Coffee growing in Europe? | Perfect coffee from Gran Canaria | Europe’s biggest coffee growing area
You might be asking, what I’m doing here? I’m preparing coffee from coffee plant to coffee cup. I’m in the only coffee growing area in Europe. Here everything happens in one place. The coffee is grown, the berries are harvested, dried, peeled, roasted and the coffee is drunk!”
I’ve always wanted to see where coffee comes from. I’m in the Canary Islands to help out with the coffee harvest. Now is the ideal time to pick the cherries. Plantation manager Antonio Márquez talks me through the harvesting techniques. “Only the red ones?” “Yes, only the red. Ok, how is this?” “No, no, no! Not this small branch, because that’s needed for next year’s cherries.
This way!” Harvesting is harder than I’d expected. On large-scale plantations, both ripe and unripe cherries are mechanically harvested. But here, I’m handpicking them, and concentrating on the ripe ones. “I only pick the coffee cherries that are ripe. Each tree is inspected five or six times to ensure quality. Stripping a tree twice or five times – which costs time and money – makes a difference.
But the coffee is of a higher quality if you only pick ripe cherries.” Gran Canaria is home to the only coffee plantation in Europe. It is the third largest of the Canary Islands of the west coast of Africa. Agaete in the northwest leads into a lush valley where the coffee plants are located.
The island is of volcanic origin, which makes its soil highly fertile. The vegetation is especially verdant in the higher reaches of the valley. There are no mono cultures on the coffee plantations- avocados and lemons are also grown here to keep the soil healthy. “The quality of the coffee depends heavily on the soil, the climate, rainfall and temperature fluctuations.
All of these factors influence the coffee trees and affect the flavor of what we end up drinking.” I’m visiting coff, a coffee farm with 1,200 plants, so one of the largest in the valley. But by international standards, its yield is small.
Only 1.500 kilos of coffee are produced here a year. But here it’s all about quality not quantity. The coffee is processed using what’s known as the dry method. The cherries are laid out on sieves to dry for 20 days. Antonio Márquez turns them by hand several times a day. “There are various methods for drying the cherries. The humidity and the temperature here on the Canary Islands make for ideal conditions. We can use a very natural process. The sun and the wind alone are enough to dry the red coffee fruit.
Coffee has been harvested here in the Ageate Valley for around 150 years. I’m off to meet Mo José Sosa García. He harvests coffee beans in his backyard – likemany residents here. He produces his own coffee – which he drinks himself and also gives to friends and family. “Coffee from the Agaete Valley is the best coffee there is.
I don’t know what it’s like in countries like Colombia. But here in the Agaete Valley, we produce proper coffee.” But no-one is going to get rich from coffee production on Gran Canaria. Antonio Márquez turned his passion for coffee into a career. He’s been the manager of the coffee farm at the Finca Los Castaños for nine years. Tours for visitors provide additional income. “It helps to love what you do. It makes the work much easier and it’s the best recipe for happiness.
Every day!” Once the cherries have dried, the layers of skin are removed – this step is called hulling. I take two coffee beans out of the skin by hand. A machine can do the job much faster. Once the hulling is finished, the coffee beans are roasted. That’s what turns it into the coffee we know and love!
That’s why I love coffee. Because of the smell!” “For me and for everyone who likes coffee,this is the most important part. Every step in the production process is important,from the cultivation to the harvesting. But the roasting is the most important part. That’s when you can really tap the full potential of the coffee bean.
Coffee from Agaete Valley is popular among coffee connoisseurs. It’s even made appearances in the barista world championships. I’ve been looking forward to sampling it! “Tastes totally different!” “Of course, it’s my coffee.” “Sour and sweet a little bit. Fruity. But not like coffee at all.” “I usually drink my coffee without thinking much about it. But after visiting Europe´s only coffee growing area here on Gran Canaria and picking each coffee bean individually by myself. I’ll drink my coffee much more consciously.” It’s really made me think. On most coffee plantations, both ripe and unripe cherries are stripped from the trees. Who would have thought that?