It’s that time of year again! The staff at Finca Deborah is busy caring for the multitude of Geisha coffee seedlings that will be added to the existing stock of trees and, as one might expect, it is one of the most important agricultural events that takes place on the farm.
The process is delicate and labor intensive, but it is certainly worth every ounce of the effort and care that is put into practice this time of year. These seedlings represent the future of Finca Deborah’s Panama Geisha, and the young stock is meticulously cared for every step of the way.
While many people may be familiar with some of the methods used to grow and produce exceptional coffee, we at Finca Deborah take great pride in the entire process and would like to give more roasters and boutique coffee aficionados a glimpse into some of the steps taken to ensure that the end result is the finest Geisha coffee the world has to offer.
It Starts with the Seeds
As with any agricultural operation, it’s important to select seeds from the most genetically gifted plants or trees on the farm. The process is no different here at Finca Deborah. We carefully pick fully ripe cherries, we then sort and save the seeds from the trees showing the best genetic traits of the Geisha Variety . A typical seedling crop at Finca Deborah consists of several thousand young trees which are used to not only increase the total stock of trees on the farm, but also to replace trees which have either perished or are showing signs of extreme distress.
Germination is a finicky process, and it’s crucial that all of the steps are carefully followed to allow our seeds to have the best possible start. It all begins at 1500 meters where the seeds are germinated in a controlled environment and bed of sand to provide proper drainage and aeration. Once they sprout we transfer them to bags filled with Chiriqui rich, volcanic, soil. The seedlings are carefully tended for approximately 8 months. At this time they’ve reached a height of between 18 to 24 inches, and they are then ready to be transported to Finca Deborah.
Moving on Up
We humans sometimes have issues with changes in altitude and require time to acclimate. Our Geisha coffee seedlings are no different. When they arrive at Finca Deborah, the seedlings remain in their bags for 1 to 2 weeks. During this time the trees are acclimating to changes in temperature, moisture, and altitude. (Microclimate)
The soil these new seedlings will call home is carefully prepped in advance of planting. We use a unique and organic fertilizer mix to encourage the seedlings to establish strong root system as quickly as possible. The seedlings are then planted, and monitored.
Finca Deborah is an extreme altitude coffee plantation and our seedlings are slower to grow compared to their counterparts at farms with lower altitude. However, the more demanding conditions encourage our baby geisha trees to establish hardy root systems, which will allow them to thrive and create a bean that is extraordinary in the cup.
Obvious growth of the trees is not readily visible for approximately 2.5 years, at which point the root system has reached a critical mass and the trees are fully acclimated. Now, they can begin putting their energy into growing new leaves, gaining vertical height, and the production of their first beans.
The End Result
It will be a minimum of 4 years before any meaningful production from these young trees is recognized with full production not achieved for another 3 to 4 years. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to recognize weaker plants early in the process and to plant seedlings each year. The process helps us to reduce production volatility while maintaining a healthy farm.
Planting and tending seedlings is a slow process but it is also one of the most rewarding. These seedlings will, in time, join the ranks of Finca Deborah’s top producing trees, and caring for them and watching them grow truly is a labor of love.