Try some St Helena Coffee from our plantation at historic Wranghams in Sandy Bay!
We are a small coffee producer, but we sell 125g bags of either roasted beans or ground coffee at reasonable prices (currently £8 per 125g bag, excluding any shipping costs). Contact us to find out more.
St Helena Coffee is a unique and pure single-origin variety known as ‘Green-Tipped Bourbon Arabica’. Plants were imported to St Helena in the 1730s from Mocha, in Yemen, and all plants on the island derive from that original stock. The moist, warm climate of Wranghams, at around 520 metres elevation, is perfect for growing the very best beans; read much more detail about this process in this excellent blog.
Visitors to Wranghams are often surprised that coffee beans start off as beautiful and delicate white flowers surrounded by lush green shoots and growth. This normally happens in the summer – but sometimes bushes can flower early, if there is enough rain or warmth, or late, if summer is dry and cold.
After flowering, small green cherries start to form during the cooler weather, but only on last year’s new growth.
As the weather turns warmer in the spring and early summer, the coffee cherries start to ripen.
When the cherries are fully ripe, we pick them – by hand, making sure that we only pick the ripe beans – we’ll be back for the green beans once they are the right red color.
Once picked, we put the cherries in buckets ready for the first step in the process to get to the beans inside. Putting them in water helps to soften the skins.
The first step is ‘pulping’, which basicall means removing the skins from the cherries to leave the beans inside. We use a manual pulping machine, which basically gently squeezes the cherries with a rough drum to separate the skins from the beans. The beans pop out the front, and the skins drop down the middle. Water helps here as well, and we sometimes have to put the cherries through the machine a couple of times. Some manual work is needed to sort through the skins, to make sure we lose as few beans as possible. Skins go in the compost, beans go back in buckets full of water.
The next step in the process is fermenting the beans in water for a few days, to remove the rather slimy coating, and then air drying the cleaned beans. We put the wet beans on wooden racks, either out in the sun, or if it’s raining, we use a polytunnel (a type of greenhouse). When the beans have dried out enough – we test them with a moisture meter – we put them in sacks and store them ready for ‘hulling’, which we do using a machine managed by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department at Scotland (not Scotland in the UK, but Scotland, an area of St Helena!).
Once the beans have been hulled, we put them back in hessian sacks and store them in dry conditions. The final step before roasting is grading, which means sorting the beans by size, because it improves the quality of the final coffee if beans of the same size are roasted together. For this we use two steel sieves held in a wooden frame, and shake the beans against the holes. One sieve separates the largest beans, and the second sieve separates the broken beans and any ‘peabody’ beans – peabody beans are those which have a single body rather than a body split into two. They look like peas, hence peabody.
Once sorted, we roast in small batches (250g) using two ‘Gene Cafe 101‘ electric roasters. As a relatively small coffee producer, this helps us roast as we get orders for coffee, so that the coffee is a fresh as possible. If we get bigger, we may have to upgrade to professional grade machines, but for the time being these work very well.
The last step is to let the coffee cool, and bag it, either ground or bean. For grinding we use a conical burr-type grinder, since it gives a consistent ground coffee. We use sealed resealable bags, with one-way valves to keep the coffee as fresh as possible.
Finally, it’s time to brew a lovely cappuccino or latte (we use a Sage Barista Express)!