Every coffee-growing country has its own specialised processes to get the most out of the bean. This depends, among other things, on the climate and terrain.
Nespresso, the pioneer and reference for portioned coffee, sources its products from various regions around the world and has formed partnerships – through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program – with local farming experts to test innovative and demanding practices.
It has five new Master Origin coffees from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Colombia, India and Nicaragua.
Due to the extremely humid climate in Sumatra, the farmers here use a unique technique called “wet-hulling” with their Arabica beans. After the coffee cherries are harvested, they are pulped, fermented in bags overnight and rinsed clean the next morning. The beans are then hulled while still wet. They come out squashed and misshapen, a milky blue/green colour, and smelling sweetly of fresh green peas. This process allows the sun and heat to directly penetrate the green bean, allowing them to dry quicker. The coffee is thick, rich in body with notes of cured tobacco and tropical perfumes.
In the place where coffee was discovered centuries ago, you will find a practice that has stood the test of time. Water is not always readily accessible in regions like Western Ethiopia and so farmers here have traditionally cultivated more unwashed and wilder tasting coffees. The dry method involves taking whole coffee cherries and spreading them out under the intense tropical sun. Skilfully done, this natural method applied to Ethiopian Arabica beans produces an aromatic cup with delicate hints of flowers and unexpected wild notes of musk.
Farmers and field workers know what a ripe coffee cherry looks like, and they will often paint their thumbnail a scarlet colour as a reference for a perfect berry that’s ready to be harvested. In Columbia, coffee farmers were asked to leave the cherries ripening on the trees for longer until they turned a deeper purple colour and produced an enhanced flavour profile. However, there was a higher chance of spoiled cherries and the farmers were, as expected, hesitant at first. But they did agree to give it a try and this resulted in a late-harvest Arabica with a balanced acidity, fruity red wine notes and just the right amount of intensity to create a harmonious flavour profile.
The process of “monsooning” involves great care and is carried out between June and September on the tropical coast of India when the south-west monsoon wind is most intense. After the coffee cherries are selectively picked, they are sorted, dried, then hulled. They are then transferred to a warehouse with wide open sides that allow for cross ventilation and are spread in heaps on the ground, allowing them to absorb moisture from the atmosphere.
During this process, the beans double in size and the colour changes from green to a pale yellow. The beans require a lot of care and attention – constant raking and shifting – to ensure the perfect outcome and prevent any deformities.
While normally carried out on the popular Arabica bean, in this case the process has been applied on the underappreciated Robusta. The coffee produced is extremely woody, spicy and powerful.
Sometime around 2008, certain Nicaraguan farmers began “honey” processing their coffee beans – a unique and rare processing technique that allows the coffee fruit’s natural sugars to infuse the very heart of the bean.
To say that the “Black Honey” process is challenging would be an understatement. Because farmers dry the beans with most of the coffee fruit still around the bean, contrary to the usual drying process where the fruit is removed, this operation requires constant monitoring and rotation in order to perfect the flavours and prevent defects. Add to that a humid climate, which can complicate the level and rate of the drying process, and the fact that each sticky and sweet cherry has a different amount of flesh surrounding the bean, this process can take several weeks to complete correctly.
But the result is a sweet and smooth cup that many coffee drinkers find wholly satisfying.