Growing the coffee is hard graft
August 21 2015
The sun beats down on the rusty corrugated metal roof that protects the ladies from the early morning sun, the dust settling from their ride into work on the farms dusty track. Deep within the Finca, on a Guatemalan coffee estate, 3 ladies perch themselves on reclaimed timber stools at a sun scorched table that gets a damp hessian sack thrown across it as its protector. Their small hands hurriedly gathering their tools to place in front of them. They pause briefly to look at what now lays in front of them, a clay bowl of water, a pile of coffee seedlings and a razor blade that has a piercing glare from the Sun's blazing reflection. This is where the graft really begins...
Arabica, our preferred variety of coffee is fairly vulnerable due to the green coffee seed it produces. Root to fruit, many insects, birds & other wildlife use this variety as a source of food due to its Aroma, sweetness, body & acidity. In its infancy an Arabica coffee bush would never survive naturally, as it would be attacked by a microscopic worm that feeds on its roots.
Even though grafting dates back to ancient Chinese history as early as 2000BC. Grafting in its simplest term is when a root from one plant and the shrub of another is bound together. Ladies are best suited to this role as they have smaller hands with lower ph acidity, more patient & delicate.
The coffee seedling is then planted in 2-3mm of river sand and covered to incubate for around a month. After this time they take the cover off and then it will begin to germinate in 35-40 days.
They are then transferred & replanted to grow for a further 12-14 months & when they are 10-12 cms high this is when they are ready to be grafted.
In this case a Robusta & an Arabica are bound. The root of a robusta being less desirable to attack is cut & bound with an Arabica variety shrub.
The robusta root is precisely sliced with a razor blade making a v in the root, They then take the arabica seedling, delicately cut off the root and place in the v of the robusta, then carefully binding it with paraffin wax creating the temporary stability it requires. Each of these ladies is tirelessly able to graft 100-150 seedlings an hour. An incredible 2-3 a minute.
After the Arabica plant has been grafted with the Robusta root it continues its journey to a nursery for a further 14 months before finally arriving at its destination within the estate. The family patiently waiting 2 to 3 years for its first harvest & sending these little cherries on another journey in the coffee process.