During Easter Break (Semana Santa), we got the unique experience to see how coffee is processed by hand in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. A guide was showing us some trails near the lodge where we were staying, and I asked him what the dried seeds were that were spread on the rock in front of a house along the dirt road. It turned out that they were coffee beans and that the incredibly helpful and friendly woman (Kristina) who was there at the house was his sister-in-law. She told us to come back in the afternoon so she could show us how to process coffee.
The coffee beans start out as red berries, and are then washed and dried in the sun. The picture below shows them after they've had plenty of time in the sun.
Once dried, the bean is basically covered with what amounts to a casing or some kind of chaff (the berry part dried up makes this). In that big mortar below, Micah got to crush the coffee a little with the pestle to work the chaff loose. (He had to be reigned in a little by Kristina, as apparently this is a bit gentler of an operation than we realized and he was mashing away zealously.) In his hand are some coffee beans stripped of the casing.
The next step was to spread out the beans on that wide sorting board and shake them around.
Then we blew off the casing (while trying not to blow off the beans). Oh! I just realized you can actually see the casings flying off a little--action shot!
We didn't see the last two steps (roasting and grinding) because we actually had been stopping by to politely refuse her offer to teach us all this--Jesse had a fever and we had to leave for home early. But as she wanted to make him a tea to help with his flu symptoms (out of cinnamon and geranium leaf), we had some time to kill and got to try the steps you see above.
This room where they'd roast the beans. They'd put the big lidded pot to the right of the oven over the hole on the top of the oven. This little room, by the way, is just off the kitchen in her house.
The last step is to grind the coffee in the big grinder she keeps on the ledge in her kitchen near the window. It was incredible to see, very simple and very beautiful and very much something I would never imagine seeing. Kristina was incredibly kind and a very gracious host--she invited us all to come and stay with her at her house next time we're in the area.
I have to say, the coffee she brewed us tasted pretty amazing, too!