DAY 23 – The Quinoa Processing Process

DAY 23 – The Quinoa Processing Process

What happens to your quinoa before you buy it in the store?  Here’s a photo essay of the quinoa cleaning process that each grain goes through before being shipped to the US.  Thanks to farmer-owned, Fair Trade, organic, quinoa farmers association, APQUISA for letting us take and share these photos.

First the grains are harvested, threshed and cleaned on the farm.  Then the are shipped to an industrialized center for further processing which removes all fine debris, the chaff, and the bitter saponins which protect the plants from insects and birds.




Raw quinoa seed comes in and has their chaff removed.  This bitter shell contains most of the saponins found in the quinoa.  This batch has a white seed in a red shell.  The chaff dusk colors the room a rosy color.  The removed chaff can then be used as compost on the quinoa lands.






Quinoa washing stage. Here the threshed seeds are washed to remove any remaining saponins. Saponins are used in pharmaceuticals as mild cleansers. Wet seeds are quickly dried using a centrifuge machine.



Workersquinoa-workers preparing to get wet quinoa to the drying table.  Six workers operate this plant which can fully process and pack up to a container of quinoa a week. Natural gas is used to make high drying temperatures.  Once dried to 12% humidity, the quinoa then goes to the sorting stage.


industrielized-seed-sortingThe sorter grades the quinoa by seed size separating the large Royal Quinoa seeds from smaller, less well-formed seeds and small debris.  The quinoa is sorted into primary and secondary quinoa grades. These are exported at different market prices.  Almost all of the quinoa exported to the US is 1st quality quinoa.






The optical scanner sorts seeds by color, separating out red, black and white quinoa.





The magnetic sorter lifts out any remaining volcanic stones or dust.  These special, mineralized soils are highly magnetic and produce the Royal Quinoa that can only be found around the volcanic salt flats of Uyuni.




Royal Quinoa is sorted into a mix of 60% white, 25% red and 15% black for export markets.

Finished cleaned, dried, sorted and mixed Fair Trae, organic Bolivian Royal Quinoa is now packed and ready to export to the US.