A Glimpse into Coffee Cherry Picking, Costa Rica

I looked down at my sad basket of bright red coffee cherries. There were so few, and yet I felt like I had been picking for hours.  I had been slowly making my way across the steep mountainside of the Tarrazú region in Costa Rica.  I had slipped several times by then, and my heart dropped. Did my basket fall?! I sighed in relief as I saw my few, but precious, cherries still laying safely inside. 

I had been reaching through branches and tiny webs with tiny bugs to pluck the ripest cherries.  My right hand was beginning to pick up dirt and some residue from the cherries, slowing turning it a shade darker.  While my left arm, solely dedicated to propping up my basket, remained clean.  But that would change soon as my right arm began to ache.

 I set my basket down and removed my baseball cap. It was noon.  I could feel it.  I wiped the beads of sweat from my forehead and I stared off into the distance.  It was stunning.  It truly was an endless sea of rolling green massive mountains.  In the distance, there was the low hum of activity at the processing mill and an old jeep tinkering down a dirt road here or there. But my brain was in fast-forward, thinking about everything I learned here and how I was ever going to share it all and what I was going to do to help Nela’s family and others in the area.

Two  cajuelas.  A  cajuela  is a standard unit of measurement for coffee cherries.  A picker gets paid around $2.00 per  cajuela.   

Two cajuelas. A cajuela is a standard unit of measurement for coffee cherries.  A picker gets paid around $2.00 per cajuela.  

I took a page from the harvest pickers and decided it was time for some musíca to relax my thoughts and to focus on picking. I pulled out my iPhone (which seemed entirely out of place in those settings) and set to play the one playlist I had previously downloaded “offline” on Spotify. It was country baby.  I set ‘play’ and the playlist rolled through some Zac Brown and Lee Brice. I began to sing shamelessly aloud to myself.   

I suddenly stopped to gaze back at those magical mountains and took a moment to just feel grateful and then - I just started bawling.  I shocked myself.  These were the kind of tears that felt like a sob, but it was in fact just a ferocious happiness breaking through.  I kept wiping my tears from my face, afraid that a harvester would walk up and decide that I was having a cherry picking breakdown.  But then I just let it all hit me.

I finally did it.  I finally made it the source of coffee.  I finally got to see why I knew I fell in love with coffee in the first place.  And, what means more to me than anything, is that I got others to believe in me too.  So thank you for that my fellow readers and especially my sponsor, SEED People’s Market.  I finally got the chance to tell the story I wanted to tell.  And now finally, I get to share it with you.

Photo taken by Panamanian farmer, Luis! 

Photo taken by Panamanian farmer, Luis! 

And so, like all good stories we start from the beginning.

Once upon a time there was a little a seed in Ethiopia….

Stay tuned,

The Coffee Nomad