Natural(ly) delicious coffee: Our new Ethiopia Sidamo Natural

We have been very excited about our latest edition- our naturally processed Ethiopian Sidamo. It is rather unique coffee, and our only natural/dry process coffee at the moment.

But what exactly makes it a "natural" coffee? After all, is not all coffee natural? Well, except for those canned, sugary milky concoctions next to the milk at the supermarket.

If you order coffee online, in a coffee shop, or just grab a bag at the supermarket, the chance is that this is a "washed" coffee. This refers to the process that is used after the bean is picked from the branch to get it ready to ship.

Coffee starts this point as a cherry: about 50% juicy pulp, and 50% the hard juicy bean we washed to cook and drink. With a washed coffee coffee the pulp is stripped mechanically and with water: whether by fermentation, pulping, channelling, floating etc.

The majority of the worlds coffee, however, is processed using the natural, traditional, or dry method. In brief this means the coffee is left to dry, on patios or raised beds. Over several weeks the pulp dries and withers, leaving the bean in a layer of dry parchment that can be stripped off later.

 

 This method is less technologically complex, and less water and resource demanding, while being far more labour and time intensive, and less scalable. The choice of method, therefore follows largely from the regional level of development.

The difference between the two methods produces spectactular variety in the cup. The use of either method will expose a bean to thousands of different chemical process, all of which can have impact on the flavour.

Washing is generally considered to produce more consistent, generally higher quality coffees, and so makes up the vast majority of the high end consumer market in the west. It allow greater control over the process, as well as more chances to eliminate defects. You can expect more uniformity, balance and cleaner cup. There will tend to be greater acidity, as well as a more complex acidity.

Natural coffees are less consistent, but can produce some of the most exciting flavours to be found in any cup. Over the time spent on the ground the drying cherry can impart a great deal of flavour, as can the soil itself. The resulting drink can be less uniform and generally have a more muted acidity. It will also be at once more bitter, and much more sweet. In terms of flavours notes, naturals can produce some of the most unique, fascinating flavours of any coffee

 We feel that our new natural Sidamo definitely falls into that camp. Cupping it alongside our current fully washed Sidamo provides a world of contrasts. They are both clearly Ethiopians, plenty of fruit notes, and sweetness. But beyond that the coffees are as night and day. The washed coffee is clasically light, and floral, with citrus notes- its bright, cheery and swet. With the natural, however,  the body is far more syrupy, and the acidity, while distinct, more muted and subtle whilst the flavour oozes with heavy notes of plums and dark berries. 

As with any Ethiopian coffee, this is a great coffee to be ground and brewed for filter or cafetiere, however its richness and lower acidity mean it is a fantastic alternative for bean to cup or as a single origin espresso.

If you have ever ordered and liked an African coffee, I urge you to give this natural a go. At the same time if you have found African coffees perhaps to be a little too sharp, or too light, this could be exactly what you are looking for.

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