commonly used and filled with a mixture of topsoil (one part), well-rotted cattle manure (one part) and with course sand, gravel, coffee pulp and coffee husks (one part).
The seedlings will spend part of their 1st year being grown in specially designed seed nurseries. Here, they are carefully planted, watered and sheltered from the sun, until they grow to between 18 to 24 inches in height.
Coffee trees must be planted in rows, the optimum being 1 metre between rows and another 2 metres between trees. In this way, producers will be able to plant up to 4,000 coffee trees per hectare, but shade trees are also planted in between as well at 10m x 10m (Picture above: Coffee seedlings in nursery).
Before planting the seedlings, producers must dig holes in order to stir the soil and loosen it. In addition, these holes must be dug 2 months before planting the coffee trees. The size of the holes should be about 50 centimetres long, 50 centimetres wide and 50 centimetres deep.
Few days before the planting, the dug holes must be filled with the bottom filled with soil dug out from the top, and on top the soil dug from below. The soil may be mixed with manure. The coffee seedlings can be planted either by hand or a machete via a small hole in the ground.
Once the trees are planted, producers need to cover the soil to prevent soil erosion. If left bare, rain will spoil and destroy the soil structure. Water washes away mineral salts and the sun will decompose humus very quickly. The soil becomes poorer and compromises the ability of coffee trees to provide many berries.
There are 2 ways to cover the soil to protect it from evaporation :
Leave the cut vegetation to protect the soil against sun and rain. The rotting leaves will give the soil organic matter.
Producers can grow legumes between the rows of coffee trees. They will both protect the soil and give nitrogen to the soil.
The next stage will be the harvesting of the coffee berries, which is carried out using either the “Selective Picking” or “Strip Picking” method.
Selective Picking is done by hand only when the berries are fully ripe. Only berries that are at the peak of ripeness are picked individually by hand, and this process is repeated several times every 8 to 10 days (Picture above: Selective picking).
Strip Picking is when all the berries are removed from the branches one time, regardless of whether they are ripe or not, and can be done either by hand or machine.
Once the cherries are harvested, they are then sorted to ensure only the best beans pass onto the subsequent steps. Such sorting can be done either by hand or by using a large sieve to remove debris, stones and twigs (Picture above: Sorting of coffee beans).
Another method is via water immersion, where the berries are thrown into a tank of water and the density difference between ripe and unripe berries makes the unripe ones float to the top for extraction.