Antioquia, Colombia – One of my world’s favorite places. Antioquia is a province in Colombia renowned for its stunning natural beauty and coffee plantations. The country produces the world’s best coffee and Colombians are proud of their coffee culture. Coffee farms surround Antioquia’s largest city, Medellin. The Forbes magazine lately named Medellin as one of the world’s coolest cities to visit in 2018. The surrounding coffee farms are a part of the tourist draw – they’re picturesque. Although I’m no coffee addict, a coffee farm visit is a must in Colombia. And little did I know that I would become a coffee aficionado. But from the beginning …
Coffee beans are harvested by hand, for the same reason that strawberries are hand-picked. The coffee berries do not all ripen at the same time; so the picker has to pick only the red ones, while leaving the green ones on the vine. It is a slow process and the pickers get paid very little. The coffee farmer also gets paid very little. Coffee should cost several times the amount than it costs today so that growers and harvesters could receive a decent return for their efforts. The farmers often subsidize their earnings with banana or tomato production, just to survive.
Many farmers will allow you to pick some coffee berries. I thought I would be able to pick one basket full but was exhausted after picking just a third of a basket. Then my hard-picked coffee berries went for processing where a machine separates the pulp from the pit – the coffee bean. Each berry has two pits or seeds. The coffee beans are then laid on special platforms to be sundried. When I asked what is made from the delicious pulp, I was in for the shock of my life: It is discarded for compost. “But it’s a delicious fruit!” I opposed the farmer. “Yes, it is, but consumers want only the pits,” the farmer replied. His wife later shared that she uses the fruit in her home-made cakes, but there is no other commercial use, so the fruit is discarded for compost that is later used to fertilize new coffee plants.
It is as if you harvested peaches or plums, threw away the pulp, and used the pit for consumption. How upside down! But that is exactly what is happening with coffee berries. Could we pervert God’s plan any better? The coffee fruit tastes delicious and is meant to be consumed, not the pit! As I returned home, I searched the Internet and I could find very little information on coffee fruit. Very few companies have commercialized it. I found only one company that dehydrates the fruit and grinds it into powder which is used as an antioxidant to be added to other drinks. I have never seen, for example, a coffee fruit jam in any country. It would be a health food at its best and sweet enough without adding sugar.
Coffee berries are perhaps the planet’s most forgotten fruit, hiding in plain sight. While coffee is the world’s most popular beverage, most people haven’t heard of coffee fruit. People living in countries where coffee is not produced don’t even know coffee fruit exists. They think the coffee bean is the fruit. What we know as coffee beans are actually seeds of a delicious fruit. The seed is a very hard piece of wood that can only be cracked with a hammer. Its hard structure is compromised only after roasting, just as any piece of wood disintegrates when burned. Then the burned (roasted) coffee seeds are ground into powder.
Coffee drinkers then run water through the burned wood which results in a dark slush. We call the result “coffee.” The process itself tells us that this was never meant to be done. Why would a slush derived from burned woody material become the world’s most popular drink? The answer is simple: it contains the addictive substance caffeine, which God never intended to be consumed.
Yet the most valuable and delicious part of the plant – its fruit – is discarded. I left the coffee farm with a sense of sadness. We humans tend to twist everything that God made.
The following text came to my mind: “There is no class guilty of greater perversion and abuse of His precious gifts than are those who employ the products of the soil in the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. The nutritive grains, the healthful, delicious fruits, are converted into beverages that pervert the senses and madden the brain.” Counsels for the Church, 102. While coffee is no liquor, this quote’s principle applies spot on. We employ the products of soil intended for our nutrition to produce intoxicating substances.
The coffee plant has a purpose. It bears delicious fruit whose red pulp has free-radical fighting antioxidants. Antioxidants help maintain your body’s natural protections against oxidation, a potentially damaging process. In other words, antioxidants are like your body’s bodyguard.1 Coffee is a healthy fruit low in calories and may protect from ailments such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and liver disease.2 It is a true superfood. A juicy secret full of nutrition. After my coffee farm visit, I’m a coffee fruit aficionado.
If you ever travel to areas where coffee is produced, do stop by a coffee farm. The coffee fruit grows year round. So whenever you visit you will always find ripe red berries that taste not only delicious, but that are a nutritional powerhouse. It is coffee as God intended.