This month's coffee selection is based on process, in lieu of country. We have two Costa Rica coffees and one from Ethiopia. Two of the coffees are natural process and the third is black honey.
There are many ways to process coffee once it's been picked. In areas without access to water a natural process was used. The coffees are picked ripe and dried on elevated beds where air can circulate both above and below the beans. Once the beans are sufficiently dry they are milled of skin and other dried materials. The honey process is similar but entails removing the skin of the coffee cherry. Depending on how often the coffee is turned on its' bed it develops hues of yellow, red or black. The common aspect of coffees processed this way are an intense fruitiness and sweetness. The mucilage between the skin and the seed (coffee bean) is loaded with sugars. Leaving them in contact with the coffee bean increases the fruitiness and sweetness of the coffees.
The natural process was pioneered in and most associated with Ethiopia. We've included a beautiful natural coffee from the Adado washing station in Yirgacheffe. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and Yirgacheffe in the south is known for exceptional coffees. Coffee has been growing so long in this area that the coffees are mostly a field blend of heirloom varieties. The coffee trees grow on a high plateau shaded by broadleaf evergreens, silk and olea (olive family) trees. Birds thrive in the forest but the whole area is threatened by commercial agriculture and the use of trees for fuel. It is truly remarkable how much sweeter coffee grown under a forest canopy is. We were on a farm and tasted coffee grown in the sun and the same coffee grown in shade 20 feet away; the difference was remarkable. The sweetness of this Ethiopia coffee is equally remarkable. It has notes of jasmine, strawberry and apple. Rich enough for the boldest coffee drinker, it has plenty of nuance for those who notice such things.
The second natural is from a farm in Costa Rica, Las Lajas, from whom we have been buying coffee for 5 years. The Chacon family is meticulous in its' care for its' land and coffee trees. They are pioneers in the honey process methods and their coffees get more and more delicious by the year. This year is no exception. The flavor of this coffee is so over the top you almost shake your head in wonder.
Genesis Micromill is a fantastic mill operating in Central Valley, Costa Rica. They helped farmer Esnider Rodriguez Gonzalo do a black honey process on his coffee this year. The coffee skin is removed but the sweet pulp is left on and the coffee is only stirred once a day while it dries. The lack of movement and the sun turns the beans a hue of black when they are raw, hence the name. This coffee was so good that we just sent over 100 pounds of it to Epic Brewing for a beer they are brewing called Son of a Baptist.
The Las Lajas coffee is currently in a collaboration beer we did with Griffin Claw Brewing Company in Birmingham. It was steeped in a Russian Imperial Stout in bourbon barrels for 9 months and is now available at our coffee bar in Detroit.