Following my recent visit to the coffee producers of Myanmar I was very struck by the amount of effort being put into different processing methods. It’s something that is familiar to the speciality coffee industry however is quite new for your average consumer.
There are 3 basic processing formats. Natural, Honey and Washed all of which bring a different taste profile to the party that is a cup of coffee.
In the past I’d never really got “naturals”, you get a very fruity style of coffee and for someone who likes their coffee to taste like coffee that can be a bit of a challenge. When you hear coffee being described as “boozy blueberries” you sense something’s gone horribly wrong! However following copious cupping I think I’m starting to see the light and it really adds a new twist to that cup of Joe.
By keeping the pulp in contact with the coffee bean for days rather than hours, the flavours in the skin have a chance to make their way into the green bean. The result is an incredible experience for both nose and tongue. A comparison with cheese is probably appropriate. It’s a bit like moving from a reasonably mature cheddar to a well ripened Camembert. Both come under the heading “cheese” but are some distance away from each other in taste and aromatics. As with cheese, the riper the cherry the more pungent the flavours. If it’s an aspect you enjoy then look out for the word “boozy”, you’ll be getting jam and then some.
For those with less of an appetite for strong fruits in coffee, the “honey” process might be down your street. Here the pulp has been removed but the sticky mucilage that remains is left in place and allowed to dry into the parchment coffee prior to being hulled. In the cup I found this coffee somewhat flatters to deceive. Dry and you get deep molasses notes, however in the brewed format that sweetness falls away considerably. You do still get a light sweet finish which certainly makes for a very pleasant cup of coffee but it’s not as prevalent as you’d expect from smelling the dry grounds.
Finally washed coffees have been around for ever. Everything is stripped away from the coffee bean within a few days As a result you are reliant on the quality of the coffee bean to deliver your expectations. Great “clean” cups of coffee are delivered this way and shouldn’t be underestimated. However I do recommend that you look out for these other process types on the coffee label.
I’m not sure we’ll see much on the Supermarket shelf for a while, however check out your local coffee roaster or even nudge him or her to consider stocking these truly interesting options.
The coffee world still has a long way to go