Coffee

HISTORY OF COFFEE IN SIERRA LEONE

Though the cultivation of coffee in Sierra Leone has taken ages, yet how and when it was introduced into the country is not known. However, it seems likely that it was introduced to Sierra Leone much earlier than other West African countries.

BOTANY OF COFFEE

Coffee belongs to the family Rubiaceae and the genus coffea. There are two main species of the coffee plant, the older one being coffea Arabica while the second species is coffea canephoral (Robusta).
Coffea Arabica is more susceptible to disease, and is considered by most to taste better than the second species, coffee canephoral (Robusta).
Robusta, probably originated in Uganda, contains about 40-50% more caffeine, and can be cultivated in environments where Arabica will not thrive.
Robusta tends to be bitter and has little flavor, with a tell-tale “burnt rubber or wet card board” aroma and flabour.
Other species include coffea liberica and coffea esliaca believed to be indigenous to Liberia and Southern Sudan respectively. Liberica and Robusta have higher yield than Arabica variety.

USES/UTILIZATION OF COFFEE

Coffee has varied ways of utilization, which may not be limited to:

  • Health and pharmacological uses.
  • Coffee is a widely consumed beverage prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant.
  • Majority of all caffeine consumed worldwide comes from coffee.
  • Coffee consumption is believed to reduce diabetes Mellitus type two (2)

In Sierra Leone, coffee beans are processed locally on a small scale into beverage (stimulant) and the rest is exported overseas. Robusta species grown in Sierra Leone is the major ingredient for instant coffee because of its high caffeine content.

MAJOR AREAS OF PRODUCTION

In Sierra Leone coffee is grown in many different parts, but the areas of highest density are in the Kailahun and Kenema District in the Eastern Province.
Sizeable plantings are found in Bod, Moyamba, Bonthe and Tonkolili Districts.

VARIETIES GROWN IN SIERRA LEONE

Robusta coffee (coffea canephoral) and a recently introduced done variety G98.

CLIMATIC REQUIREMENTS

All coffee species are of tropical or semi-tropical climate and produce best when they received 70% (1700mm) or more of rain annually. Elevations of 1067m-1829m (3500ft – 6000ft) produce the best or premium coffees.
Mature trees (coffea Arabica) can be expected to withstand short periods of 0oC, although new shoots may not be produced readily afterwards.
Coffee likes moist conditions and does not tolerate hot dry winds. For these reasons much of the world’s coffee is grown under shade trees which also protect against the overhead tropical sun.

SOILS

Suitable soils are of loam to clay texture, depths greater than 100cm, good to moderately good drainage and acid to slightly acid reaction.
Coffee tolerate short periods of water logging, but not salinity. A period of 2 – 3 months (Dec – Feb) is necessary for flowing to occur. Coffee can withstand long dry season.

PROCESSING & HARVESTING

Equipment

  • Basket for individual picker
  • Holding hooks for bringing branches into position for picking.
  • Ladder
  • Containers e.g. bags, jerry cans, etc. for transporting large quantities of berries from the orchards/farms to the processing area.

Depending on the region where coffee is being grown, the coffee beans can be harvested as little as once per year to as much as year round, depending on the variety and climate, when the plant flowers and fruits is dependent on the cycle of rainy seasons.
The coffee berries are ready 8 – 9 months after plant flowers. The desired berries is shiny, orange red or orange yellow in colour and firm to the touch.
The first harvest is 2 – 3 years after planting, with full production of 4.5 years. There are both mechanical and manual ways to harvest the berries.
In Sierra Leone, coffee is harvested in November/January by hand, only the ripe berries are chosen leaving the unripe fruit to be picked later. The berries are collected in containers such as baskets, bags, etc

SORTING OF BERRIES

If selective picking of cherries was done, that is, picking ripe cherries only and leaving the unriped ones, there would be no need for sorting. But stripping and mechanical harvesting were used, where ripe, unripe and matured beans are harvested. Then there would be need for sorting of beans.

PROCESSING

After picking and sorting, the berries must be processed quickly to prevent spoilage. Two methods are employed.

i. Dry and ii Wet method

WET METHOD

Three stages are employed

  • Removal of the pulp (pulping) and mucilage (mucilage removal). Washing.
  • Drying f parchment coffee
  • Removal of the inner coverings, patchment and film (hulling).
  • The berries are washed, pulped and macerated in water.
  • Fermentation starts, and in a little over 35 minutes the beans are freed. Sometimes caustic solution is added to expedite the process.
  • After a final wash, the beans are placed in dryers which eliminate parchment, or it is removed mechanically. The beans can now be stored for brief period under carefully controlled conditions to enhance flavor.

DRY METHOD

Two stages are involved

  • Drying of the fruit (coffee berries).
  • Removal of the dried coverings in a single mechanical operation (hulling).

In the dry approach berries are also sun-dried and then hulled are cylinders to free the seeds.
The remaining thin parchment over the bean is then removed my a sieving action that requires bean size to be effective.

DRYING

In Sierra Leone berries are mostly sun-dried by spreading them on bamboo mats, or tarpaulin on dry floors or on raised platform to avoid contamination.

BAGGING

Good beans are put into jute bags and the use of Nylon bags should be discouraged as it lead to deterioration of produce.

MARKETING STANDARDIZATION

A standardized bag of coffee for export weighs 62.1 kg (137 lb) gross wright (net beans wright 60.3, empty jut bag 1.2 kg).

INSPECTION AND GRADING OF COFFEE

Before inspection and grading is done, sorting is done first by removing defective beans such as black beans, abnormally, pale beans, badly broken beans (c ½ a bean) or beans damaged by insects.
Coffee which is thoroughly dry, clean and free from extraneous matter from all trace of mustiness and which contains not more than 30% by count of defective beans shall be fit for export.

GRADE A / FAQ

Coffee which is Robusta/Liberica type and which is free from any mixtures of other varieties of coffee and which contains not more than 10% by count of defective beans.

GRADE B

Coffee that has more than 15% defective beans, but less than 20% and does not have more than 2% black beans.

UNGRADED

All other coffee which does not qualify for grad A and B.

STEPS INVOLVED IN SAMPLING AND GRADING

  • Random extraction of beans from bags.
  • Spread on a table, mat, tarpaulin or other clean surface but not on the bare/naked floor.
  • Thoroughly mix, seeing that no part of the bulk under examination appears to be of different variety, it is clean, dry and free from mustiness and extraneous matter.
  • Extraneous and inferior part should be removed from bulk under examination and treated as a separate parcel from the remainder.
  • Average representative sample indiscriminately from all parts of the parcel, which is a final sample of not less-than one (1) pound (0.45kg).
  • If parcel exceeds 5 tons, it is sub-divided into parts of convenient size, not exceeding 5 tons each.
  • Examine each part as a separate parcel.

  • From the final sample 500 beans shall be drawn indiscriminately for examination.
  • A count made of the number of defective beans, determines the grade of the parcel of coffee.
  • STORAGE

    The following criteria are considered favoured for the storage of coffee:

    • Coffee shall be stored in premises constructed and operated with the objective of keeping the moisture contents of the beans sufficiently low, consistent with local conditions. Storage shall be on gratings or decking which allow at least 7cm of air space above the floor.
    • It should be clean, properly ventilated and dry.
    • It floors of concrete or wood and sound
    • The interior walls thereof are washed annually with lime wash, methyl bromide or other approved disinfectant.
    • It should not be within 20 feet (6.1m) of a cesspit or latrine.
    • All reasonable precautions taken to protect produce from deterioration caused by excessive heat.
    • Contamination with odours of flabours or dust from other commodities, both food stuffs and materials such as kerosene, cement or tar, is prevented.
    • Height should be appropriate for the storage of good quality beans.
    • STACKING

      Standardized bagged coffee shall be so stacked on raised wooden pallets and a space of about three (3) metres provided between stacks to allow easy movement of examiner(s) and other workers. Sixty (60) cm must be left between the bags and each wall for the building.

      SEALING AND MARKING

      After grading, each bag should be sealed with the individual examiner’s seal.

      SHIPMENT

      • Periodically during storage and immediately before shipment, the moisture content of each lot should be checked during recheck.
      • (Check-Checking)

      CONTAINER STUFFING

      Stuffing requires the following materials:

      • Cards for lining of container on both sides (walls)
      • Dry bags/desiccant
      • Container should be clean and dry.

      TYPES OF CONTAINER

      Twenty feet (20’) and forty feet (40’)

      QUANTITY PER CONTAINER

      • Twenty feet = 300 standardized bags
      • Forty feet = 600 standardized bags

      SEALING OF CONTAINER

      For the purpose of quality assurance, the Quality Officer at the time of sealing the container shall take/keep record of the container Number and Seal Number. This should be done in the presence of the officer (Examiner/Inspector)