Processing Coffee at Finca Los Angeles
In Parchment Vol. 001, we interviewed Maria Bercelia, owner of Finca Los Angeles in Colombia and our producer partner since 2016, about how her family became coffee farmers and the journey that’s gotten them to award-winning coffee production.
Maria’s farm both grows and processes coffee cherries—the fruit that grows on coffee trees—up until the parchment stage, wherein each bean remains loosely contained in a tough but thin papery shell. She walked us through the steps that go into her months-long process.
"It all begins with fertilization. To yield a good quality product, you have to have excellent cherry selection. We make sure [to select] only ripe cherry."
Selecting “ripe cherry” is more challenging than it sounds—in Colombia, there are two harvest periods at different times of the year, so more often than not ripe coffee fruits are nestled alongside developing ones. Discerning pickers are critical for this stage, as harvesting is done entirely by hand and must take place within a small window of ripeness to capture peak flavor.
"When we bring on a worker, we ask for a commitment, and we say we are looking for quality. We have to collect the best coffee. The people who help us here are very responsible workers. They’re very conscious people.
"At the collection point, we have a sieve where we conduct manual sorting ourselves to ensure quality. That process is done here by the family, by hand.
"We collect the coffee, and each picker’s collection is weighed.
"We analyze the quality of the collected coffee. We float all the collected cherry in water and separate out the under ripe cherry as well as overripe and defective cherry."
At this stage of processing, when the coffee has just been picked from the trees, a thin layer of dark red fruit—or pink, yellow, or bright red, depending on the plant variety—encapsulates a pair of hard green seeds that will eventually become what we roast for you to grind, brew, and enjoy.
"The remaining ripe cherry is pulped immediately, and then it is dry-fermented."
Removing the fruit and pulp from the seeds before they’re dried is part of what contributes to what’s referred to as a “washed” coffee process (as opposed to a “natural'' or “honey” process). At Parlor, we tend to prefer washed coffees for the clean, sweet flavors they present.
"When our readings have shown that the coffee is properly fermented—after a minimum of 36 hours—we proceed to wash it.
"Then we move on to the drying tables where we continue to select and sort. We pick out anything resembling defective coffee, especially quakers."
Once again, this is done exclusively by Maria and her most trusted family members.
"Once the coffee is dried perfectly (for about 30 days), we collect it again and put it through a final sifter to make sure that we didn’t miss anything. We want to send the best product.
"This coffee is packed in bulk bags, jute sacks. When possible, we take the coffee down to the market right away.
"Between October and December, this process is done every day. From Monday to Sunday without stopping [...] for three months it’s the same thing every single day, every day from 5 a.m. until 7, 8, or 9 p.m.
"Our goal is quality, and if we can achieve quantity as well, all the better. That’s our goal. Hopefully, one day we can present a coffee that is not lacking anything, a coffee that is perfect."
The result of the effort at Finca Los Angeles is a delicious, high-quality coffee that we have the pleasure of roasting for you. Maria’s consistency, incredible attention to detail, and drive to continue improving are what make her such an exceptional producer. We’re honored to roast her coffee!