The winds have been relentless. The trade winds certainly are reliable. It is just unfortunate that we have to head east straight into the winds before we can go south. We were very fortunate to get the calm window across the Mona Passage! It certainly hasn’t been calm since. We have to wait for the electrician anyway, so we are continuing our explorations in Puerto Rico. Today we are going with Greg from Mile High Dream to Sandra Farms Coffee Plantation out in the mountains somewhere. We were expecting a three-hour car ride to get there across the width of Puerto Rico. As we drove, it became clear that this was no desert island. Heading north and/or west on the PR-3, we passed the turn off for El Yunque Rainforest and the surrounding area was lush and green. Entering the mountains, we left the city bustle behind for beautiful green countryside. I kept an eye out for the wild orchids I heard grow around PR, but didn’t see any. We only got a little lost on the way, but made it to our way off the beaten path destination. Our gracious host Carmello greeted us and started by showing us around the grounds.
Arabica coffee is the premium coffee grown for their own distribution. Pickers are paid nearly three times more on this plantation than other coffee plantations, but only if they pick at least 96% ripe red coffee beans. This guarantees the highest quality coffee beans go into their roast.
There are inferior trees that grow another kind of coffee I can’t remember the name of. But there was a big difference to tell them apart.
The inferior tree puts much more energy into growing larger leaves than the Arabica tree. The coffee trees grow on the hillside and the pickers need to be pretty nimble to do their job.
After picking, the coffee beans go into a separator that weeds out the 4% green beans. This is done through a wire mesh where only the ripe beans squish out of their shells and slide through. The green beans are pushed aside into a separate vat. Women then sort the beans by hand to further guarantee that only quality beans go into the roast.
The furnace is used to dry out the beans. As soon as they are picked, the fermenting process begins, so they must be sorted and dried as soon as possible. Drying used to take place outside on a concrete floor in the sun. The problem is that squalls go through the area frequently and if they didn’t bring in the beans fast enough and the got wet, the entire harvest would go bad. The furnace vastly decreases the risk of loss and speeds up the process, which still takes at least 60 hours.
Next, the beans are roasted. They do a light roast here, which preserves the most flavor and caffeine. Believe it or not, light roasts have more caffeine than dark roasts. Espresso is higher only because it is a concentrate.
Dave sampled some of the coffee beans straight up, which kind of grossed me out. But then he was given dark chocolate squares with roasted beans in the middle. Greg and Dave loved them! Carmello though for sure I would at least try the chocolates, but I assured him this was a bad idea. I don’t just dislike coffee, I have an aversion to it. I even detest the smell. Nope, I don’t even eat mocha ice cream. Now he was starting to believe me.
The view from this place was amazing. Dave and Greg were asking all kinds of questions about the area. We found out that there was a 3-acre lot with a standard 20×20 foot concrete poured building on it for sale not far away. Carmello said it was going for about $20,000. Wow! Tempting. I mean this area is gorgeous. But it is very removed from everything and a nerve-wracking drive that my sister would absolutely hate that winds through the mountains. The roads are two way but only wide enough for about a car and a half. Still, tempting. We do really like Puerto Rico so far and could see ourselves living here, but… it is just not our version of paradise. Our journey will continue.