What is Natural Anaerobic Processing?
No I haven’ picked three random words from an “A” level botanical text book, this is in fact the latest in coffee processing techniques which is gaining a good deal of interest around the globe.
Historically there have been just two processing techniques, washed and natural. Here in the UK we only ever saw “washed” processed coffee, and because of that the consumer became very accustomed to this clean bright coffee flavour. The fruity notes that are developed under the “natural” process were not at all familiar to our collective pallets.
Before I get too carried away I need to paint you a picture of the farm to cup processes. We start out with the ripe coffee cherry being picked and collected. Under the washed process the whole cherries are placed in a “pulping” machine that removes the outer soft pulp of the coffee cherry. From here the “parchment” coffee is placed in large vats of water where they stay for around 24 hours. This removes the sticky “mucilage” from the coffee bean. The wet coffee is then spread out on a patio and allowed to dry. There is a final process whereby the parchment skin of the coffee is hulled off to finally deliver the “green” coffee bean that goes on to be roasted, ground and then drunk.
The “natural” process leaves out the pulping element. Instead the whole coffee cherry is spread out on the patio where it dries. Once dried the outer skin is hulled off leaving you with the green coffee bean. Because the skin is left on in this process the fruit taste of the skin makes its way into the green coffee bean. This taste profile ultimately makes its way into the cup.
We’ve subsequently seen some major developments in coffee preparation at origin. The next “halfway house” process is called “honey”. The pulp is removed as under the washed process but instead of washing the coffee to remove the mucilage, the coffee is spread directly onto the patio. The result is a sweeter finish to the coffee in the cup, but less emphasis on the fruity notes.
There are plenty of variations in the “honey” process but best not to disappear down that rabbit hole just now.
Finally I turn to this “natural anaerobic process” which adds a whole new dimension to the taste profile. Once the favoured initial preparation has been selected (washed, natural or honey), the coffee is placed in a large container which is then sealed and made airtight. This restricts the amount of oxygen which in turn affects the rate at which the coffee ferments. As the coffee ferments it releases CO2 which causes the pressure to rise inside the container and in turn forces the flavours into the coffee. The pressure within the container is carefully controlled and gases released as necessary. The whole process takes anywhere between 120 and 240 hours depending upon the taste profile required. It is still a very experimental process and I guess until the end consumer has voted with their wallet producers will continue to innovate in search of the best outcome.
Daterra and micro lot D25
This is probably one of the most sophisticated coffees to have ever passed through the doors of Coopers. Not only is the processing of the coffee extremely novel, the coffee varietal itself is also pretty special.
Laurina is a sub-varietal of Arabica coffee and looks more akin to rice than coffee. Originally discovered in the island of Réunion near Madagascar, it is also naturally low in caffeine.
Turning to the coffee farm itself; Daterra is found in the Cerrado region of Brazil. They are one of the most innovative farms in the world right now. Their tag line “It is not only about producing the best coffee in the world, it is about producing coffee for a better world” sums up their ethos. Although they are inherently one farm, they have in fact split themselves up into 3 farms. One produces their “Classics”, one their “Collections” and one their “Masterpieces”
We have stocked their “Classics” for many years now and decided for the first time to add one of their Masterpieces to our selection. To quote Daterra, “This very “small farm” is a lab, where we test new ways of producing coffee. The lab is rich with new and unusual varietals, processing methods, drying techniques and limitless experiments. They have unique cup profile and score 88+, fully traceable, and are planted and grown with history and can never be replicated.
We successfully bid for micro-lot D25 that consists of just 8 boxes of 24kg. Of the 8 boxes produced only 2 have made it to the UK and one of those is with us here in Jersey.
We’ve now roasted the first batch of this truly original coffee. With its notes of nectarine, peach and honey it truly is a magical combination.
To taste this process yourself see our Brazil Daterra Laurina. (While stocks last)