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How to pick a perfect cherry

A lot of misconceptions out there about what qualifies a “perfectly ripe” coffee cherry

Our research in the cupping lab indicates there is no upward limit of ripeness, the cup only becomes sweeter and more flavorful as the fruit ripens. I.e. there is no such thing as an “overripe” coffee cherry. ⠀

The cherries in the above photo are so ripe and dark red that they almost appear black. And they are sticky with sugar. A perfect picking! 

And while we know cherries with higher sugar content cup better, how much better? And what about size? Do bigger cherries have more sugar?⠀

This year we conducted field research in the remote forests of Presidio de los Reyes, Nayarit. Using a refractometer, we recorded sucrose levels alongside the length and max diameter of cherries. Our findings hint at the possibility of using sugar content to predict quality. 

We work so hard to educate and incentivize coffee farmers to pick only the reddest ripest cherries over the course of the harvest. It is certainly not the easiest option, as cherries from one tree ripen one-by-one over an arduous four-month harvest. But, by doing so, the coffee will have far greater value to roasters and consumers down the line. And by committing to buy all the cherries from every farmer in the group, we ensure no one ever feels pressure to ‘sell now’ because the buyer is there or the price is right. 

At every cherry reception site in the Grupo Terruño Nayarita network, a worker evaluates a sample of the daily pickings of each producer. They're counting the number of ripe, semi-ripe, and green cherries in order to assign a numerical score to that producer's fruit. 

We use that score to pay premiums to producers at the end of the harvest. The riper the cherries, the larger the premium payment! By picking only fruit of the highest, ripest quality, a producer can double his or her income at the end of the harvest!

Posted on: Jan. 7, 2020, 12:32 p.m.