Only the red and yellow-colored fruits are harvested because they yield the best tasting drink. Men and women, wearing baskets or plastic pails on their waists, pick the ripe fruit by hand, one at a time, row by row, and plant by plant.
There are two harvest seasons. The principal harvest occurs in October and November. A smaller harvest, known as traviesa or mitaca, which yields about a third as much as the principal harvest, takes place in April and May.
Harvested coffee is collected in baskets made of vine fiber. Basket weaving has evolved alongside the stages of coffee production–sowing, harvesting, transport, and final processing. However, the use of baskets has diminished over time as plastic buckets have become commonplace for collecting coffee fruit and seeds.
The harvested fruit is taken to the processing plant or beneficiadero, where the coffee bean is processed. The bean is fed into the pulping machine, where it is separated from the hull. This procedure must take place within six hours of harvesting in order to avoid deterioration. The discarded pulp or cherry is used as fertilizer. Next, the bean is stripped of its cover of mucilage, a mucus-like, sugary film. This is done by fermentingthe pulped bean in a tank for twenty-four hours, which allows the mucous to separate.
Clean water is used to rinse off the remainder of the sugary mucilage or “coffee slime” until the bean is totally clean. To reduce the negative ecological impact of discarding the large amounts of water needed for this process, special machinery has been developed that uses less water without compromising the quality of the bean. Now, the beans are ready for drying.