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Davis, California

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Behind the scenes of Pachamama coffee

An energy drink just isn’t comparable to a cup of coffee. There is a specific amount of work and history behind every cup that some tend to overlook – especially at 8 a.m.

Harvesting and processing

“Coffee plants are understory shrubs, meaning they naturally grow under the shade of the forest,” said Catherine Dilley, the café manager for Pachamama Coffee Cooperative.

These sensitive shrub-like plants grow well only around the world’s equator. Pachamama itself represents farmers from Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Ethiopia.

“The beans come from a sugary red berry that grows in clusters,” Dilley said. “They are harvested and processed through various methods of de-pulping and removal of the outer husk.”

“Then the beans are transported to their local cooperative to be cupped, weighed and sent to the port to be shipped,” Dilley said.

There are also other alternative shipping methods.

“Many times, a farmer may sell his beans to another farmer, who transports the beans to the market and sells them to other buyers before it will be taken to the port,” she said.

The beans and the trees

Coffee beans are rooted from two types of trees – the Robusta and the Arabica.

“The Arabica tends to produce higher quality beans on a smaller scale, while the robusta is cultivated to yield more beans,” said Thaleon Tremain, Pachamama’s general manager.

As a result, you may find that Robusta beans offer their caffeine content at a lower price, while the Arabica beans are better known for their taste.

“Arabicas range in taste from salty and sweet to sharp and tangy. Unroasted, they have a pleasant sweet smell,” Dilley said. “They are more fragile, and grow best in subtropical climates, moisture, rich oil, sun and shade.”

That is, unless they are attacked by various pests.

“Our beans are 100 percent Arabica and produced by small scale farmers,” Tremain said. “It’s been said that 80 percent of the work required to produce the coffee is done by the farmer.”

Yet that farmer typically receives less than 15 percent of the retail “fair trade” paid price in the United States, Tremain said.

About the cooperative

Pachamama, incorporated in Davis in 2001, is democratically controlled and owned by its farmers. They are committed to improving the lives of small-scale farmers and their families.

“It’s what we stand for, and I find importance in the connection between consumers and producers,” Anna Valdes said. She has been working as a Pachamama employee and representative since the beginning of this past summer.

“Like any other kind of massively produced agricultural commodity, coffee is important to our society. So many values have been built upon these things,” she said.

In a university setting such as Davis, the workers said they are convinced coffee is an agricultural product that touches our lives in many ways.

“It tastes good,” Tremain said, “But it’s also a stimulant that many people find make them more productive. If we can more directly connect coffee consumers with coffee farmers, then there’s a real opportunity to create a better world.”

Kern Hawg, a senior English major, joined Pachamama during his sophomore year after reading about the cooperative in a California Aggie article.

“When café’s don’t care, it’s frustrating,” he said. “I used to work at a place where the owner didn’t even drink coffee, and I was shocked.”

The secret to a delicious cup of coffee

“Proper grinding is important; a burr grinder is a good investment,” Tremain said. “It will grind your beans in a more uniform way. We use about one tablespoon for every four ounces of brewed coffee.”

At the Pachamama coffee stand, which can be found at the Davis Farmer’s Market, a ceramic cone-drip is used.

“It has a better result than the machines because you have more control,” Hawg said.

Temperature is also a key factor; boiling temperatures will produce a burnt taste.

“Don’t brew it too weak, and don’t let grinds get in your coffee!” Dilley said.

The Pachamama coffee stand can be found at the Davis Farmer’s Market and at the Swanston Community Center in Sacramento on the first and third Friday of every month.

For more information, visit pachamama.coop.

VANNA LE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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