Hopefully in the last couple weeks you've had a chance to try one of the new Ethiopian coffees we've had on offer. We released two at the same time, and they are both in fact the same coffee (from Dumerso mill in Yirgacheffe) but with one exception: the way the coffee was prepared is different.
I don't mean the way we roasted the coffee is different: the divergence happened all the way back when the coffee was processed in Yirgacheffe, after being freshly picked from the coffee shrubs.
The way coffee is processed has very much to do with tradition and culture, and for the most part coffee in Yirgacheffe is prepared via the washed process (which was popularized there in the 50's as a tradition brought there from Latin America. This put Yirgacheffe on the map as a tiny town with a not so tiny reputation for putting out delicious, jasmine and tea-like sweet coffees).
In a washed process, ripe cherry (the coffee fruit) is processed using de-pulpers to remove some of the outer layers of the cherry (skin and some of the fruit). It is then fermented in clean water overnight before the remaining mucilage is washed off and the coffee is dried on raised beds (tables with a mesh bottom). This allows for air circulation during drying process.
Natural process, on the other hand, is often a risky business, and one that could result in over-fermented flavour and mould if one is not careful. One measure of success is understanding the time and care it takes to have the coffee fruit dry evenly. Ripe cherries are delivered to the mill, where they are graded and then placed onto raised drying beds in thin layers and turned every 2-3 hours in the first few days, to avoid over-fermentation and mould growth. Then, 6-8 weeks later (yes these babies are in the drying process for up to two months! Sheesh.), depending on weather and temperature, the beans are de-hulled. The beans are then transported to Addis in parchment, and then milled prior to shipping.
A lot of love and care goes into both processes, but here at our cafés and roastery in Vancouver, we are especially appreciative about how clean and sweet this natural processed Dumerso is. Usually we pass on buying a natural coffee because they can taste of ferment or dirt, but there is nothing but sweet fruit in this coffee - it's quite special.