As Director of Sustainability for Crimson Cup, Brandon Bir is amazed by the number of people who work to produce each cup of coffee.
A licensed Assistant Q Instructor, Brandon has collaborated with farmers and processors in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America.
He travels as many as 100,000 miles each year to forge relationships in coffee growing countries.
The friendships he has made support our company’s focus on good, including our Friend2Farmer initiatives.
These life-enriching projects promote education, health, sustainability and economic growth of small-plot coffee farmers and their communities.
Many Hands Work to Create Each Cup
In his travels to coffee farms and processing plants, Brandon has witnessed the many hands that touch coffee, from workers who pick each bean to coffee shop baristas who pull perfect shots of espresso.
“I’m really thankful and grateful for all these people’s work,” he said.
In this video, Brandon offers a first-person account of coffee’s journey from cherry to cup and what it means to him. Watch the video, or read the lightly edited transcript below.
Video: The Journey of Coffee from Cherry to Cup
Coffee is sometimes seen as just a delivery of caffeine or a means to wake up in the morning or sometimes a comforting beverage when it’s really cold outside.
But to me, coffee means a lot more. The process of getting it from cherry to my cup is lengthy and the number of hands involved is incredible.
Growing and Harvesting Coffee Cherries
Coffee is a fruit grown on a tree, and the fruit is called a coffee cherry.
What we call coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee cherry.
There’s about a six week period where the cherries are ripening.
People go out in the field, and they pick only the ripest cherries.
They pick each individual cherry from the tree and put it into a basket.
That basket is then taken to a bag. And there’s a person that has the bag, or a family unit, and they dump the basket into the bag. It takes many baskets to fill the bag.
And then they take that bag, and they wait by a road until a truck comes by. The truck either collects that bag and pays that family or they just put their bags on the truck and everyone collectively gets paid.
That bag is lifted up, and it’s put into a truck, and then it’s driven down the road into a processing plant.
Or sometimes it goes to another collector, where it’s taken from a smaller truck to a bigger truck and from a bigger truck to an even bigger truck.
Water Processing for Coffee Cherries
All these people carry bags of cherries, and they take them, finally, to a processing plant, where a person grabs the bag and dumps it into a vat of water.
The water goes around the coffee cherry. Some of the coffee cherries float. Some of them sink.
And then the cherry goes down a channel into a pulping machine, where the cherry is kind of just pushed out, leaving the actual green beans of the coffee, which are surrounded by or encapsulated in parchment with mucilage.
Then the parchment goes down to another channel to a fermentation tank. And there for about 24 to 72 hours, people go by and they put their hands in the fermentation tank, waiting for the fruit, for the mucilage on the outside of the actual parchment, to come off.
So, they’re putting their hands in there and they wait and they wait. And then finally, the fruit starts to stick to their hands. It starts to come off of the green bean.
Then they dump the water and they wash and wash the bean by hand. And then they scoop up the green bean, and they put it into a bag.
Drying and Husking Coffee Beans
Then the beans are taken to a drying facility or to a drying bed. There, they put the green coffee out on the drying bed.
They even it out and they rake and they rake it for many days, anywhere from 14 to 28 days.
And finally, when they feel that the moisture is where they need it to be, they scoop it up and put it into a bag.
The bag is then carried over and dumped into another machine, where it’s husked and it’s sorted by size.
Sorting Out Imperfections
The sorted coffee beans are put into a bag, which gets dumped out on a table.
Another group of people then sorts the coffee under bright light and takes out any imperfections.
And then that sorted coffee is collected and dumped on another table, where another group of people go through that already sorted of bag of coffee looking for any imperfect beans.
Shipping Coffee Beans to the U.S.
Finally, the bag is taken over to another place where it’s weighed and it is sealed and sewn. And then they take that bag and they put it on a conveyor, it goes up towards a truck, and then it’s put on a truck.
The coffee is taken to port, and at port it’s taken off the truck in heavy bags. The bags are thrown onto a container.
That container goes via a ship to the United States, to a port in New Jersey. There, a truck picks it up.
And then, finally, some people unload it and they put it on a pallet. They wrap the pallet. Then a forklift comes and puts it in place.
And then a coffee roaster calls and says, “Hey, I need that coffee!”
They get on a forklift and take the bag of coffee down and they put it into another truck.
The truck goes to a roasting facility, where it’s unloaded by forklift.
At the Coffee Roaster – Roasting, Bagging and Shipping
Someone takes that bag and lifts it up and pours it into a hopper of a coffee roaster.
Then someone sits there for 15 minutes and meticulously watches this coffee being roasted.
Finally, the coffee is ready and you don’t want to wait one second!
You dump the coffee and it gets cooled, and then it gets put into a barrel.
Then someone takes it by hand and puts it into a bag. Then they weigh the bag and seal the bag. And that bag is put into a big.
The someone in shipping comes and grabs that bag and puts it into a box. Puts a name on it, seals it up, and then it goes to your local café.
A Local Café Brews the Coffee into Espresso
A local cafe opens the bag up. They put the coffee into a hopper.
They put their portafilter in, and they grind fresh coffee. They smell it, they tamp it, they make sure it looks perfect. They weigh it. They push the button, and espresso comes out.
The coffee is then taken from the shot glasses and put into a bigger cup. And some people like water and some people like milk on it. And then, that cup is handed to you.
Each Cup of Coffee is a Product of Many Hands
This happened, not by accident. This happened because there are so many people involved.
From someone that picks it by hand to someone that carries that bag to a truck to someone who sorts through the coffee by hand.
The amount of people behind the product is incredible. For anyone to take this for granted, it’s silly.
Because this is a lot of people’s hard work, and I’m really thankful and grateful for all those people’s work.
Our Calling: Focusing on Good
By focusing on good, Crimson Cup strives to create positive changes through our products and relationships around the world. This inspires our customers to contribute to the meaningful impact with every purchase they make.
If you love coffee, there are many ways you can join us in making a meaningful impact for the many people involved in preparing the coffee in your cup.
Or, if you want to make a great living by creating a gathering place in your local community, consider opening an independent coffee shop.