On my recent coffee trip to Central America I was surprised to see the development of Naturals.
On my coffee path. I often meet people who adore Natural coffees as some dispite it.
For a decade the Natural processed coffees has divided our industry in two parts – even though this decade hasn’t been that long. It seems long though – filled with pro/cons – the liker´s and those who doesn’t like the Natural processed coffees at all.
In good old days, the Natural processed coffees were a necessarily process – as the access to water were limited and cost full burden transporting the water from far about, or not having access to it at all.
In Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi Etc. the coffee farms often lies aside, as “outskirts”. This combined with high altitude, dry seasons the coffees has made it difficult to get access to water.
Now a days as the specter and diversity off coffee has arisen. Naturals occurs more and more often on the cupping table – and with the new wawe it has almost become “an indicator of quality” showcasing the farmers ability to demonstrate the full potential the farm and their knowledge.
As the specter of coffee has widened the agronomist has also stepped up in the coffee industry. I have never meet so many farmers having an academic agronomis degree, as I did in Costa Rica. Especially the young generation – and the do it well.
I have alway been found of Natural processed coffees. They are tricky to roast as the mucilage covers the green bean and requires skilled craftsmanship – so it doesn’t taste of charcoal being over roasted or dry wood, with an underdeveloped/under roasted coffee.
They are picked, processed and dried leaving the skin intact. The drying process is carried out on patios to decrease the drying process, avoiding the coffee from fermenting producing alcohol.
The coffee is being turned around many times during the day and now a days a mix between patio and african beds is used to maintain more body in the coffee.
The Naturals require a lot of drying space as the have to dry evenly as the sugar content/mucilage is intact inside the bean. Ceramic is often used instead of cement patios as ceramic doesn’t reflect the sun leaving the coffee to be burnt on one side. Cement has a tendency to create a higher heat intensity reflection.
Naturals coffees are more bodied, sweet and leaves a long lasting aftertaste. I have experienced that some farms pick their coffees with a relatively high sugar/brix content in order to achieve a winery flavor.
The re-turn to a proactive development has finally hooked the hunger for needs and diversity of processing methods, instead leaning towards the traditional Kenyan, Burundi, Rwanda fermentation methods is slowly passing away.
The two pictures below indicates the difference on the past decade and now a days coffee picked with carefulness.