Although the operation of pulping is so simple, it is one which requires the machine to be set in such a way that the greatest quantity of work may be done, or, in other words, the smallest quantity of unpulped berries be allowed to pass through. On the other hand, the berries must not be subjected to injury from the barrel; for if the parchment skin is pricked through, the berry will appear, when cured, with an unsightly brown mark upon it. Several new coverings for barrels, instead of punctured copper, have been tried; among others, coir-cloth and wire net, but the old material is not as yet superseded. After pulping, the coffee in parchment is received into cisterns, in which it is, by washing, deprived of the mucilaginous matter that still adheres to it. Without this most necessary operation, the mucilage would ferment and expose the berry to injury, from its highly corrosive qualities.
As some portion of pulp finds its way with the coffee to the cistern, which, if suffered to remain would, by its long retention of moisture, lengthen the subsequent drying process, various methods have been adopted to remove it. One mode is to pass the coffee a second time through a sieve worked by two men; another to pick it off the surfaces of the cistern, to which it naturally rises.
In August, 1846, premiums were awarded by the Ceylon Agricultural Society to Messrs. Clerihew and Josias Lambert for the improvements they had introduced into coffee-pulpers, which, by their exertions, had been brought to great perfection. The first improved complete cast-iron pulper received in the island, was made for Mr. Jolly, from drawings sent home by Mr. Lambert to Messrs. B. Hick and Son, engineers. This pulper is one of the most perfect in every respect that has yet been brought into use, the disadvantages belonging to the old machine having been entirely remedied. The sieve crank has a double eccentric action. The chops are regulated by set screws, and the sieve suspended in a novel and secure manner, the whole combining strength and efficacy, together with an elegance of form, which will likewise be appreciated.
Mr. W. Clerihew, of Ceylon, submitted to the Great Exhibition a model of his approved apparatus for drying coffee (which has been patented in the name of Robert R. Banks, Great George Street, Westminster), and received the Isis gold medal for the same. The intention is to dry the vegetable and aqueous moisture of the berry. Before this is required, the coffee has previously undergone the process of pulping, or removal from the soft fleshy husk. Here let Mr. Clerihew describe the advantages for himself—
"When the coffee berry is picked from the tree it bears a closer resemblance to a ripe cherry, both in size and appearance; and several processes have to be gone through before the article known in commerce as coffee is produced. In the first place, the pulpy exterior of the cherry has to be removed by the process of pulping, which separates the seed and its thin covering called the parchment, from the husk. When the pulping process is completed, we have the parchment coffee by itself in a cistern, and the next process consists in getting rid of the mucilage with which it is covered."
Having become assured, both by experiment and by Liebig's reasoning, that the successive stages of decomposition were wholly ascribable to the action of the stagnant air which occupies the interstices between the beans, and taking into account that a mass of coffee presented a medium pervious to air, it occurred to Mr. Clerihew that it was possible, by means of fanners, working on the exhausting principle, so to withdraw air from an enclosed space as to establish a current of air through masses of coffee spread on perforated floors forming the top and bottom of that space. The plan he carried into execution at Rathgoongodde plantation in 1849. No sooner was the plan put in operation than, instead of stagnant air occupying the interstices of the beans and gradually acting on them, a stream of air was established and flowing through the mass of coffee, each bean of it became surrounded by a constantly renewed atmosphere of fresh air.
Java.—When Arabia enjoyed the exclusive monopoly of coffee, it could not be foreseen that one day the island of Java would furnish for the consumption of the world from 125 to 130 millions of pounds per annum. The cultivation was introduced by M. Zwaendenkroom, the Governor-General of Batavia, who obtained seeds from Mocha, in 1723. According to official statements the following are the exports.
In 1839 there were exported 46,781,729 kilogrammes, valued at 48 million florins. Eight years labor, 1833 to 1841, brought its produce of coffee from 12 million kilogrammes annually, up to 55 millions.
In 1846, the exports were 916,876 piculs, but, in 1850 they were only 14,801 piculs. The total coffee crop of Java was in 1850, 1,280,702 lbs.; in 1851, 1,436,171 lbs.; in 1852, 1,229,349 lbs.
1840 1841 Residences in which this produce has been cultivated in 1840 and 1841 20 20 Number of families destined for the labor 470,673 453,289 Trees which have yielded a crop 916,193,894 216,085,600 Trees which have produced the average quantity of a picul of 125 lbs. Dutch 280 248 Quantity of coffee furnished to the godowns in piculs 706,258 877,444 Trees according to the reckoning made in the month of March, 1841 and 1842 336,922,460 329,898,936
The comparative result of this table shows—1st. That, in the year 1841, coffee had been gathered from 20,000,000 more trees than the number in 1840, and that the crop had increased by 171,000 piculs.
2nd. That, in the month of March, 1842, there were above 7 millions less of coffee trees than in 1840. This diminution is merely nominal, seeing that these trees have served to replace those which by their small produce have to be suppressed in the lowlands of the residency of Baylen. On the contrary, the increase of trees, planted from 1839 to 1840, amount to very nearly the same number, of 7 millions.
3rd. That, in the season of 1842, there was planted nearly 20 millions of plants; of which 12 millions are to serve to replace the old trees, and 8 millions are destined to extend this culture. It is calculated that this island will very soon be in a condition to produce a million of piculs or 125 millions more of Dutch pounds of coffee. Previous to 1830, Java scarcely exported as much as 40 millions of pounds.
Cultivation and Preparation of Coffee in Java.—For the following valuable details I am indebted to M. de Munnick, the inspector of the agricultural department, Batavia, as contributed to my "Colonial Magazine" (vol. xi. p. 46).
Soil and Situation.—Elevated lands are found to be those best suited for the growth of coffee in Java. Land situated between 1,000 and 4,000 feet above the level of the sea may be generally said to be adapted to the cultivation of coffee. It must not be taken for granted that all ground of less elevation is unsuited. Suitable ground is to be found lower down, but the cultivation on it is more difficult; the tree gives less fruit, and the plant is less durable. Valleys lying between high mountains are more especially fit for coffee plantations, because the soil which is washed down from the heights affords fresh food continually to the lowlands; the valleys themselves are moist, since the hills surrounding them attract the rain; and they are shut out from severe winds by the same protecting enclosure. The soils best suited to the successful growth of coffee may be classed as follows:—
Firstly. Cleared forest lands, especially those in which the black leafy, or vegetable mould is found to considerable depth. These are the richest grounds, and will support the coffee plant for many years, and they are also cultivated with the least trouble.
Secondly. Dark brown soils, approaching to black, which, without having much clay in them, appear to the eye to have a mixture of coral. The greater the depth of this coral-like stratum, and of the reddish or deep yellowish soil, the better is the ground for coffee. This kind of land also has sufficient strength and substance to afford nourishment for many years to the plant; but it entails more trouble than the before mentioned soils, because the young plant does not so speedily strike root into it, and sometimes dies, so that provision has to be made against failures.
Thirdly. Reddish and loose ground, such as is generally found in the neighbourhood of volcanic lands. This kind is frequently found well adapted for coffee; it flourishes on such land luxuriantly, but does not last long, as the ground possesses less strength and nourishing substance. By digging in different places we become better acquainted with the nature of the ground, but we may take it as a rule, that rich old forest land on which many larger trees are found, and plains covered with heavy underwood, most frequently offer eligible sites for coffee plantations.
Grounds in which loam is found, and stony soils, are unfit for coffee. But I do not mean by "stony soils" land on which many stones are lying, for on that very account it may be most suitable; but I mean land which shows a pebbly stratum just below the surface, or such as is of a porous, stony nature. In the choice of situation care must be taken to select that which is as much as possible protected against the south-east wind, because its dry influence is very injurious to the coffee plant, and also prevents the growth of the Erythrina (known here locally as the Dadap tree) which is so necessary for its shade. Flat grounds, or gentle declivities, are better than steep slopes; yet the latter can be well employed if proper care is taken.
Cultivation.—After the ground has been cleared in the dry season—that is, after the bushes have been rooted out, the undergrowth burnt off, and the thickets removed—ploughing is commenced in September. When the ground has twice been deeply ploughed, the weeds and roots must be brought together with the rake and carefully burnt. The depth of the ploughing must be regulated by the nature of the ground. In all kinds of cultivation, deep ploughing is recommended, but in Java we ought not to plough deeper than the stratum of fertile soil, as a kind of subsoil may be wrought uppermost injurious to plants, and which, before it can become fertile, must for a year at least have been exposed to the atmosphere.
The ground having been turned up, should be left exposed for some days to throw off the vapor arising from it; and must then be again ploughed and cleared with the rake. After waiting for some days, it should be ploughed for the fourth and last time, and made as clean and friable as possible. In small plantations this is to be done with the spade, but on large estates the roller must be used. This roller consists of a heavy piece of round wood, eight or ten feet long, to which a pole is fastened in the middle to have oxen harnessed to it. It is drawn slowly over the ploughed land, and presses the clods to earth. To give it greater force, the driver sits or stands upon it.
Before the field has been properly ploughed and rolled in the above way, the middle of October will have arrived, and we then begin to open a path through the plantation from the highest to the lowest point, about two roods broad, and the whole of the land is then divided into separate parcels. Portioning off the estates into divisions of equal size is a system to be much recommended. By this means labor may be equally divided, superintended and inspected. Order and regularity, which are necessary in all things, are most especially required in cultivation on a large scale.
The size of these parcels is regulated by the nature of the estate. On flat or gently declining land they may be greater than on steep grounds, because, in order to prevent the washing away of the soil on precipitous land, the water must be led off by trenches, which of themselves make the divisions of land smaller. On flat ground the divisions may be each 625 square roods, each of which may contain, if planted—
Trees. 12 feet by 12 625 10 " 10 900 8 " 8 1406 6 " 6 2500
The distance between the coffee bushes cannot be definitely laid down, as it depends on the nature of the soil. On the most fertile forest lands twelve feet by twelve is a good distance. Only on low and meagre grounds, where the tree grows less luxuriantly and strong, can six feet by six be reckoned a proper distance.
Between the divisions a path should be left, one rood in breadth. Along the middle paths and by the side of the divisions drains must be cut, the former two feet in breath and depth, the latter one foot. The drains along the divisions must be cut in such a way as to conduct the rain-water to the larger drains which flank the middle paths. On precipitous ground, when the coffee is planted, small ridges should be raised between the rows, to prevent the rich earth from washing down in the heavy rains. The steeper the land is, the closer these ridges should be; and care should be taken to incline them, so as to break the descent, the direction of which they should in some degree follow. The first ridges may be made with the branches of the trees which have been felled, or with the rubbish cleared from the ground on the first raking of it.
Placing the pickets.—When the ground has been worked and divided in the above manner, the pickets are placed. These are slips of bamboo one-and-a-half to two feet long. First—two long canes (which do not stretch like string), each one hundred feet long, are marked off in feet according to the distance at which the planting is to take place; heavy stakes are made fast to each end of them, by which they can be well secured on the ground. At the places where they are marked off in feet, strings are fastened so tightly that they cannot be displaced; and then the canes are laid down and well fixed in the ground, one in the length and the other in the breadth.
Picketing does not give much trouble; it ensures regular planting, and makes the daily inspection simple. The planting thus takes place in straight lines, which give an ornamental appearance, and afterwards renders the view over the whole plantation easy. At every place where a string has been tied, a picket is stuck in the ground; then the cane is removed to another place, and so on till all the estate is marked out by pickets. After the picketing, a hole is made with the spade at every mark; it should be a good foot broad and deep, and the earth inside should be made very fine and clear. The earth is now ready to receive the coffee plant, and the time has only to be waited for when the first rains fully begin.
Nurseries.—In the month of October, or earlier, if coffee trees are near at hand, nurseries must be prepared in the neighbourhood of the land about to be planted. This can be done in the ravines, or, if they are too far from the spot where the plants are wanted, pieces of ground most convenient can be selected. If the ravines are preferred, places must be chosen which are shaded by trees not prejudicial to the coffee plants. On ground where there is no trees, the nurseries may be covered, at the height of four feet, with leaves of jack (Artocarpus integrifolia), areca, or other palm trees, in a manner to admit the air.
The ground made loose and fine, coffee plants newly opening, or seeds only, are planted or sown at a distance of four inches square; 500 square roods will in this way furnish 648,000 plants, which are sufficient for an estate of 300,000 trees. Transplanting from nurseries is absolutely necessary in coffee cultivation, and the trouble it costs is always doubly repaid. Having a choice of plants, a person can be convinced he has taken none but healthy trees, and he proceeds therefore with a confidence of success. After the first year, all failures having been nearly replaced, the estate is fully planted, the trees are of regular growth, and no useless clearing is required—a thing which is always necessary in irregular plantations. It is easy also to pick the berries from the trees which are planted with regularity; the work goes on smoothly; and, when the estate has lived its time, it may be abandoned altogether, without leaving patches of living trees here and there, which renders superintendence so very difficult.
There should always be a plentiful supply of plants, to give an ample choice and to make up for failures. When plants are placed in the nurseries, they should not have more than two offshoots, or leaves, above each other; and when the ball plants are transplanted, they should not be higher than a foot, as large plants always give meagre trees.
At the end of November or beginning of December, if the nurseries are kept free from weeds, and, if necessary, occasionally watered, the plants will be about a foot high, and will have put forth 4 or 5 leaves; they are then just fit to be transplanted. Then, the ground is cloven with the spade, at a distance of an inch and a half round the stem of the plant, to about three inches deep; the plant, with the ball of earth adhering to it, is carefully lifted out of the ground, and the ball is wrapped in a jack, plantain, or other leaf, and tied to prevent the earth falling off; but, before the plants are thus taken from the ground, it must be moistened to make the earth adhesive.
Planting the coffee trees.—The plants, which, after the above operation are called "ball plants," are then placed in a bamboo wicker frame, and are carefully carried by two men to the place where they are to be put into the ground. They are then taken out of the frame and placed in the holes next to the pickets. The pickets are removed, and the plant is fixed upright; the leaf surrounding the ball is made loose, but not taken away; the planter presses the plant down with his hand and fills up the hole with fine loose earth, and the business of planting the coffee tree is finished.
Planting the Dadap tree.—This is a species of Erythrina, probably E. indica, or E. arborescens; that used for the purpose in the West Indies is E. Corallodendrum. In Java, as soon as the coffee is planted, the operation of planting the dadap tree is commenced. The best sort of dadap comes from Serp or Mienyak; it is smooth and broad-leaved, and shoots up quickly. Thick young stems are chosen, about three feet long, and the lower part is pointed off. If the dadap is moist or juicy, it should be cut twenty-four hours before it is planted. The dadap is planted uniformly by measuring the cane in the same way as the coffee itself. Between every two rows of coffee one of dadap is planted, not on a line with the coffee plants, but alternately with them; thus, if the coffee is eight feet by eight, the dadap is sixteen by sixteen. The dadap is planted to the depth of a foot, with somewhat of a westerly inclination, in order that the morning sun may fall on a larger surface of the stick. The ground must be stiffly trodden round the bottom of the stem, and the upper part of it should have some kind of leaf tightly bound around it to prevent the sap from escaping. When the coffee and dadap plants have thus been put out, every fifth day the young plantation should be carefully inspected, and a picket placed wherever there is a failure, as a mark to the planter that a new plant is there required. This operation of replacing failures is carried on all through the wet season, and the dadaps which have not succeeded are at the same time changed.
Keeping up the estate.—In the first six months after planting, the estate should be cleaned each fortnight with the hoe; the ground being well moved and the weeds taken out. Those weeds which are too close to the plants to be removed in this manner, must be pulled out with the hand. When the plantation is thus wholly or partially cleaned, the earth must be taken off the weeds, and they must be collected and thrown on the pathways.
The weeding in this manner gives at first a great deal of trouble, but it is most advantageous in the long run, as the weeds are thus easily kept down.
Great care must be taken to do away with an old custom of burying the weeds in large holes on the estates. It conduces to bad and slovenly habits, such as cutting off the tops of the weeds by wholesale, and thus giving the plantation an appearance of cleanliness, whilst it, in fact, is as dirty as ever. This is soon discovered by the weeds showing themselves again above ground in a very few days, and even if they rot under ground, they breed insects which are very hurtful to the bushes, and the seeds vegetate.
After the first six months, this weeding will be sufficient if it takes places once a month, but this must be persevered in till the third year, when there may be a much greater interval between the weeding. When the trees are coming to full growth, the hoe should be less frequently used in cleaning; the hand must be used to the full extent to which the branches reach, as the roots of the tree spread to a like distance, and if they are injured the growth of the tree is prejudiced.
The well-being of an estate chiefly depends on frequent cleaning of the plantation in the beginning. The idea of some persons that cleaning in the dry season is of little consequence, must be given up, as it is principally at that very time that it is extremely profitable to remove and clear the ground round the trees in their growth. In the first place, this destroys the weeds which take the nourishment away from the trees; secondly, the ground is rendered more open to receive the slight showers and dews which moisten it, and to benefit by the influence of the air; the roots are thus considerably refreshed. The dew falling on ground which has been recently moved, penetrates at once into it, and does good to the plant; but if it falls on the weeds, the first rays of the sun absorb it, and deprive the tree of this source of refreshment.
The dadap is to be taken care of whilst clearing goes on; it must be cropped so as to cause it to grow upright, and to throw as much shade as possible on the coffee without pressing upon it.
In warm fertile ground, where the coffee plant grows rapidly, the trees should be topped in the third year; but this should be done sparingly, and as a general measure it is not to be recommended; it should be resorted to only as a means to prevent the too rapid growth of the tree, or its running up to a point. Topping and taking off suckers are both necessary on meagre soils, where the trees run much to wood; and it prevents the trees being injured in the picking season, which often occurs without this precaution. The top or middle stem is broken off at a height of six or seven feet, but care must be taken not to tear the tree; when the top shoots out again it must be cropped a second time, and it is seldom necessary to do this more than twice. The cropping causes the tree to shoot out in breadth, and to push forth a greater number of sprigs, and good strong ones.
Picking coffee.—When the estate becomes productive, it must in the picking season, just before the work begins, be kept exceedingly clear of weeds, and be even swept clean with brooms, in order that the berries which fall off may be gathered up.
The picking should take place under proper superintendence, the trees be picked row by row, and care taken that each berry is plucked off separately, and not a heap together, by which the trees are torn and the first offshoots prevented. In picking high trees, light ladders should be used, made out of two or three bamboos tied together.
Customary preparation of the berry in the pulp.—When the coffee is picked and brought into the village, it is piled up in a heap in the open air, and left in that manner for twenty-four hours. Thus heaped up it gets warm, and this creates a certain fermentation of the juice which is in the berry. That fermentation promotes the drying and loosens the silvery pellicle which is attached to the bean inside the parchment, and which cannot be entirely got rid of in any other way. Coffee which still retains that pellicle is called in trade "grey coffee," and is lower priced than good clean sorts. After the fermentation, the coffee is spread out in rather thick layers, and turned over twice a day. If it rains during this first spreading out, the coffee does not require to be sheltered, as the washing causes the juicy substance to evaporate, and this accelerates the drying afterwards.
In proportion as the coffee becomes dryer, the thickness of the layer must be reduced, and the turning over must be more frequent till the coffee is quite dry outside and the pulp has become hard.
Then the coffee is laid out on drying floors, which can be easily and speedily covered in rainy or damp weather, and is dried by the powerful heat of the sun.
This system of drying in the pulp requires six weeks or two months, as it is advisable not to be over hasty with drying.
When the coffee is entirely dry, it is either at once pounded or placed in the stores to await that operation. In order to know if the coffee be sufficiently dry, take a handful of it and shut your hand close; shake it to your ear, and listen if the beans rattle freely in the pulp. Or try them by biting the berry, and see if the bean and pulp are both brittle and crisp, which shows that the fruit is dry enough.
Preparation of the coffee in the parchment, or the West India system.—Only sound and fully ripe beans can be prepared in the West India manner. In picking, therefore, all unripe, green, or unsound beans must be taken away to dry in the pulp. As soon as the coffee is brought in, it must be pulped. This operation is performed by means of small peeling mills. These mills consist of two horizontal wooden cylinders rubbing on a plank; they are covered with hoop-iron, and set in motion by a water-wheel. The coffee is driven under the cylinder, and kept constantly moist; by being turned through the mill, the pulp is so bruised that the bean in the parchment falls from it into the bamboo open frame, which is placed in front of the mill. The coffee is then pressed with the hand, and falls through the frame into a basket. The pulp, and beans not rid of the pulp, remain on the frame; the first is cleared away, the rest passes a second time into the mill, and this operation is continued till all the coffee is stripped of the pulp, and the parchment beans are in the basket. When the parchment coffee is thus separated from the outer skin, it is thrown into the washing troughs, and remains there for twenty-four hours; this drains from it the slimy substance adhering to it. After being thus steeped, it is washed with pure water two or three times in the basket, so that it becomes quite free from slimy matter. The parchment coffee is then spread out on drying frames, and exposed for six or eight days to the heat of the sun, till the outside is perfectly dry. To do this equally it must be stirred about every hour. These frames, which serve also to dry the coffee in the pulp, are made as follows:—A bamboo roof is set up, resting on four wooden pillars, and sloping considerably; it is covered closely with reeds; its length is ten feet, its breadth six feet; the pillars are from nine to ten feet high; a wooden framework is attached to this, about thirty feet long, or three times the length of the space covered by the roof. On this frame are brought out three platforms, one above the other, which are pushed out by means of little rollers under them; they are ten feet long by six broad, and six inches deep. The borders are of wood, and the bottom of platted bamboo. In rainy weather, or when the drying cannot go on, the three platforms are pushed under the covered space. These drying places are set up near the overseer's dwelling, where they stand free, and are not shaded by trees or buildings. After this first drying on platforms, the parchment coffee is again dried inside the house, and bamboo huts are for this purpose erected on each side of the outhouse of the planters. These huts have trays, divided into two or three compartments, one above the other, to keep the coffee separate, according to the time of its having been picked. The parchment coffee is spread out as thin as possible, and turned over with a small wooden rake every hour. In proportion to the dryness of the weather, from one to two months are required to dry the coffee fully. In drying inside the houses, the greatest care must be taken to prevent heating the coffee; this is the great object of the West Indian system, as such heating is very prejudicial. On this account the huts in which the platforms are placed must be very airy, so that the wind may have good play among the trays, on which the coffee must be thinly spread and frequently turned.
Pounding.—Coffee in the pulp, as well as that in the parchment, must, before being pounded, be exposed for some hours to the sun to make it crisp and hard; but it must be allowed to cool again before the pounding begins, or the beans will be liable to be broken.
The pounding is done in small baskets of a conical form, two feet high, at the top eighteen inches in diameter, and at the bottom one foot. These baskets are, up to one-third of their height, thickly woven round with coir, and fastened on the ground between four thick bamboo poles, and with the bottom half an inch in the ground itself. The coffee is pounded by small quantities at a time with light, wooden pestles; the baskets must not be more than half full. When the coffee is sufficiently pounded, the basket is lifted from between the poles and the beans are thrown into sieves, on which it is cleaned from skin, and white, black, or broken beans. According to the West Indian system, the coffee must now be instantly put in bags, to preserve its greenish colour, which is very peculiar. If the green coffee is not instantly sent to the packing stores to be bagged, it must be put up in a very dry place, and be turned over once every day, to prevent heating, which damps and discolors the berry.
Coffee is grown to some extent in Celebes—the average crop being from 10,000 to 12,000 piculs of 133 English pounds. The production has rather fallen off than increased during the last few years. The whole of the coffee grown must be delivered by the inhabitants to the government exclusively, at twelve copper florins per picul. It is much prized in the Netherlands, and maintains a higher price in the market than the best Java coffee. As the treatment of the product in Java differs wholly from that which is in vogue in Celebes, and this, in our eyes, is much inferior, I know not whether the higher price is ascribable to the name, or to an intrinsic superiority in quality. It is certain that this cultivation is susceptible of much improvement, and might be advanced to a much higher condition.
From tables given by M. Spreeuwenberg ("Journal of the Indian Archipelago," vol. ii. p. 829) of the quantity of coffee delivered from each district of this island, for the years 1838 to 1842, it appears that the average annual delivery of coffee was 1,288,118 lbs.
Of the production of Sumatra I have no details, but a very fair proportion is grown there—about five million pounds.
Production of America and the West Indies.—The cultivation of the coffee plant is largely carried on in South and Central America and the West India Islands.
Its culture has greatly increased within the last few years in Venezuela, particularly in the valleys and on the sides of the hills. The exports from La Guayra, in 1833, were about twelve millions of pounds, being nearly double the quantity exported in 1830. The price there is about ten dollars the 100 lbs., which is still too high to enable it to enter into competition with the produce of Brazil or Cuba.
The total produce of coffee in Venezuela in 1839 was 254,567 quintals. The quintal is about 10 lbs. less than the English cwt.
La Guayra.—The exports of coffee from this port in 1796, were 283 quintals.
Quintals. 1843 164,066 1844 141,934 1845 134,585 1846 175,346 1847 130,671 1850 179,537
The exports of coffee from La Guayra have been declining within the past few years; the shipments were but 153,901 quintals in 1851, and only 124,623 in 1852.
Caracas coffee ranks in our market with good ordinary St. Domingo.
The decline in the produce of coffee in the British West India possessions has been very great. In 1838, we imported from the West India Islands and British Guiana 171/2 million pounds of coffee, in 1850 we only received 41/4 million pounds from thence. The shipments from Jamaica have decreased from about 15 million pounds in 1836, to 4 million pounds in 1850; Berbice and Demerara, from 5 million pounds in 1837, to about 8,000 pounds in 1850.
Production of coffee in the Brazils.—Forty-two years ago the annual crop of coffee in Brazil did not exceed 30,000 bags, and even in 1820 it only reached 100,000 bags. About that time the high price of coffee in England, superadded to the diminished production in Cuba, stimulated the Brazilian planters to extend its cultivation, and in 1830 they sent to market 400,000 bags, or 64,090,000 lbs., and in 1847, the enormous quantity of 300,000,000 lbs.
It would seem from the annexed figures that the production of coffee in Brazil doubled every five years, up to 1840, since when it has increased eighty per cent. The increase since 1835 has been upwards of two hundred millions of pounds, and of that increase the United States have taken one half.
lbs. 1820 15,312,000 1825 29,201,600 1830 62,685,600 1835 100,346,400 1840 170,208,800 1850 303,556,960
The sources from whence the United States derives its supplies of coffee are shown in the following table:—
Years. Brazil. Cuba. St. Domingo. Java. Total 1835 35,774,876 29,373,675 19,276,290 4,728,890 103,199,577 1840 47,412,756 25,331,888 9,153,524 4,343,254 94,996,095 1845 78,553,616 1,157,794 13,090,359 3,925,716 108,133,369 1850 90,319,511 3,740,803 19,440,985 5,146,961 144,986,895 1851 107,578,257 3,009,084 13,205,766 2,423,968 152,453,617
Coffee, up to 1830, paid a duty in the United States of five cents a pound. Since 1832 it has been free.
The population of the United States in 1840 was, in round numbers, seventeen millions; the average consumption of coffee for the three years ending 1841, 981/2 millions of pounds, which gave a consumption of 53/4 lbs. per head. The average for the three years ending 1850, was 143 millions of pounds, and the population was twenty-three millions, which gave a consumption of 61/4 lbs. per head. In 1830 the consumption was only 3 lbs. per head; but the price ruled nearly double what it was in the three years preceding 1850.
In 1821 the consumption per head, to the inhabitants of the United States, was 1 lb. 4 oz. In 1830, the proportion had increased to 3 lbs. per head, the foreign price having fallen fifty per cent. The importation in the year 1831 doubled, in consequence of the reduced duty; and the consumption per head for the four years ending with 1842, averaged 6 lb. per head, having quadrupled to each inhabitant since 1821. From 1820 to 1840, the Brazilian product increased 1,100 per cent, or 155 million pounds. In the same time the consumption in the United States increased 137 million pounds; leaving an increase of eighteen million pounds of Rio coffee, besides the enhanced products of all countries, to supply the increased consumption of England and Europe.
The consequence of the duty in England is, that while the United States, with a population of seventeen millions, consumed, in 1844, 149,711,820 lbs. of coffee, Great Britain, with a population of twenty-seven millions, consumed 31,934,000 lbs. only, or less than one-fourth the consumption of the United States. In 1851 the figures remained nearly the same, viz., 148,920,000 lbs. in the United States, and 32,564,000 lbs. for Great Britain.
The cultivation of coffee forms the present riches of Costa Rica, and has raised it to a state of prosperity unknown in any other part of Central America. It was begun about fifteen years ago; a few plants having been brought from New Granada, and the first trial being successful, it has rapidly extended. All the coffee is grown in the plain of San Jose, where the three principal towns are situated—about two-thirds being produced in the environs of the capital, a fourth in those of Hindia, and the remainder at Alhajuela, and its vicinity. The land which has been found by experience to be best suited to coffee is a black loam, and the next best, a dark-red earth—soils of a brown and dull yellow color being quite unsuitable. The plain of San Jose is mostly of the first class, being, like all the soils of Central America, formed with a large admixture of volcanic materials. Contrary to the experience of Java and Arabia Felix, coffee is here found to thrive much better, and produce a more healthy and equal berry on plain land, than upon hills, or undulating slopes, which doubtless arises from the former retaining its moisture better, and generally containing a larger deposit of loam.
I am inclined, in a great measure, to attribute the practice of sowing coffee in sloping land in Java to this fact, that the plains are usually occupied by the more profitable cultivation of sugar-canes. In Arabia, the plains are generally of a sandy nature (being lands which have, apparently, at no very distant geological period, formed the bed of the sea), which may account for the plantations existing only upon the low hills and slopes.
A coffee plantation in Costa Rica produces a crop the third year after it is planted, and is in perfection the fifth year. The coffee trees are planted in rows, with a space of about three yards between each and one between each plant, resembling in appearance hedges of the laurel bay. The weeds are cut down, and the earth slightly turned with a hoe, three or four times in the year; and the plant is not allowed to increase above the height of six feet, for the facility of gathering the fruit. The coffee tree here begins to flower in the months of March and April, and the berry ripens in the plains of San Jose in the months of November and December, strongly resembling a wild cherry in form and appearance, being covered with a similar sweet pulp.
As soon as the crimson color assumed by the ripe fruit indicates the time for cropping, numbers of men, women, and children are sent to gather the berry, which is piled in large heaps, to soften the pulp, for forty-eight hours, and then placed in tanks, through which a stream of water passes, when it is continually stirred, to free it from the outer pulp; after which it is spread out on a platform, with which every coffee estate is furnished, to dry in the sun; but there still exists an inner husk, which, when perfectly dry, is, in the smaller estates, removed by treading the berry under the feet of oxen; and in the larger, by water-mills, which bruise the berry slightly to break the husk, and afterwards separate it by fanners. The entire cost of producing a quintal (101 1-5 lbs. British) of coffee, including the keeping of the estate in order, cleaning and fanning the plants, and gathering and preparing the berries, is, at the present rate of wages (two rials, or about a shilling per day), calculated at two and a half dollars (equal to ten shillings); but the laborers are now hardly sufficient for working all the estates which are planted, so that the price may probably rise a little, though the present rate of payment enables the natives to live much better than has been their wont.
The coffee tree bears flowers only the second year, and its blossoms last only 24 hours. The returns of the third year are very abundant; at an average, each plant yielding a pound and a-half or two pounds of coffee.
The price of coffee in San Jose during the months of February, March and April, after which none can generally be met with, was, in 1846, about 5 dollars cash per quintal, the duty (which is collected for the repairs of the road) one rial more, so that the speculator makes at least ten rials, or about 20 per cent., by purchasing and sending the coffee to the port, on his outlay and charges; but it is often bartered for manufactured goods, and is also purchased before-hand, half being paid in imports and half in cash to the grower.
The largest coffee estates of Costa Rica are possessed by the family of Montealegre and Don Juan Moira. The principal of these I have examined. They appear to be very carefully and judiciously managed, possessing good mills for cleaning and husking the coffee, worked by water power; and annually producing 500 tons. The entire produce of the year 1836, amounted to about 3,000 tons, and the crop of 1847 exceeded 4,000 tons, near which quantity it will probably continue, till the population gradually increases, the laborers, as already mentioned, being barely sufficient for the present cultivation. As the value at the present average price in the English market of 50s. a cwt., will give L200,000, the produce of the district will appear pretty considerable for a petty American State, possessing only 80,000 inhabitants, and just emerging from a half-savage condition.—(Dunlop's "Central America.")
The cultivation of coffee on the plains of San Jose, in Costa Rica, according to Stephens, has increased rapidly within a few years. Seven years before, the whole crop was not more than 500 quintals, and in 1844 it amounted to 90,000.
Don Mariano Montealegre is one of the largest proprietors there, and had three plantations in that neighbourhood. One, which Mr. Stephens visited, contained 27,000 trees, and he was preparing to make great additions the next year. He had expended a large sum of money in buildings and machinery; and though his countrymen said he would ruin himself, every year he planted more trees. His wife, La Senora, was busily engaged in husking and drying the berries. In San Jose, by the way (he adds), all the ladies were what might be called good business-men, kept stores, bought and sold goods, looked out for bargains, and were particularly knowing in the article of coffee.
The coffee at Surinam is suffered to grow in three stems from the root, and when one of them does not produce plenty of berries, it is cast away, and the best shoot in appearance next the root is allowed to grow in its room. The trees are not permitted to rise higher than about five feet, so that the negroes can very easily pluck the berries, for gathering which there are two seasons, the one in May, or the beginning of June, and the other in October or the beginning of November. The berries are often plucked of unequal ripeness, which must greatly injure the quality of the coffee. It is true when the coffee is washed, the berries which float on the water are separated from the others; but they are only those of the worst quality, or broken pieces, while the half-ripe beans remain at the bottom with the rest. Now, in the description I have given of the method of gathering coffee in Arabia, it is seen that the tree is suffered to grow to its natural height, and the berries are gathered by shaking the tree, and making them fall on mats placed for them. By this way the Arabians harvest only the beans perfectly ripe at the time, and which must give the coffee a more delicate flavor. A tree will yield each time on an average from 1 lb. to 11/2 lb. of coffee, when pulped and perfectly dried. An acre of land planted with coffee, when favored by the weather, becomes more profitable than when it is planted with sugar canes; but its crops are always very precarious, as the blossoms, and even the berries, are sometimes damaged by the heavy rains, which are much less injurious to sugar canes; wherefore a planter feels himself best secured in his revenue, as soon as he can cultivate them both.
Nothing can exceed the beauty of the walks planted with coffee trees, from their pyramidical shape and from their glossy dark green leaves, shining with great brightness, amongst which are hanging the scarlet-coloured berries. Mr. Baird, in his "Impressions of the West Indies," thus speaks of a coffee plantation:—
"Anything in the way of cultivation more beautiful, or more fragrant, than a coffee plantation, I had not conceived; and oft did I say to myself, that if ever I became, from health and otherwise, a cultivator of the soil within the tropics, I would cultivate the coffee plant, even though I did so irrespective altogether of the profit that might be derived from so doing. Much has been written, and not without justice, of the rich fragrance of an orange grove; and at home we ofttimes hear of the sweet odors of a bean-field. I have, too, often enjoyed in the Carse of Stirling, and elsewhere in Scotland, the balmy breezes as they swept over the latter, particularly when the sun had burst out, with unusual strength, after a shower of rain. I have likewise, in Martinique, Santa Cruz, Jamaica, and Cuba, inhaled the gales wafted from the orangeries; but not for a moment would I compare either with the exquisite aromatic odors from a coffee plantation in full blow, when the hill-side—covered over with regular rows of the tree-like shrub, with their millions of jessamine-like flowers—showers down upon you, as you ride up between the plants, a perfume of the most delicately delicious description. 'Tis worth going to the West Indies to see the sight and inhale the perfume."
The decline in the quantities of coffee drawn from the "West Indies to supply the great demand, is manifest in the following summary of imports from those islands:—
lbs. In 1828 they exported about 30,000,000 1831 the imports from British West Indies were 20,017,623 1841 Ditto Ditto 9,904,230 1850, the last year in which distinct accounts 4,262,225 were kept —————- Decrease from 1831 15,755,398
Jamaica.—The coffee plant was first introduced into Jamaica by Sir Nicholas Lawes, in 1728, when it was cultivated on an estate called Temple Hall, in Liguanea, not far from Kingston. In 1752 there were exported 60,000 lbs.; and in 1775, 44,000 lbs. Until 1788 little attention was paid to this product. In the four years ending 30th September, 1794, the average exportation of coffee was 1,603,000 lbs.; in 1804 it amounted to 22,000,000 lbs.; and during the three years ending 30th September, 1807, the average annual exportation was more than 28,500,000 lbs.; which, at L6 per cwt., its cost in Jamaica, produced more than L1,700,000. It is calculated that L20,000,000 was invested in coffee estates. The coffee plant thrives in almost every soil about the mountains of Jamaica, and in the very driest spots has frequently produced abundant crops. In 1844 there were 671 coffee plantations in the island. Coffee is grown in the vicinity of the Blue Mountain Peak at a height of 4,700 feet above the level of the sea, and some of the finest and most productive plantations are in this locality. The branches of a coffee tree, on Radnor estate, covered, in 1851, a space of thirteen feet in diameter, and the tree was about thirteen years old.
In 1789 Hayti exported 77,000,000 lbs. of coffee, but in 1826 it had declined to 32,000,000 lbs., in 1837 it was 31,000,000 lbs., and the shipments of this staple are now very inconsiderable.
In the West Indies, I speak principally of Jamaica, where my experience extended, the soil best adapted for the cultivation of coffee is found to be loose gravelly or stony. A rich black mould will produce a luxuriant bush, which will yield little fruit. Decomposing sandstone, and slate, known in Jamaica as rotten rock, mixed with vegetable mould, is one of the most favorable soils. The subsoil should be also carefully examined by a boring augur, for a stiff moist clay, or marly bottom retentive of moisture, is particularly injurious to the plant. A dark, rusty-colored sand, or a ferruginous marl on a substratum of limestone, kills the tree in a few years. In virgin lands, after the wood has been felled and cleared, the land is lined off into rows of from six to seven feet square, and at each square a hole is made about eighteen inches deep, into which the young plant is placed and the earth plied gently about it, leaving from six to eight inches of the plant above ground.
Nurseries for raising plants from seeds were formerly made, but for many years this has been neglected, and plantations are set out now from suckers which are drawn and trimmed of their roots, and cut about two feet long.
The young plants require to be kept well clear from weeds, and four cleanings in the year may be deemed necessary, the plants which have failed must be supplied in order to ensure uniformity of appearance.
All manure, whether fluid or solid, in warm climates should be applied in wet seasons, where it is not practicable to dig or turn it in to prevent the escape of its volatile and nutritive principles.
As respects situation, coffee thrives best on elevated situations, where the morning sun has most influence; and on lower mountains, where the temperature is higher, in situations facing the south-east, or where the sun does not act with such intensity. Low mountains, in which the thermometer ranges from 75 to 90 degrees Fahr., as well as those exposed to sea breezes, are less suitable for the cultivation of coffee than those districts where the temperature averages 65 to 80 degrees Fahr., and situated at higher elevations in the interior.
As a general rule, it may be asserted that the elevation best adapted for coffee is at an altitude ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 feet, at a temperature from 70 to 75 degrees Fahr. A west or south-west aspect is the best, and the field should be well sheltered from the north breezes. As a general rule in planting in light soils and high temperatures, trees may be placed at the distance of four or five feet, while in stronger soils and lower temperatures the average distance would be from five to seven feet.
Topping.—The young tree shoots out its lateral branches at each joint, which follow in regular succession, till the tree attains the height of about four feet six inches, when it is usual to top it down to four feet. But care should be taken that the wood has ripened, which is known by its assuming a brown and hard appearance, This strengthens the vegetation of the branches, which begin to throw out buds, and these shortly form collateral branches; in the course of eighteen months after the tree will have arrived at its bearing point. Trees, after being topped, throw off suckers, which are called gormandizers, from each joint, but more especially at the head. They should be plucked off with care, but not cut, as the sap would flow more readily if cut.
In pruning, one of the main objects is the admission of a free circulation of air and light through the branches to the root of the tree. No general rules can be laid down for pruning; much must depend on judgment, experience, and a nice eye to appearance and preservation of primary branches for bearing and ripening wood for the ensuing year, as well as to regulate and proportion the size of the tree to the functions of the roots in supplying sustenance, and the convenience of picking the berries when ripe. Every old bough which has seen its day, every wilful shoot growing in a wrong direction, every fork, every cross branch or dead limb, must be cut away.
The blossoming, and ripening of the fruit varies according to the situation and temperature of the plantation. In low and hot situations, where the thermometer ranges from 78 to 90 degrees, the tree shows its first blossoms when about two-and-a-half years old. In higher and colder situations the tree will not blossom in profusion until the fourth or fifth year. If there be light showers, the blossoms will continue on the tree for a week or more, and by the setting of the blossoms the planter can determine what germs will become fruit. The trees will blossom in low situations as early as March, but the April bloom is considered the most abundant. In higher elevations, the trees will bloom even so late as August or September. In warm climates the fruit advances as rapidly, and in a month will have attained the size of a pea; in more elevated and colder localities, it will take two months to arrive at this stage. The fruit will be ripe in from six to eight months after the blossom has set; it ripens in warm districts about the month of August, while in others the crop will not be mature till February. An acre will usually contain 1,200 trees in Jamaica, and the produce would be about 400 lbs. of coffee an acre, or six ounces as the produce of each tree annually. In some instances, but very seldom, one pound a tree may be obtained. A bushel of cherry coffee will produce about ten or twelve pounds of merchantable coffee.
The coffee berry, after being pulped and soaked for a day and night to free it from the mucilage, is spread out on barbacues to dry; in ten or twelve days, if the weather has been good, it will be sufficiently cured for the peeling mill.
Mr. W.H. Marah, of Jamaica, in a Prize Essay on the Cultivation and Manufacture of Coffee in that Island, published in my "Colonial Magazine," makes some useful remarks:—
The manufacture of this staple commodity, with a view to its improvement in quality, is a subject which demands our serious attention; and when we observe the vast importance and pecuniary advantage which accrue upon the slightest shade of improvement either in colour or appearance, it becomes the more imperative on us to use all those means which are available, in order to place ourselves on a footing with the foreign grower. It is true that we are unable to enter the contest with the East Indian or slave cultivator, from the abundance and cheapness of labour which is placed at their command; but by means of our skill and assiduity, we can successfully compete with them by the manufacture of superior produce.
To this portion of plantation management I have given an attentive inquiry, and shall shortly proceed to state my views on the system best adapted to the curing and preparing for market of good quality produce.
The fruit should be gathered in when in a blood-ripe state, to all appearance like cherries. The labourers are principally accustomed to reap the crop in baskets, of which they carry two to the field; and when the coffee is bearing heavily, and is at its full stage of ripeness, the good pickers will gather in four bushels per diem, and carry the same on their heads to the works.
The fruit is then measured and thrown into a loft above the pulper in a heap. It should be submitted to the first process of machinery, the pulper, within twenty-four hours after, if not immediately; but it not unfrequently happens that the manager is unable to pulp his coffee for two and sometimes three days, by which time fermentation ensues, and it becomes impossible after pulping to wash off the mucilage, which rather adheres to the outer envelope of the berry, and gives the produce what is termed a "red" or "blanketty" appearance when spread out on the barbacues. The produce is let down by means of a small hole cut into the floor of the loft, or a floating box, into the hopper of the pulper, and by means of a grater forcing the fruit against the chops, the berries are dislodged from the pulp and fall upon a sieve, which being shaken by the machinery, lets the berries fall into the cistern, whilst the grater catches the pulp and carries it backwards at each evolution of the roller, around which it is encircled.
The fruit which might have passed through without being more than half squeezed, and having only ejected one berry, is then returned (after being shaken off by the sieve) into the hopper, to undergo the process a second time. The pulped coffee is then permitted to remain in the cistern for a day and a night, during which period it undergoes a process of fermentation; it is then washed out in two or three waters, and the whole of the mucilaginous stuff which had risen from the berry by the fermentation is entirely washed off, and the coffee presents a beautiful white appearance. From this the produce is turned out to drain on a barbacue, sloped so as to throw all the water to the centre, where a drain is placed to carry it all off.
In an hour or so after, the coffee may be removed to the barbacues for curing; it is there spread out thinly and exposed to the sun, which, if shining strong, will in eight or nine hours absorb all the water, and the coffee be fit for housing that day. I say fit for housing, because I have repeatedly seen coffee washed out early in the morning and put up the same evening. I cannot say I approve of the system, though in fine weather it has been attended with success. From the time the coffee is first exposed to the sun till the silver skin starts, is the stage, in my opinion, during which the produce suffers most injury. In the first instance, it should be kept constantly turned, in order to get the water absorbed as early as possible; and after it has been housed, the greatest precaution should be taken to prevent its heating: and it is for this reason that I disapprove of early housing, for if wet weather should intervene, and the coffee cannot be turned out, it is sure to get heated. From this neglect I have seen a perfect steam issuing from the house in the morning when the doors have been opened; and I have known, as a natural consequence, the adhesion of the silver skin to the berry so firm, that it could not be removed by a sharp penknife without slicing the berry.
In a succession of wet weather the produce has remained on the barbacues for several weeks, without the slightest advance in curing; and, unless it be frequently turned while in this wet state, it is sure to germinate; the berries first swell, then a thin white spire issues from the seam, and on opening the berry the young leaves will be actually seen formed inside, so rapid is the course of vegetation.
I am of opinion that coffee should not be housed till the silver skin begins to start, when no danger can ensue; for if a few wet days should intervene, by turning the coffee over in the house, and allowing a current of air to pass through it, it will keep for weeks. It is at this stage that the parchment skin begins to show itself, for at first it adheres to the inner kernel, but the heat of the sun starts it from its hold and it separates; thus, on shaking a handful of the produce it will be heard to rattle, a sure indication that the silver skin has risen from the bean, without even threshing it to ascertain the fact. The bean is perfectly white till the silver skin starts; it then begins gradually to assume the dark, or what is called the half-cured appearance. A good day's strong sun will then half cure it, and by subsequent exposure the produce takes another stage, and gradually loses the half-cured, and assumes a blue colour; and when the produce is properly cured and fit for the mill, not the slightest dark spot will be perceptible in the bean, but it will exhibit a horny blue colour.
It is within my observation that coffee has been gathered from the field on the Monday, and prepared for market on the Saturday, in a spell of dry weather; but I have known it also to lie on the barbacues for as many weeks in contrary weather, before it had gone through the same ordeal. With good weather and smooth terraces whereon to cure, nothing but gross ignorance and unpardonable carelessness can produce a bad quality of coffee. The difficulty arises in wet weather, when one's skill and assiduity is called into action to save the produce from being spoiled. After coffee has been half-cured, the putting it up hot at an early period of the day has the effect of curing it all night. I have noticed produce housed in this manner, and requiring another day's exposure to fit it for the mill, found perfectly cured next morning.
The barbacues should be kept in good order—all ruts and holes neatly patched every crop, for to them and other roughnesses is to be attributed the peeling of the berries, their being scratched, and various injuries which the produce sustains. And while on the subject of "Works," I cannot help noticing the extreme carelessness and inattention which, on visiting properties, the works and buildings present to our view. It is utterly impossible to manufacture good produce unless the machinery and buildings are kept in good order; and the parsimony which is thus displayed in this necessary outlay is fallacious, when one thinks of the result of one or two shillings per 100 lbs. lost on a crop through this neglect.
When the coffee is perfectly cured—which is generally ascertained by threshing out a few berries in one's hands, and seeing if it has attained its horny blue colour—it is then fit for milling, which is the second process of machinery which it has to undergo. Here the parchment and silver skins are dislodged from the berry, by means of the friction of a large roller passing over the produce in a wooden trough. It is then taken out of the trough, and submitted to the fanner or winnowing machine, when the trash is all blown away, and the coffee, passing through two or three sieves, comes away perfectly clean and partially sized. From this it is again sieved in order to size it properly, hand-picked, put into bags, and sent on mules' backs to the wharf. It is then put into tierces and sold in the Kingston market, or shipped to Britain.
A variety of circumstances tend to injure the quality of the coffee, which it is beyond human agency to control. Dry weather intervening at the particular period when the berry is getting full, subjects it to be stinted and shrivelled; and strong dry breezes happening at the same period, will cause an adhesion of the silver skin which the ordinary process of curing and manufacture will not remove. Late discoveries in the latter have, however, shown the possibility of divesting the produce of that silvery appearance, when brought about under the foregoing circumstances. It is almost, unnecessary to state that this improvement in manufacture refers to the inventions of Messrs. Myers and Meacock, whose respective merits have already undergone public revision. In reference to Mr. Myers' plan of immersing coffee in warm water, I may be allowed to state that it has come under my own observation, that produce which had previously been heated through some carelessness in the curing, subsequently was exposed to a slight sprinkling of rain, and when ground out and fanned, was found to have lost its silvery appearance.
To the invention of Mr. Meacock, a preference has, however, been given, in consequence of the impression that the produce thus immersed in water will absorb a portion of the liquid, which will deteriorate its quality in its passage across the Atlantic. Several gentlemen have shipped coffee submitted to this process to England, but I have not learnt the result.
It appears very manifest that a great deal might be done in the way of machinery, to relieve produce of that silvery or foxy appearance which is so prejudicial to its value in the British market, and which appearances might accrue from a variety of incidents to which all plantations are more or less subject.
A manifest preference is given in the leading European markets to coffee which has gone through the pulping and washing process; but, strange to say, the consumers of this beverage are totally ignorant of the fact, that the produce which is cured in the pulp furnishes a stronger decoction than an equal quantity of the same which has undergone the other process. Many persons are of opinion that the mucilaginous substance which is washed off in pulping is absorbed by the bean when cured in the pulp, and which gives strength to the produce and enhances its aromatic flavour. On most properties it has been customary to cure the remnants of the crop in this way, for the use of the plantation; and it has been well noticed by great epicures in the flavour of the decoction, that the coffee thus cured produced the strongest and best beverage."
Trinidad.—The coffee plant does not succeed well in Trinidad, the tree giving but little fruit, and perishing at the end of ten or twelve years; though the article is always of a superior quality, and has the advantage over that of Martinique and the other Antilles of not requiring age to produce an agreeable beverage. It is from the fault and obstinate attachment to old habits of the planters, that this cultivation has not been more successful in Trinidad. Because coffee trees thrive in St. Domingo, Guadalupe, Dominica, St. Lucia and Martinique, on the hills, they had concluded that it would be the same in Trinidad; without noticing that the hills of that island are composed only of schistus covered with gravel, on which lies a light layer of vegetative earth, that the rain washes away after some years of cultivation; whilst the hills of the Antilles, much more high and cool, are covered with a deep bed of earth, which is retained by enormous blocks of stone, that at the same time maintain humidity and freshness.
Messrs. Branbrun, of Tacarigua, and Don Juan de Arestimuno, of Cariaco, worthy and intelligent planters, some years ago adopted the plan of planting coffee trees on the plains, in the manner cacao trees are planted, that is, in the shade of the Erythrina, and this mode of cultivation has perfectly succeeded. It is to be hoped that their success will encourage the cultivation of this valuable tree in the united provinces of Venezuela, and in those parts of Trinidad which were deemed unfavorable to it from the too great dryness of the climate.
In 1796, the year preceding its capture, there were 130 coffee plantations in Trinidad, which produced 330,000 lbs. of coffee. In 1802, the produce had slightly increased to 358,660 lbs., but there were two plantations less.
In the island of Grenada, according to the returns made to the local Treasury of the staple products raised, while there were 64,654 lbs. made-in 1829, the quantity had decreased to 13,651 lbs. in 1837.
The colony of British Guiana was formerly noted for its produce of coffee. The following figures mark the decline of the culture of this staple, showing the exports in Dutch pounds:—
Demerara and Essequibo. Berbice.
1834 1,102,200 1,429,800 1835 1,299,080 1,979,850 1836 2,117,250 2,684,100 1837 1,849,650 2,217,300 1838 2,486,240 1,700,550 1839 747,450 1,255,800 1840 1,531,350 1,825,950 1841 568,920 519,750 1842 1,372,650 804,470 1843 428,800 999,300 1844 716,137 774,600
Thus the exports of the colony which in 1836 were 4,801,350 lbs. had declined in 1844 to 1,490,737; whilst in 1831 we received from British Guiana 3,576,754 lbs. of coffee, in 1850 we only received 8,472 lbs.
There are about 500 acres under cultivation with coffee in St. Lucia. The exports, which in 1840 were 323,820 lbs., had declined, in 1844, to 58,834 lbs.
The British West Indies exported to Great Britain, in 1829 and 1850, the following quantities of coffee:—
1829. 1850. lbs. lbs. Jamaica 18,690,654 4,156,210 Demerara 4,680,118 17,774 Berbice 2,482,898 698 Trinidad 73,667 96,376 Dominica 942,114 792 St. Lucia 303,499 35
Cuba.—For the following valuable remarks and details of coffee culture in Cuba, I am indebted to Dr. Turnbulls "Travels in the West:"—
At the period of the breaking out of the French revolution, the cultivation of coffee could scarcely be said to have reached the South American continent; so that till that its cultivation was in a great measure confined to Arabia and the Caribbean Archipelago. Its extreme scarcity during the war enhanced its price so enormously, that on the first announcement of peace in 1814, the plants were multiplied to infinity, and coffee plantations were formed in every possible situation—on the Coste Firme of South America, along the Brazilian shores of that continent, and even at some points on the coast of Southern Africa. To show the extreme rapidity with which the cultivation has been extended, take the statistical returns of La Guayra, the chief port of the State of Venezuela, from whence the whole export of coffee in the year 1789 was not more than ten tons; and of late years from that port alone, and in spite of the internal disunions of the country, it has reached the enormous quantity of 2,500 tons. In the Isle of Bourbon (now Reunion), and the Mauritius and Ceylon, the planters have also applied themselves to this branch of industry; it has been prosecuted successfully in our Eastern Possessions, and the French government, not content with the natural influence of the universal demand for it, have been endeavouring to stimulate the production by means of premiums and other artificial advantages.
In forming a coffee plantation, the choice of situation and soil becomes a consideration of the first importance. A very high temperature is by no means a favourable condition. If a spot could be found where the range of the Fahrenheit thermometer did not sink below 75 degrees, nor rise above 80 degrees, and where the soil was otherwise suitable, no planter could desire a more favourable situation. In the mountainous islands of Jamaica and St. Domingo, the nearest approach to this temperature is found where the elevation is not less than 2,000, and not more than 3,000 feet above the level of the sea; and it is most successfully cultivated in the two islands I have named. The Island of Cuba being much less mountainous, but at the same time being nearer the tropical limit, the planter in seeking the degree of heat he requires is forced to confine himself in a great measure to the northern side of the island, where, accordingly, we find that the cultivation of coffee is most successfully carried on.
The vicinity of the cafetal to a convenient place of embarcation, enters largely, of course, into the consideration of the planter when choosing a suitable locality. A compact form is also thought desirable, in order to save the time and labour of the negroes; and the ordinary extent is about six caballerias, or something less than 200 English acres.
The locality being finally chosen, such open places are formed or selected, from distance to distance, as may be found most suitable, in respect to shade and moisture, for the establishment of convenient nurseries. The fruit which has been gathered in the beginning of the month of October, and which has been dried in the shade, is preferred for seed. The seed is sown in drills half a yard asunder, and introduced, two beans together, by means of a dibble, into holes two inches deep and ten or twelve inches apart. The extent of one of these nurseries is generally about 100 yards square, which, with such intervals as I have mentioned, ought to contain about 60,000 plants.
A quarter of a caballeria, or about eight English acres, is visually set apart, in a central and convenient position, for the site of the buildings, and for growing provisions for the use of the labourers on the future plantation. In favourable seasons it is found that heavier crops are obtained from coffee trees left wholly unshaded; but, in the average of two years, it seems to be settled, in the island of Cuba at least, that a moderate degree of protection from the scorching rays of the sun produces a steadier, and, upon the whole, a more advantageous return.
The distribution of the land into right-angled sections, and the planting of the trees in straight lines, is so contrived as to favour the future supervision of the labourers much more than from any strict attention to mere symmetry. The distance of the trees from each other ought to be regulated by the quality of the soil, and the degrees of heat and shade they are to enjoy. The ranges from north to south are usually four yards apart, and those from east to west not more than three; but the lower the temperature the wider should be the interval, because in that case the vegetation is more active and more rapid, and the tree requires a wider space over which to extend itself.
The best season for planting the trees is the middle of the month of May, if there be then a sufficient degree of moisture; but the operation is often performed successfully during the rainy month of October; subject always to the risk, however, of serious injury to the young plantation from the north winds which prevail at that advanced season of the year. The holes prepared to receive the plants are eighteen inches in diameter, and about two feet deep.
In the island of Cuba there are two rival modes of planting the coffee tree. The one is called "la siembra a la mota;" the other "la siembra a la estaca."
By the method "a la mota," a circle is formed around the plant in the nursery, and care is taken to remove it without disturbing the earth around the roots. The plants are then placed carefully in willow baskets, prepared for the purpose, and carried to the holes already opened for their reception; gathering up the earth around the stem, and pressing it carefully down with the foot, in such a manner as to form a basin or filter for the reception of the rain-water, and for suffering it to percolate among the roots, and also to provide a convenient place of deposit for the subsequent application of manure.
The "siembra a la estaca" is differently executed. Such plants are selected from the nursery as are of the thickness of the little finger, or from that to an inch in diameter. In withdrawing them from the ground, great care is taken not to injure or compress the bulbs or buttons within, eight or ten inches of the level of the soil, because these are to serve for the production of fresh roots when the "estaca" is afterwards planted more deeply in its permanent position. The greater part of the capillary roots are cut away with a knife; but a few, together with the principal root, are suffered to remain from four to six inches long. In planting them, from three to four inches of the trunk are left above ground. The little basin of earth for the reception and filtration of the rain-water, is not so large in the stake system of planting as in that with the clod of earth "a la mota;" but if the soil be poor, it must be proportionably enlarged to admit the application of the necessary quantity of manure.
The stake system, requiring much less labour than the other, is generally preferred; but when there is abundance of shade to protect the young plant from drought, and always, of course, in replacing the decayed trees of an old plantation, it is considered more desirable to remove the whole plant, its roots and branches entire, with as much as possible of the adhering soil from the nursery, according to the system "a la mota."
In the third or fourth year of the plantation, the trees, according to the best system of husbandry, are pruned down to the height of three feet from the ground on the richest soil, and still lower in proportion to its sterility. All the branches which are not as nearly as possible at right angles with the trunk, are likewise removed by the pruning-knife, so that in the following spring the whole stem is covered with fresh shoots. By this operation the power of nature seems to be exhausted, as for that year the trees in general bear no fruit; but in subsequent seasons the loss is amply repaid by a crop often greater than the branches can support, or than the flow of nourishment is always able to bring to full size and maturity.
The machinery for removing the external pulp of the coffee-bean is seldom of a very perfect description in this island, and the loss sustained in consequence is often very considerable. It is almost uniformly moved by the power of horses or oxen, working in a gin, and the name it bears is that of the Descerecador. The Barbecues, when the coffee is laid out to dry, are called indiscriminately Tendales or Secadores. They are more numerous and of smaller dimensions than is customary in the British colonies, where a single barbecue, laid down with tiles or plaster, is considered sufficient for a whole estate.
The warehouse for receiving the crop and preserving the coffee after it is put into bags and ready for the market, is generally of such limited dimensions as to be barely sufficient for the purposes for which it is designed; so that, when the harvest has been abundant, or when anything has occurred to interfere with the despatch of what is ready for removal, the constant accumulation is attended with serious inconvenience. In fact, the occupation of the coffee planter has been for some time on the decline in the island, owing to the superior rate of profit derived from the making of sugar; and everything reminds you of it, the moleno de pilar, the aventador, and the separador, down to the humblest implement of husbandry on the estate.
The gathering of the fruit commences in Cuba in August; but November and December are the most active and important months of the harvests. The labourers are sent out with two baskets each, one large, the other small. Every labourer has a file of coffee trees assigned to him; the large basket he leaves near the place where his work is to begin; the other he carries with him to receive the berries from the trees; and as often as it is full he empties it into the large one. The baskets are made of rushes, willows, or bamboo; and the large one is of such a size that three of them ought to fill the barrel, without top or bottom, which serves the purposes of a measure at the Tendal or Secador.
Three baskets, or one barrel-measure, of the newly-gathered coffee berry, ought to produce thirty pounds after the process of drying, the removal of the pulp, and the final preparation for the market. When there is a sufficient number, or a sufficient space of Barbecues or Secadors, sixty or seventy barrels only are put together; but from want of room it often happens that the quantity amounts to a hundred barrels. In either case, the whole is gathered into two great heaps, and in this state it is allowed to remain for four-and-twenty hours, in order to subject it to a certain degree of fermentation. After this, it is spread out to dry over the whole surface of the Barbecue, and until it is sufficiently so, it remains there uncovered day and night. When the dessication is found to be far enough advanced, it is no longer exposed during the night; nor even during the day, if the weather be damp or unfavorable. The subsequent operations are certainly not better, probably not so well, conducted as in our own West India possessions.
In the fourth year, it is presumed that the agricultural produce of the land, and the first returns of coffee, should be sufficient to meet all the current expenses. At the end of the fifth year there ought to be forty thousand coffee trees four years old on the estate, 60,000 of three years, and 100,000 of two and one year, the produce of which ought to be at least 400 quintals, which, at a moderate estimate, should be worth 2,400 dollars. Thus the calculation goes on until we arrive at the end of the seventh year, when the estate ought to be in full bearing. The returns are estimated at 3,000 arrobas, or 750 quintals, which, at eight dollars per quintal delivered free on board, make 6,000 dollars. The minor products of the estate, such as Indian corn, pigs, and oil, are given at 1,130 dollars, making the gross returns 7,130 dollars; and, after deducting the annual expenses, leaving 5,300 dollars as the regular return on the capital invested, which, having been about 40,000 dollars, gives about thirteen per cent.; not certainly to be considered extravagant in a country where twelve per cent, is the regular rate of interest. The produce of coffee from each section is given at 400 arrobas, or 3,500 arrobas for the whole of the nine sections. The average price of coffee, free of the expense of carriage, is assumed to be two dollars the arroba, or eight dollars per quintal, which would give a return of 7,200 dollars, besides the repayment of the rent by the colonists.
The cultivation of coffee has been falling off in Cuba for several years past, the crops it is asserted being too precarious there, and the prices too low to encourage the continuance of planting. On the northern side of the island is where this decrease is most perceptible, several of the largest estates having been converted to the growth of sugar and tobacco, others abandoned to serve as pasture fields, and the very few remaining yielding less and less every year. Henceforward the culture of this berry here is likely to be very insignificant, and not many years will elapse before the amount produced will merely suffice for the local consumption. About St. Jago de Cuba the cultivation is more attended to, the article forming still their principal export. Taking five quinquennial periods, the following figures show the average annual exports of coffee:—
arrobas. 1826 to 1830 1,718,865 1830 " 1835 1,995,832 1835 " 1840 1,877,646 1841 " 1846 1,887,444 1846 " 1851 768,244
The better to exhibit the decrease of production throughout the island, I may state that the export from 1839 to 1841 inclusive, was in the aggregate 1,332,221 quintals; 1842 to 1844, inclusive, was in the aggregate 1,217,666 quintals; 1845 to 1847, inclusive, was in the aggregate but 583,208 quintals. The exports of coffee for the whole island, were, in 1840, 2,197,771 arrobas; in 1841, 1,260,9201/2 arrobas.
In 1847 there were 2,064 plantations under cultivation with coffee in Cuba, in 1846 there were only 1,670. The production of 1849 was 1,470,754 arrobas, valued at 2,206,131 dollars. From the year 1841 to 1846, the average yearly production was 45,236,100 lbs.; but from 1846 to 1851, it was only 19,206,100 lbs.; showing a falling off of 72 per cent.; the production still further decreased in 1851, it being only 13,004,350 lbs., or 1.52 per cent. less than the preceding year. This enormous decline in the production of coffee has been caused by the low price of the article in the markets of Europe and the United States, coupled with the more remunerative price of sugar, during the same period; causing capitalists rather to invest money in the formation of new sugar estates. As a consequence, many coffee plantations have been turned into cane cultivation; or, being abandoned, the slaves attached thereto were sold or leased to sugar planters.
The following is private information from a correspondent:—
"We generally plant about 200,000 trees within a space of 500 feet, choosing the strongest soil. I have adopted a different system from the one generally in use here, for they usually plant the trees too near each other. I find by giving them space and air, that the plant develops itself and yields more beans. It is very important to protect the trees from the rays of the sun, for which purpose I plant bananas at intermediate rows; their broad leaves, like parasols, shed a delightful shade round the coffee plant, and tend to accumulate the moisture which strengthens the roots of the young tree.
When the tree is about two years old the top branches are lopped off for the purpose of throwing the sap into the bean. Some planters cut the trees so short, that they do not allow them to stand more than five or six feet above the ground; but I allow mine to attain greater height prior to lopping them, whereby they produce larger crops. Nor do I allow my negroes to beat the trees, or force them to pluck a certain quantity a day, for I discovered that they picked the ripe and unripe beans indiscriminately—frequently injuring the trees. I only allow them to shake the tree, and pick up the beans that have fallen during the night."
Coffee exports from the ports of Havana and Matanzas, in Cuba, for the years ending December in
Quintals. 1839 344,725 1840 402,135 1841 212,767 1842 314,191 1843 223,265 1844 186,349 1845 42,409 1846 65,045 1847 106,904 1848 31,674 1849 92,974 1852 42,510
Porto Rico exported 85,384 cwt. of coffee in 1839.
Africa.—Coffee will require some four years to grow before it will give to the cultivator any income, but it should be known that after that time the tree, with little or no labor bestowed on it, will yield two crops a year. The quality of coffee grown in the republic of Liberia, on the western coast of Africa, is pronounced by competent judges to be equal to any in the world. In numerous instances, trees full of coffee, are seen at only three years old. 214 casks and bags of coffee were imported from the western coast of Africa in 1846.
Coffee, it has been proved, can be cultivated with great ease to any extent in the republic of Liberia, being indigenous to the soil, and found in great abundance. It bears fruit from thirty to forty years, and yields 10 lbs. to the shrub yearly! A single tree in the garden of Colonel Hicks, a colonist at Monrovia, is said to have yielded the enormous quantity of 16 lbs. at one gathering. Judge Benson, in 1850, had brought 25 acres under cultivation, and many others had also devoted themselves to raising coffee. It was estimated there were about 30,000 coffee trees planted in one of the counties, that of Grand Bassa, and the quality of the produce was stated to be equal to the best Java.
About the villages and settlements of the Sherbro river, and Sierra Leone, wild coffee-trees are very abundant. In several parts of the interior, the natives make use of the shrub to fence their plantations.
Coffee has been successfully grown at St. Helena, of an excellent quality, and might be made an article of export.
Portugal sent to the Great Exhibition, in 1851, a very valuable series of coffees from many of her colonies; of ordinary description from St. Thomas; tolerably good from the Cape de Verd islands; bad from Timor; worse (but curious from the very small size of the berry) from Mozambique; good from Angola; and excellent from Madeira.
Aden, alias Mocha coffee, is, along with the other coffees of the Red Sea, sent first to Bombay by Arab ships, where it is "garbelled," or picked, previously to its being exported to England.
An excellent sample of coffee, apparently of the Barbera (Abyssinia) variety, was contributed to the Great Exhibition from Norfolk Island. It was of good color, well adapted for roasting, and a most desirable novelty from that quarter.
Dr. Gardner, of Ceylon, has taken out a patent for preparing the coffee leaf in a manner to afford a beverage like tea, that is by infusion, "forming an agreeable refreshing and nutritive article of diet." An infusion of the coffee-leaf has long been an article of universal consumption amongst the natives of parts of Sumatra; wherever the coffee is grown, the leaf has become one of the necessaries of life, which the natives regard as indispensable.
The coffee-plant, in a congenial soil and climate, exhibits great luxuriance in its foliage, throwing out abundance of suckers and lateral stems, especially when from any cause the main stem is thrown out of the perpendicular, to which it is very liable from its great superincumbent weight compared with the hold of its root in the ground. The native planters, availing themselves of this propensity, often give this plant a considerable inclination, not only to increase the foliage, but to obtain new fruit-bearing stems, when the old ones become unproductive. It is also found desirable to limit the height of the plant by lopping off the top to increase the produce, and facilitate the collecting it, and fresh sprouts in abundance are the certain consequence. These are so many causes of the development of a vegetation, which becomes injurious to the quantity of the fruit or berry unless removed; and when this superabundant foliage can be converted into an article of consumption, as hitherto the case in Sumatra, the culture must become the more profitable; and it is clearly the interest of the planters of Ceylon to respond to the call of Dr. Gardner, and by supplying the leaf on reasonable terms, to assist in creating a demand for an article they have in abundance, and which for the want of that demand is of no value to them. It ought to be mentioned also, that the leaves which become ripe and yellow on the tree and fall off in the course of nature, contain the largest portion of extract, and make the richest infusion; and I have no doubt, should the coffee leaf ever come into general use, the ripe leaf will be collected with as much care as the ripe fruit.