If you've been to our Tasting Room or to our sister cafe First Avenue Coffee, you may have heard our team using some SuperNerd terms for how a coffee is processed. "Well what the sam heck does that mean?" you might ask. Typically we try to be condescending and hurt your feelings for not knowing. All jokes aside, we would tell you about the different methods of processing coffee. Processing has everything to do with how the farmers choose to treat the coffee cherries after they are harvested. They must remove the fruit that surrounds the coffee seed with a sticky protective layer called mucilage. These methods can affect the flavor of our beloved coffees quite drastically. There are many ways to process coffee, however there are three tried-and-true methods, and they are the most common in the industry today.
We'll start with the 'Washed' process. This is exactly how it sounds: coffee producers remove the cherry by scrubbing each bean individually with a toothbrush... just kidding! Once the ripest cherries are picked off of the shrub, they are sent through a de-pulping machine to remove the fruit and then placed into tanks or channels filled with water. The cherries soak anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to remove the extra slimy stuff (a.k.a mucilage)! The seeds are then laid out on drying beds or patios to finish the process by drying in the sun. These coffees are usually very easy to drink, with crisp clarity of flavors!
Next up is the 'Natural' or 'Dry' process, or "dirty beans" if you wanted to go there. This involves letting animals and insects lick the fruit until they feel nice and sleepy...Sorry we can't stop kidding! The cherries are actually picked and then immediately placed on drying beds without removing the seeds from the fruit. They are carefully dried in the sun, which results in natural fermentation – thus the name. The cherry is removed after the drying. This process yields wildly intense fruity flavors in the cup and is a great method for highlighting the influence of fruit & fermentation in a coffee. After all, it is a fruit seed!
Then there's the kid who can't decide what they want to be when they grow up- a little combination of both worlds. We call this the 'Semi-Washed' or 'Honey' process. Farmers pour honey all over the harvested cherries to make it extra sweet...gotcha once more, you guys are too easy! This is actually where the Washed and Natural processes meet up to make a delicious baby. The cherries are picked and de-pulped as if they were going to be put into water. Here's the kicker: instead of removing that sticky stuff we talked about earlier and soaking the seeds, the tasty mucilage-covered seeds are dried in the sun like a Natural-processed coffee. This results in a killer cup of coffee, balancing wild and fruity flavors with a very clean and tactile experience.
Now to pass the baton to my main man – Aaron! He's going to explain to you why I just rambled on and on about nerdy coffee stuff:
For the last few years we've been searching for a producer partner to do a processing series with to no prevail. Over the years we've sourced Washed, Honey and Naturals from different origins and producers. Thanks to the fine team at Santa Clara in Antigua, Guatemala we are finally able to highlight 3 distinct processing methods from the same farm.
Santa Clara's Washed lot #30 is everything we love in a classic Antigua profile: juicy ripe fruits, saturated sweetness moving from molasses to milk chocolate with a vibrant finish.
Santa Clara's Honey lot is easily the cleanest representation of this processing method. Massive amounts of bright florals moving from hibiscus to rose hip with a raw cane sugar finish.
Finally, Santa Clara's Natural lot (only available at First Avenue Coffee due to limited quantities) couldn't be any more different than the prior two lots! Dried cherry moves to vibrant huckleberry with a brown sugar laden throughout the bright fruit notes.
Try 1, 2 or if you happen to be in the Spokane area, pop by First Avenue and get a flight of all 3!
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Alongside our sourcing partners at Sustainable Harvest, Roast House is joining La Lucha, which translates to 'the fight,' to showcase these individual farmers and allow their coffee to shine through our collective effort.
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