A Coffee Tree produces a surprise harvest in Sicily

The Morettino family was shocked but invigorated when their ancient coffee plantations produced their first cherries in the last year.


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Photos from Morettino

The connection between the Morettino family and coffee goes back more than a century-long. It was in 1920 that the Morettino roastery was created out of a spice store; Arturo Morettino was the third generation of roasters from the family and he envisioned establishing an agricultural farm for coffee in his native Sicily in Italy.

The Morettino family was able to experience their first harvest of coffee at home in 2021.

The planting of the Seeds of Coffee

Attracted by the coffee farms that he visited across the world Arturo’s dream came to reality when he received seeds from the botanical garden of his local in the early ’90s. They were planted in the garden of the roastery at about 350m above sea level These seeds of Coffea arabica (heirloom varieties in the beginning, later then followed by other varieties like Bourbon and Catuai from Guatemala as well as Caturra as well as Pacamara from Peru) have grown in a natural way without pesticides or protection in greenhouses.

They have gradually adapted to Sicilian climate, which is that are significantly higher than those of the coffee belt which is the zone between two tropics, where coffee is typically grown.

Between the vineyards, citrus and olive trees coffee plantation continued to flourish, but without producing any notable harvests for more than 30 years, until 2021 when, for the first time about 30 kg of cherries from the coffee plant were harvested.

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Alberto Morettino, roasting coffee.

Unexpected Harvest of Coffee Leads to Processing of High-Quality

The harvest, which runs between July through September The cherries were processed through a gold-honey ferment and manual depulping. This is followed by a 48-hour fermentation as well as a drying stage under the sun. They were roasted and poured into cups several times until the final flavor was achieved A medium-light roast was used to increase the sweetness of the beans and delicate acidity of the beans.

The final coffee presented unexpected aromas and notes. The Morettinos tasted like Sicilian Zibibbo grapes and carob notes and scents of plumeria flowers and panela sugar. This was the first crop to yield the most refined coffee, with distinctive and unique scents that ultimately embodied the essence of the most popular products within the region.

The Signs of the Change in Climate

The extraordinary harvest has been a delightful surprise however, it is also a clear indicator of the changing climate. Global warming has resulted in Sicily more dry, with the possibility of extinction for the traditional agriculture of grapes and citrus fruits however, at the same time , it has also demonstrated a new potential in the cultivation of tropical fruits. Papaya, mango, avocado and bananas were all considered to be unattainable to grow in Sicily until just a few years in the past, however they are be grown now, along with coffee.

“This year’s climate has displayed the signs of a great intolerance and we’ve gone from tropical storms in the late summer to the brutal winter weather that has placed some regions in a lot of trouble,” says Andrea Morettino the son of Arturo. “With some experiments outdoors, we might have dared to test the nature that is showing all its power, and some plants haven’t been able to withstand the extreme climate conditions which have not given us break for more than three months.

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“In this delicate season in the western part of Sicily we are waiting for the arrival of spring temperatures which we hope will bring us the most beautiful flowering and important new harvest.” Andrea continues. “We are at the control of Mother Nature, her (timing) and her “perfect” rules. The dream of seeing Sicily as a place of coffee and the cultivation of a Sicilian specialty coffee from the native region should continue to be an incentive to believe in the future and will continue to fuel our true passion.”

Andrea (left) as well as Arturo (right) Morettino.

The Research will Continue

And the hope of the Morettinos doesn’t end with the first harvest. They’ve continued their research and coffee-growing pursuit through a partnership with the University of Palermo and the local botanical garden and have been studying the adaptability of tropical plants in Sicily for many years. “We are just in the middle of a journey that has allowed us to learn about the unique stories of courage from farmers, both women and men who deserve the prestigious merit of believing in the land they grew up on and followed their own goals,” says Andrea. “It is in their footsteps that we hope to share a vision for an optimistic future with the hopes of bringing awareness among the young and coffee lovers across the globe.”

About the Author

Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a barista at specialty coffee as well as a traveler and a dreamer. When she’s not in front of the machine (or exploring a hidden area of the globe) she’s creating content for Coffee Insurrection which is a website dedicated to specialty coffees that she’s created with her boyfriend.

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This article was first published at Barista Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to baristas and coffee professionals.

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