When I asked J's Mum what she would like to do while visiting us, she said she would like to visit the coffee plantation. So off we went to the Rosemary Gate Estate.
We were greeted by Bill, an ex something-in-steel from Sheffield who came to live in St Helena and started growing coffee for something to do. A decade on, he and his wife Gill produce 2.5 tons a year and run a rather lovely Coffee Shop in Jamestown. They grow a variety called Bourbon Arabica from the Yemen which was originally brought to St Helena in 1732.
First we were shown the nursery area where new plants are grown from seed. These ones are about a year old.
A mature coffee plant is actually a medium to large tree so they are heavily pruned to keep them about 5 foot high.
They have beautiful little flowers with a lovely Jasmine scent.
These develop into 'cherries' which are picked once a week from October to February.
Inside each cherry is the bean, or actually two beans.
The flesh of the cherry is removed on a giant cheese grater, then the parchment beans are fermented in water to loosen the husk.
They are dried in the sun before being stored for turning into coffee. The trays of beans each need about 48 hours of sunshine to dry out and the moisture levels are monitored to make sure they reach 11%.
Then the parchment can be removed.
Another machine! The parchment is delivered to the local egg farm for use in the nest boxes in return for sacks of chicken mature which are used to fertilise the coffee plants.
The prepared beans are pretty much odourless and tasteless until they are roasted. They are roasted on a weekly basis to ensure freshness.
Apparently you can tell when they are ready because they start cracking in the roaster and sound like popcorn.
Beans intended for espresso are roasted a little longer which releases more of the oils and makes them slightly shiny.
Then they are ground - fine for espresso, medium for filter and coarse for cafetiere.
The smell of the ground coffee was amazing but I am actually not that keen on real coffee! The Coffee Shop does a fab frappe though...