Natural Process Collection
What we know of as coffee beans are actually the pits, or seeds, of the fruit, or cherry, of the coffee plant that have been harvested, processed, dried, and roasted before you are able to grind and brew them into coffee.
Coffee cherries are usually a deep red wine color when ripe, though some varieties are yellow instead, and are high in sugar and moisture content when they are hand harvested and transported to a central processing station, either on the farm, or at a cooperative mill nearby.
Once at the processing station, or mill, coffee must go through one of a few different processing methods to begin its journey to the coffee with which we are familiar. The oldest of these processing methods, and the focus of this collection, is the Natural Process or Dry Process. Natural processing is the way coffee was originally processed after harvest in Ethiopia, the origin of all coffee grown in the world.
On its face, the Natural Process is simple; harvest coffee cherries at peak ripeness and spread those cherries on a stone patio or raised drying bed, turning constantly, until the cherry sun-dries to an appropriate moisture level, much like the process of sun-drying tomatoes, or grapes to become raisins. Once the ideal moisture content is reached, the dried cherry and husk are milled off the seed and it is ready for transport to roasters like us. Though the concept is simple, the process itself is risky and requires constant maintenance to avoid mold, contamination, or other potential hazards that would ruin an entire harvest of coffee.
Natural Process coffees are ideal for some growing regions where water is scarce (other processing methods such as the Washed Process use a great deal of water). Yemen, for instance, produces Natural Process coffees exclusively, while the practice is far less common in areas like Central and South America where water resources are far more abundant.
From a flavor perspective, Natural Process coffees can be wild, unpredictable, and exciting in the cup. As the cherry dries onto the seed, the sugars in the cherry naturally ferment, and those fermenting sugars and acids absorb into the seed, so coffees processed in this manner often have intense dried fruit aromas and flavors, as well as hints acetic acid, balanced with deep, intense sweetness. The process also tends to deepen the coffee's body (think about the difference in body of a raisin versus a grape); this richness of body often adds a heavy chocolatey character to the cup.
Because there is so much potential for variation in the Natural Process, it is often difficult to create consistent flavor and balance harvest to harvest, or even within a single harvest. For this reason, many farmers and mills shy away from producing Natural Process coffees, but when a producer executes the technique properly, the results can be absolutely stunning cups of coffee. Our collection of Naturals, including coffees from Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil, are exemplary of the very finest Natural Process coffees, and we're excited to share them with you.