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What is Natural Process Coffee?

by Josh Lindstrom on

2020 marked our second year in a row of purchasing a Natural Process coffee from the Villatoro family in Guatemala who operate their coffee Finca Villaure / La Esperanza. I appreciate a nice natural coffee, so I want to share why and what the process looks like to get a natural coffee.

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My First Taste of Natural Coffee

One of the first natural coffees I had was from Ethiopia. Ethiopia is also where the natural process, also called the dry process, began. The natural process is actually the oldest method used to remove the coffee seed from the cherry. The first time I had it I was told that this coffee tastes like blueberries, and you know, it tasted like blueberries! I was immediately in love with the flavor and the fact that I felt like I could finally speak like a professional cup taster. 

 

Tasting Coffee

Have you ever been given a taste description for a coffee that went something along the lines of “It tastes like watermelon jam with a tart Washington cherry followed by rose petals on a dewy morning.” Then you taste the coffee and all you taste is…well, coffee! Like most things, tasting coffee takes consistent practices to develop an observation like the one above. With a natural process though, it’s kind of like a short cut because without the practise one can easily identify the very distinct fruity and sweetness that is associated with most natural processed coffees.

 

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The Natural Process

Coffee is a cherry growing on a tree, that cherry is picked at peak ripeness and then the fruit has to get removed to get to the seed/bean insides. Usually that cherry is put into water and then the fruit is hulled off. With a natural process though, that fruit stays on, the cherries are sorted to make sure only the desired ripened cherries are chosen for the process and then the cherries are set out to dry. Most often these cherries will be dried on a raised long bed, the bed is made of a fabric or some sort of material that will allow airflow through the bed.

Constant Attention

Natural processing requires constant attention while the cherries are drying, they will have to be rotated and looked after to make sure that no cherries are spoiling. They will dry around 3-4 weeks or so until the bean is at about 11% moisture level required for shipping. After the cherries are dried they will make their way to a dry mill, where they are hulled by frictaction to remove the fruit and parchment from the seed, it’s sorted one more time and then ready to be shipped, roasted, brewed and enjoyed.

Lucky for Us

Obviously this is a general observation of the process, some key takeaways are that this process is one of the oldest, very labour intensive and needs the correct climate/environment to do it well. Fortunately for all of us, our friend and partner Rodin Villatoro, who we purchased our current coffee from, does it well. In the last few years his family has produced some very sweet, complex and balanced natural coffees.

But don’t take my word for it! Try the Natural Villaure yourself, which is a natural process coffee. We are also currently offering the Maragogipe Coffee pack which includes two bags of coffee: a natural process coffee and a washed coffee using the same coffee bean, so you'll really be able to taste the difference.


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