There’s nothing easy about coffee production. The small-scale growers who produce much of the available high-end, specialty coffees do all the work by hand. Coffee plants grow at high altitudes, in tropical regions, where it’s hot and humid, so every step, from planting and weeding to harvest, is often done under a punishing sun.
Even in the age of efficient machines and technological leapfrogging, coffee production is decidedly low tech.
In the coffee-growing regions of Mexico I’ve visited—including Oaxaca, Chiapas and Puebla—campesinos (rural workers or residents) carry sacks of coffee on their backs from their fields to their homes, where it’s washed and then spread out to dry on rooftops. Once it’s dried, which takes several days, it’s bagged and carried—sometimes just a short distance to the bus, sometimes as long as seven hours through mountains—to warehouses where the coffee is sold. Sacks of dried coffee weigh 70 to 100 pounds.