Sunday, January 29, 2017

Unwashed, Dry and/or Natural Process - Tasting the process instead of the actual flavours of the coffee? (Part One)



Unwashed, Dry and/or Natural Process, either names but they all refer to the same post harvest process.  A process we love to hate or a love-hate process? Tasting the process instead of the actual flavours of the coffee? This article discuss the different appreciation of natural process coffees within the specialty coffee community and the flavours it brings to the table.

                                             Unwashed, Dry and/or Natural Process


A graphic from training slides that I used for Dutch Colony workshops, explaining the difference between the two main processing methods.
Hands down the oldest coffee processing method, the natural process refers to cherries being spread out in a thin layer on a patio and left to dry under the sun. Each sides of the cherry needs to be consistently exposed to the heat of the sun, so farm workers are tasked to constantly rake the cherries. This allow the cherries to get somewhat equal amount of sunshine with the outer flesh and parchments removed all in one step.

The natural process is very environmental friendly with almost no reliance to machinery and very little need of fresh water. Unfortunately with the reliance of a natural resource (the sun), there are notable drawbacks which leads to a higher room for errors while processing as well as a inconsistent flavour profile. As there is no reliable method to predict weather conditions, prolonged rainfall or excessive drying  may caused opportunity for mould, fermentation or rotting.
                                              The flavours of fermentation


In tasting the process instead of the actual flavours of the coffee, in particular the natural processing method, fermentation or fermented flavours usually becomes a point of discussion. Mostly western coffee professionals hate the idea of it  and in cupping stints with them, have heard the description of rotten animal and/or onions far too many times.

In Asia, our appreciation of food follows the tag line, "the smellier it is, the better it taste!" Think stinky tofu and even durian and thus our appreciation of Natural process coffees are more then those Americans or Europeans palate. Having said that, a point to ponder upon. What happen then to non-asian delicacies like blue cheese or cured meat, where equally #gamestrong on fermentation and why is it then those palate cannot appreciate natural process coffee the way they do with their cheese? 


Analysing the typical flavours one will get upon cupping a natural processed coffees, the likes of melon, jackfruit, banana (MJB) (which are arguably always considered as negative flavours) candied strawberries, blueberries, lychee, mango (positive flavours) are often presence. These are all yummy flavour attributes in my honest opinion but MJB somehow or rather are often linked to fermented fruit notes, which are considered tainted or defects. It beats me why melon, jackfruit and banana are considered flavours of fermentation! After all, natural process is all about taking in most of the skin of the cherries and the whole fruit into the finished beverage and when one argues 'taste the actual flavours of the coffees in its truest fruit form  rather then the process" shouldn't that mean have it natural process? 

Upon the beautiful discovery of post harvesting and turning coffee as a beverage, rather then having it boiled and drinking it as tea, it relived the moments when natural process was first discovered thousands of years ago in ancient Ethiopia, which indicates instead of calling it flavours of fermentation, it could possibly be the first flavours one get out of coffee which leads for it to be commercialised. Yet the community is pushing for the washed-method instead and lead it it to be cleaner, less complex and sweeter! 

End of Part One.

1 comment:

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