Just as there's many ways to skin a cat, there's a number of ways to turn a ripe coffee cherry into the dried seed that we know as a raw coffee bean. At one end of the spectrum (and forgive us for painting in painfully broad strokes), the cherry skin and all sticky fruit flesh is removed from the seeds, which are then laid out to dry. This method is know as the 'washed' or wet process method.
At the other end of the spectrum (and yes, there are lots of variations in between) the whole cherry is picked from the tree, and dried in its entirety; skin, sticky fruit flesh and parchment layers all surrounding the seed. This is known as the 'natural' or dry process method. This method is known to produce intensely fruity, and sometimes quite dirty, fermenty or rotten flavours; not characteristics that fit in with our ethos of buying clean, sweet and fresh coffee.
Those that have been paying close attention over the last couple of years will no doubt be aware that we've never purchased a naturally-processed coffee for inclusion in our range.
Today, that changed.
For the last couple of years, we've come across a lot of naturally-processed coffee, and nearly all of it has fallen into the category of being dirty, musty, fermenty, and we've rejected them all. Indeed, on my most recent trip to Ethiopia I came in at the tail end of the harvest, and the drying tables and patios were full of coffee being naturally-processed; a mixture of ripenesses, flies swarming on the cherries, birds picking at them. Hardly an inspiring or appetising sight.
That being said, also over the last few years we've been aware of a particular range of naturally-processed coffees being produced at Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza in Brazil that have been amazingly clean, balanced, and delicious on the cupping table. And not clean (for a natural), but just plain clean and wonderful. This year, we've decided to purchase coffee from a selection there, Sitio Canaa #351.
We're really looking forward to sharing this coffee with you in a week or two's time, and giving you a bit more information about why this particular natural coffee has made the grade, after three years of shunning the process entirely. It's a special coffee, indeed.