Squeaky Clean, ala Natural
Natural processed coffee—known equally as dry processed, sundried, or unwashed coffee—can be thought of as coffee’s most unadulterated self. While the process varies at times from country to country, in general, the coffee fruit is picked from trees and allowed to dry. Once dry, the fruit surrounding the seed is removed via friction and the remaining seed (or bean) is ready to be exported. Easy enough right?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite so easy. It turns out that in order to have a superior product with a comparable quality to that of washed coffee, the amount of work required to produce natural processed coffee is far more laborious than that of its washed counterpart. To better understand why that is, it is important to touch base on the differences in processing between washed and natural coffee. For a washed coffee, the fruit is similarly picked when ripe, however, the skin of the fruit is quickly removed after picking and the remaining seed and pulp are allowed to ferment together. This fermentation allows for the pulp to be washed off leaving the seed and an encapsulating layer of parchment which are then allowed to dry.
A primary issue with natural processed coffee is that when fermentation occurs, it is a process that happens between the skin of the fruit and the seed within. This fermentation, when not meticulously tended to, can quickly lead to spoilage or over-fermentation. However, with proper drying techniques by using raised and breathable drying tables in combination with attentive turning of drying coffee and manual removal of defects, the resulting coffee can be extraordinary. For us, the most notable effects of a standout natural processed coffee shine through its saturated and lingering sweetness, and clean, but amplified fruit quality.
We’re extremely excited to share two brand spankin’ new natural processed coffees hailing from the Banko Gotiti washing station of the Gedeo Zone, Ethiopia and from Steven Vargas’ 1 hectare lot, El Fuerte, located in Costa Rica’s Valle Central. It’s a bit unusual for us to carry a natural coffee, let alone two, but these were just too impressive to pass up. So hunker down, these coffees are two of the best natural coffees we’ve tasted all year.
The Banko Gotiti washing station and dry mill is located in the Gedeo zone of Southern Ethiopia and is owned and operated by Eyasu Worasa. There, several smallholder farmers deliver their coffee cherries previously grown in a combination of semi-forest (coffee grown on farmer-owned land under a forest canopy) or garden (coffee grown and harvested on smallholder property) conditions at altitudes ranging from 2000-2300 meters above sea level. The coffee has been carefully dried on raised beds for 22 days and further rested for a period of 4 weeks.
While most can agree that Ethiopian coffees can sway the perception of what coffee can taste like, this natural processed coffee is really something else. As soon as this coffee hits the kisser, expect to relive that first experience eating Strawberry Dippin’ Dots (we all remember those...right?), backed by a luxurious velvety mouthfeel from start to finish—a summer coffee in its truest form.
Steven Vargas comes from an established coffee producing family within San Isidro de Alajuela along the slopes of the Poas Volcano in Valle Central, Costa Rica. His family’s mill, endearingly named after his grandfather Don Sabino, was started only 12 years ago and at first primarily processed only washed coffees. Within the past 6 years, however, 95% of Steven’s production has shifted to producing super clean and expressive natural coffees.
This coffee comes from Steven’s smallest, most pampered lot, El Fuerte. He grows exclusively Caturra there for its juicy characteristics and because of its high altitude of 1500 masl, El Fuerte is harvested last to ensure full fruit maturation. After picking, the coffee is dried on raised beds for 15-18 days with proper turning every half-hour and covering during the night to protect it from rain and humidity. The remaining dried fruit layer is then removed and the coffee seeds are sorted both by screen size and electronic color sorter to remove defects. The resulting coffee is reminiscent of a fresh papaya, fully enveloped by a coconut cream sweetness and texture. As a bonus, its meticulous care within processing ties it all together with a lingering caramelized apple finish that’s sure to summon that special yummy face.