Growing Coffee From Seed
It’s an accident – I promise. The guide offers me a few coffee berries as he picks them and I pop them into the pocket of my shorts.
I am navigating a small creek and waterfall in my less than perfect hiking gear (read flip flops) and I am focussed on getting back to the trail and off the slippery path.
Later, back home in Canada, I am doing laundry when I clean my pockets and discover the now-dried coffee beans. Bringing them home was an accident but maybe I should right this wrong and grow these seeds? I can grow my own coffee in the house, wait for it to bloom and then roast and brew a few beans for friends. In the jungle the organically-grown plants prefer shade so maybe they’ll work in a window in my home? I am newly home from Mexico and enthusiastically excited about raising a crop of coffee in my windowsill.
The shiny red fruit has dried around the beans when I find them in the laundry room so the first thing I do is take them to the kitchen to soak them and remove the dry red shell from around the seed. I have been told at the farm that freshly skinned beans are covered in a jelly. Once this sweet jelly is removed, the seeds are planted into sand, where they germinate quickly. I soak the seed right away so I can “clean” it and plant it tonight.
I think of all the stages it takes to grow great coffee as I brew the roasted beans I buy and bring home. I wonder if I will get my “accidental” seeds to germinate and grow to produce my own beans. And then I wonder how I will roast them evenly in my oven to make sure they are neither burnt or undercooked. I notice it takes half a cup of ground beans to make an eight-cup French Press of coffee. I will need quite a big harvest to make a cup of coffee. At times like this I realize how we depend, in Canada, on the generations of farmers and their contract help picking the seasonal harvest. They are growing and picking and processing beans and getting them into our hands for our breakfast cuppa. They are managing hundreds of acres of land to get us a daily cup of organic fair trade coffee.
I grow most of my own food but I doubt, even with my talents for growing, that I will ever be self sufficient with home-grown coffee. But seeing the whole operation, walking the trails and participating in the drying and roasting tells me one thing: Coffee is a complex and tropical treasure and I am grateful to the generations of farmers who manage and tend the shade-grown crop I adore. Rich and sweet to the taste. Delicious and hot on this cool and frosty December morning in Canada.
SURPRISE! Seeds just sprouted on February 4, 2020 after being seeded Dec 4, 2019. Cross my fingers! I might be well on my way to growing my own coffee.
Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.
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