Sunday, May 22, 2016

Beans for Bible Translation!

I am a tea drinker, not a coffee drinker. While I can manage to choke down a cup of java to be social (an important skill for both living in a Papua New Guinean village and for sitting down with American church missions committees), not even spending my college years rooming with a passionate barista convinced my tastebuds to crave this bean-water.

But in mountains of the Papua New Guinea (PNG), coffee growing and production is a vital part of industry, and for the Kamano-Kafe translation team, it’s a critical pillar of support for Bible translation!

In 2010, the Kamano-Kafe translation team faced challenges of rising costs everywhere, including transportation, which meant some members were unable to attend team checking sessions. Rich, their team advisor, started wondering if they could save the money they spent on buying ground coffee for their daily coffee break by processing and roasting the coffee beans themselves.

Many Kamano-Kafe speakers tend small plots of coffee trees next to their other staple crops of kaukau and taro (two kinds of root vegetables). Family members hand pick the bright-red fruit of the coffee trees (called cherries). After the flesh has been removed and the cherries are washed, sorted, and dried on big tarps, they sell the beans (now called parchment) as a source of income for the family.

 “Parchment beans are sorted into three different grades of quality.” Tuas, one of the Kamano-Kafe translators, explained to me, “When you are buying coffee, you take a few beans in your hand and rub off the skin—then you can tell the grade and know the price.”

Next, the parchment beans are run through a huller, which is a machine that removes the parchment skin from the beans, leaving green beans. At first, the Kamano-Kafe team members used a hand-crank huller to hull green beans during their tea breaks and lunch times. Later, Rich spent nearly a year of his Saturdays with lots of help and advice from several auto shop mechanics and electricians rigging up parts from an old washing machine, old blower fans and a junked air conditioning unit, so the huller could be motorized. Fellow Kamano-Kafe translator, James, tapped the side of the machine. “Remember when there was an electrical fire when a motor capacitor blew and there were flames and smoke?” he asked the others, “That was a day!” After that, they called it the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! Eventually, the team acquired a small used huller from Australia, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was retired (“That one will go in our museum,” James joked.)

The home-made huller!
The Australian-made huller

The green beans are then stored in loose woven bags until it’s time to be roasted.

Green beans all ready to be made into delicious (so I've heard) coffee!
At first Rich tried roasting coffee on the stove using various pots and pans (and even a whirly popper, which filled the house with smoke!). The team started selling a few small bags of coffee here and there, hoping they could cover their costs and perhaps help with a few team expenses. But God blessed their efforts and the demand for coffee increased. Rich realized the stove-method wouldn’t cut it, and after lots of internet research and the collaboration of several machinists, he designed from scratch a 3kg coffee roaster.
The 3kg coffee roaster!
In the beginning of learning to roast, there were a few mishaps. Nathan, a translation team member and now an expert in bean roasts, recalled over-roasting a batch of beans, which then caught on fire. “It lit up like kerosene!” he remembered. “The flames suddenly shot toward the roof and smoke filled the building.” In a panic, Nathan threw the flaming batch in the cooling tray outside and watched it crumble into charcoal.

“Without mistakes, we couldn’t improve!” laughed James. James and Nathan, the chief roasters, continue to refine their dark, espresso, light, and medium roasts and experiment with improving flavor. Currently, the sale of two 250g bags of coffee pays for all the stages of translating one verse of the Old Testament into the Kamano-Kafe language. In addition, the coffee beans are purchased from Kamano-Kafe speakers who are facing need and hardship, such as widows and the sick, in order to help their community.

Come to market--buy some freshly roasted beans, and have them ground as you wait!

God continues to bless the sales of coffee to support the Bible Translation project (sold to only local coffee you need to come to PNG for some awesome coffee!), and recently the team purchased a used 5.4 kg roaster, which will allow them to meet the ever growing demand.

I think it’s time for even this tea drinker to sip a cup of coffee!