San Lázaro Coffee is processed entirely by hand ensuring that only the highest quality beans make it to your roaster or grinder. By not using machinery that inevitably allows lesser quality beans to be processed with the rest of the coffee we can guarantee the quality of our coffee.
The process starts early in the year when organic compost fertilizer is spread throughout the farm. In order to ensure that the coffee does not have to compete for sun and nutrients our farm is systematically maintained by hand, removing all weeds and other plants that sprout up in our ideal growing conditions. All plants that are removed are allowed to decompose in rows in between the rows of coffee. This practice produces natural compost on site and helps prevent erosion by slowing the flow of water down the often steep hills where our coffee is raised.
By the end of the year our plants are loaded with beautiful green coffee “cherries” and soon after they’ll be turning to beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red as they ripen. While lesser quality beans raised at lower elevations are harvested in the fall and early winter of each year, San Lázaro Coffee is not ready to be picked until late January.
We typically implement three pickings or cuttings as we call it. Our workers systematically move through the farm selecting by hand only the ripest and most mature cherries. This process is usually repeated about every 8 - 10 days. By selecting the beans in their prime we are able to capture the best flavor from each bean unlike many larger commercial farms where the entire plant, both green and ripe cherries, are “stripped” from the plant in one cutting.
From the hillsides where our coffee is cut we transport it to our depulping facility located on the farm. Using only spring water born on our property, our depulping machine gently removes the skin and some of the pulp from the cherry. Leaving behind two coffee beans from each cherry that are coated in a slimy film. These beans are left in a large vat to ferment from 8 - 20 hours depending on the daily temperature. The fermentation causes cellulose in the pulp to breakdown and at the right time the coffee is ready to be washed.
When the coffee is ready to be washed a large vat is filled completely with water and then using a large wooden rake the beans are worked back and forth until the water has a consistent murky color. All damaged or lesser quality beans will float to the top allowing for an easy culling process while the large, more uniform, quality beans sink to the bottom of the vat. This process is completed three times or continues until the water remains clear during the washing and all of the fermented pulp has been removed.
From the fermenting and washing process the beans are spread on large patios to be naturally sun dried. Once spread on the patios to a thickness of 1 - 2 inches the coffee is raked every half hour to ensure that the coffee dries evenly. Every evening the coffee is raked up into piles and covered to prevent moisture accumulation from night dew. The following morning the coffee is spread across the patios once again. We repeat this process for 7 - 10 days depending on the how much direct sunlight the coffee receives each day. We are careful to not over dry our coffee. Over dried coffee can become brittle and break. Broken beans are considered “defective” however too much moisture in a bean is prone to fungi and bacteria.
From the patio our coffee is place in jute sacks. However it is not yet ready to be roasted. It is still in what is known as “parchment”, the last part of the fruit, (a dry, skin like shell) that is left encasing the coffee bean. This shell has to be removed before the coffee is roasted. Our retail coffee is left in the “parchment” stage until we roast it. By allowing the beans to remain inside of the parchment shell we take advantage of an added layer of protection to environmental hazards that can greatly affect the quality of the bean.