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Growing and Harvesting: Estates, Plots, and Plantations

The best coffees of the world are grown either on medium-sized farms, often called estates, or on peasant plots. Processing of estate coffees is usually done on the farm itself or by consignment at nearby mills. The best peasant-grown coffees are generally processed through well-run cooperative mills. The farmer grows food crops for subsistence and some coffee for exchange. The cooperatives, often government sponsored, attempt to maintain and improve growing practices and grading standards.

In parts of the world with advanced economies and high labor costs, farms may be very large so as to facilitate economies of scale and the efficient use of technology. Mainly in Brazil, but also in Australia and parts of Hawaii, coffee trees may stretch for miles in groves as perfectly tended and monotonous as Iowa corn fields. Coffees from these large farms can range from mass-produced and mediocre (many Brazil coffees) to splendid products of exquisite technical sophistication (the best Brazil coffees).

The poorest quality coffees of the world are peasant-grown coffees that are not properly picked or handled. In these cases the governments involved usually have failed to provide leadership in encouraging quality and establishing the kind of well-run processing facilities that make the small-holder coffees of Kenya and the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia, for example, among the finest origins in the world.

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Growing and Harvesting:  Introduction  | Flowering and Fruiting  | Shade vs. Sun  | Altitude  | Traditional vs. Hybrid Varieties  |  | Ripeness is All

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Adapted from Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing & Enjoying; Espresso: Ultimate Coffee; and Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival. St. Martin's Press.
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