Measuring Up

Picked coffee cherries being measured and loaded onto the beneficio’s truck

A bilingual evaluation of coffee measurements.

How many manzanas fit in your hectare? When did acres turn into hectares? Maybe when the almacigo was planted.

Apurate! You better fill that canasta pronto because anyone who picks less than 3 cajuelas is una tirade.

Put your boots in a row and your sacks in line for the medida.

Do you want an adelanto or the price of the day? Either way you gamble. Who knows what the market will do. Or the weather. A big aguacero can knock fanegas worth of coffee right off the ramas.

Coffee matas grow on fincas measured in manzanas and hectareas.

Coffee cherries are picked in canastas and measured in 4 cuartos, called cuartillos, which together make a cajuela, which is really just a cubic foot.

20 cajuelas make a fanega, 10 make a media.  Pickers are paid per cajuela and farms per fanega. Beneficios measure fruta entregado in medias. Cuartillos, cajuelas, medias, and fanegas measure volume. They take up space, but not lightly. A cajuela usually weighs 12 kilos, thus a fanega 240.

Processed coffee is measured by weight and leaves the beneficio in sacks that weigh a quintal, or 100lbs, or 46 kilos. Supposedly a wet quintal equals a fanega, meaning around 200 kilos of fruit are discarded to yield a sack of golden unroasted beans in pergamino.

Coffee is traded on the futures market (primarily by ICE, a division of New York Board of Trade) in contracts called Coffee C Futures, under the ticker symbol KC. Prices are measured in dollars per pound. A single contract consists of 37,500 pounds of green beans. How many quintales? Cuantas fanegas? Cajuelas?

Coffee is shipped in containers, auctioned in lots, and roasted in batches.

Roasted coffee is sold to consumers in vacuum packed cans and bags measured by weight, and brewed coffee is sold to drinkers in coffeeshop and restaurant cups and mugs measured by volume in ounces.

How do you measure coffee?

It morphs from a fruit to a grain to a liquid; it is measured by volume and weight, in metric, standard, and industry specific units.

Its price morphs from a futures contact to a daily cash price, to a final liquidation sale measured per quarter and per año cafetalero, which starts on October 1st. It is bought and/or sold in every currency on the planet.

Who says what its worth?

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2 thoughts on “Measuring Up

  1. Pingback: Another Year Later | W h e n . C o f f e e . S p e a k s .

  2. Pingback: Nica/Tica « El Café Habla

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