This is the last (boo hoo!) of the samples of coffee sent by Savannah, Georgia’s PERC Coffee Roasters. The four coffees they sent me showed an amazing range of flavors and profiles and I think they did a fantastic job with all of them!
Today’s review is PERC’s Koke Cooperative. This is a special coffee because it was processed as a “pulped natural,” which is a hybrid method of processing coffee that uses elements of washing as well as dry processing. I think this is the first pulped natural Ethiopian coffee I’ve ever had, and I loved it! This coffee coffee comes from the Koke Cooperative near Yirga Cheffe, Ethiopia, and is comprised of heirloom varietals (Ethiopia grows about 4,000 varietals of Arabica coffee, so you try cataloging all of them!) that grow from 1900-2100masl. You can buy this coffee directly from PERC for an unbelieveable $14!
I’m going to write about processing for a while, so skip a few paragrpahs below if you want to cut right to the coffee itself!
To quickly review processing of coffee (click the links for more info!), the two basic types are washing/wet process and natural/dry process. In dry, or “natural” processing of coffee, the coffee is picked from the plants and laid out on raised beds in the sun. The coffee cherry, along with all the mucilage (a sticky, syrupy, sugary layer of goop that feeds the seed) dries along with the seed (what we call a “bean”) inside. Natural coffees tend to pick up a lot of flavors from the fermentation that is going on in that little bundle of joy! Once the drying process has completed, then the cherry, dried mucilage and parchment are removed by further milling down the road, and the green coffee eventually makes it to the roasters.
Washed coffee, on the other hand, gets more processing upfront… the cherries are picked and they go right into water tanks where some (usually immature and undesired) of the cherries float and others sink. The floaters get skimmed off and the coffee gets pulped to remove the cherry skins. A lot of that sticky mucilage gets left behind, and so the next step in wet processing of coffee is fermentation. Bacteria and yeasts feed on all that yummy sugar for anywhere from one to several days, digesting the mucilage. Some more rinsing happens, and then the coffee gets laid out in the sun to dry the seeds and parchment over a period of time. The parchment is eventually removed by milling and the green coffee makes its way to the roasters.
Pulped natural process (sometimes called “honey” process), then, is sort of “in between” these other two methods. It starts out a lot like a washed coffee, going into a float tank and then it’s pulped to remove the cherry skin and some of the mucilage. From there, though, the coffee is handled a lot like a natural, where it’s laid out to dry with the sticky mucilage layer intact. Some fermentation occurs, but less than when the cherry skin is intact. So, these coffees can pick up some fruity flavors that we associate with natural coffees, but at the same time they don’t ferment to the same degree, so they tend to be a little cleaner in the cup.
SO, LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS COFFEE, FINALLY!!!
This coffee really surprised me in that it very distinctly exhibited properties that are classically associated with Ethiopian naturals and washed coffees. I didn’t expect to find so much of both in the cup! Washed Ethiopian coffees tend to have a lot of lemony acidity and often a very tea-like presence. They’re light, clean, subtle and highlight the high notes. Ethiopian naturals tend to be super-fruity with usually big berry flavors like blueberries, strawberries and the like. They can also have a lot of chocolate notes and a syrupy mouthfeel.
The dry coffee in the bag smelled like a cross between Frankenberry, Boo-Berry and Fruity Pebbles cereals to me! I just stuck my face in the bag and breathed in as much aroma as I could!
The immediately brewed (Gino pourover) cup leaned more toward the natural side of the spectrum, but this coffee is best left to cool down for a while because it improves dramatically and opens up very nicely as it does. The coffee was really thin right after brewing but the body seemed to “firm up” quite a bit as it cooled. It wasn’t as syrupy as a full natural can be, but the coffee didn’t have the “this-is-more-tea-than-coffee” mouthfeel that wet processed Ethiopians seem to exhibit so often for me.
The flavors reminded me mostly of sweet strawberries, at first, but as the cup cooled a delightful lemon acidity took shape. The lemon character of the coffee played off the sweetness in a great way, and I liken it more to a lemon candy than the lemon zest I would expect in a washed coffee from this region. The fruitiness of the coffee also took a big shift as it cooled, reminding me more of watermelon and maybe a little cantaloupe than the berry flavors I was getting before. There was a bit of something floral in the flavor, too, and then the finish was that lemon candy again.
I am a HUGE fan of this coffee! It had all the attributes of both basic types of Ethiopian coffees that I love, in one cup! PERC did a fantastic job of pulling all those fruits and acids together in a single cup that was simultaneously sweet, bright, fruity and clean. WOW!