In the vast and vibrant world of coffee, there exists a myriad of methods to process the beloved coffee bean, each yielding unique flavours and characteristics. Among these methods, the natural process stands out as a time-honoured technique that uncovers the authentic essence of coffee. Let's explore the natural process, its origins, and the intriguing journey of coffee beans from farm to cup.
What is the Natural Process?
The natural process, also known as the dry process or unwashed process, is one of the oldest and simplest methods of coffee processing. Unlike other methods that involve washing the coffee cherries before drying the beans, the natural process skips the washing step entirely. Instead, the whole cherries are laid out to dry naturally in the sun or on raised beds. This process allows the sugars and flavours of the cherry to be absorbed by the beans during drying, resulting in a distinct flavour profile.
Origins of the Natural Process:
The natural process has deep roots in coffee cultivation, tracing back to its origins in Ethiopia, where coffee was first discovered. It is believed that the natural process was the earliest method used by Ethiopian farmers to process their coffee cherries. As the cultivation of coffee spread to other parts of the world, so did this traditional processing method, earning a special place in the hearts of coffee enthusiasts.
The Natural Process Journey:
1. Harvesting: Coffee cherries are meticulously hand-picked at their peak ripeness, ensuring the best flavour potential for the beans.
2. Sorting: After harvesting, the cherries undergo a sorting process to remove any damaged or unripe cherries. This meticulous sorting helps maintain the quality of the final product.
3. Drying: The sorted cherries are then spread out in thin layers on drying beds or patios, exposed to the sun's warmth and gentle airflow. During this stage, the cherries are turned regularly to ensure even drying and prevent fermentation or mould growth.
4. Fermentation: As the cherries dry, a natural fermentation process occurs within the fruit, facilitated by the enzymes present. This process enhances the flavours, imparting unique fruity and wine-like characteristics to the coffee beans.
5. Husking: Once the cherries have reached the desired moisture content (around 11-12%), the dried fruit is removed to reveal the coffee beans. These beans, now referred to as green coffee, retain the sweetness and complex flavours absorbed from the cherries during the drying process.
6. Milling and Roasting: The green coffee beans are milled to remove the parchment layer, leaving behind the raw coffee beans. These beans can then be roasted to various levels, depending on the desired flavour profile.
7. Brewing: Finally, the roasted coffee beans are ground and brewed into a flavourful cup of coffee, offering a distinctive taste experience that reflects the natural process.
Coffee processed using the natural method often exhibits a full-bodied, fruity, and sometimes wine-like flavour profile. The beans tend to have a pronounced sweetness and vibrant acidity, with notes of berries, tropical fruits, and floral undertones. This method showcases the inherent qualities of the coffee cherry, resulting in a distinct cup that appeals to those seeking unique and authentic flavours.
The natural process is a captivating and authentic method that allows coffee lovers to savour the true character of their favourite beverage. From its ancient origins in Ethiopia to its global popularity today, this traditional processing technique continues to mesmerise coffee enthusiasts around the world. By embracing the natural process, we can unlock the inherent richness and complexity hidden within coffee beans, resulting in a truly unique and unforgettable cup of coffee. So, the next time you indulge in a meticulously processed natural coffee, take a moment to appreciate the vibrant flavours and the centuries-old tradition that brought it to your cup. It's a testament to the timeless art of coffee-making and a journey that truly celebrates the essence of this beloved beverage. Cheers to the natural process and the remarkable flavours it unveils in every sip!
Photo Credit: Cafe Imports