Coffee trees are usually harvested by one of two methods, either strip picking or selective picking.
Strip Picking of Coffee
Strip picking involves taking hold of a branch of the coffee tree and using a single motion to pull off all of the coffee cherry (fruit) on the branch at once. Strip picking is often used on dry processed coffees and on plants whose coffee cherry ripen all at the same time.
Selective picking involves hand-picking only ripe coffee cherry, and returning numerous times to each coffee tree to again pick just the ripe berries.
Coffee Plant Yields
Coffee trees typically yield about two to three pounds (.9 to 1.3 kilograms) of marketable coffee beans each year, though an average annual yield may be only about one pound (.45 kg).
The Coffee Harvest Season
Coffee harvesting typically begins in the spring and continues for several months. For example, in the Kona region on the Big Island of Hawaii, harvesting of the coffee trees begins in April and then continues through the fall and winter months.
From January to May the small, fragrant white blossoms known as Kona Snow appear, soon giving way to green coffee beans.
The Ripening of the Coffee Cherry
When these fruits (called cherry) begin to ripen around the end of August, then the meticulous hand-picking begins.
Only the cherry at peak maturity – ripe red Kona coffee cherry – are harvested as the Kona coffee farmers return again and again to the fields to pick only the newly ripened cherry. The harvest season continues for several months, perhaps until February.
The coffee harvest season is a great time to take a Kona coffee farm tour and to attend the annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival which is held throughout the Kona region every November.
Espresso and Coffee Brewing Tips
For tips on brewing the perfect cup of coffee see the Espresso Coffee Guide’s section on Coffee Brewing. For detailed definitions of coffee terminology see the Coffee and Espresso Glossary. You can also read detailed specialty coffee flavor profiles see Gourmet Coffees and Espresso Drink Recipes.