It’s not only the country of origin which plays a huge part in the flavour profile of coffee; the journey those coffee beans have taken, from tree to cup will markedly impact the taste of your morning brew. Right from the beginning of the journey; every processing decision will have a knock-on effect on you, the drinker, so the pressure’s on to get it right!
You might think that there’s only one way to pick a coffee cherry or that it couldn’t possibly have any impact on the flavour of the coffee at this stage…..not so! Coffee beans grow inside a red fruit called a cherry: Whether stripped from the branches (leaves and all) by a machine, or collected by sifting through the faeces of a cat (no really, it’s called Kopi Luwak); there’s more than one way to gather a coffee bean and each method will have a marked impact on the final flavour in your cup.
If you choose to become a member of our Meru Farm project and receive your coffee direct to your door; we guarantee that every bean of coffee has been hand selected from the tree by our expert pickers.
So why does it matter? Machine-picked coffee is likely to include under-ripe or over-ripe beans which will have a negative impact on the flavour outcomes. Individually choosing which beans to pick and which to leave on the tree means that only the ripest, highest quality beans are selected. This means you, the drinker, are getting the very best of the harvest – no cat required!
For many independent coffee growers, the next step is to take their precious harvest off to the local coffee cooperative, often up to 10km away and usually on foot or balanced on the back of a motorbike. One of the first investments we made at the Meru Farm was to build water channels, a pulping machine, fermentation tanks and drying tables. This means that the coffee grown by the Muchomba family can be picked and processed without leaving the farm. Once fully processed and transferred into our winged coffee sacks it is then delivered straight to our roastery in the UK for exclusive supply to Paddy and Scott’s customers. This negates the need for selling their coffee into a cooperative which means a fairer price for the farmer and 100% traceability for the drinker.
There are three main methods of processing the cherries picked from coffee trees (cat intestines aside): Dry/natural processing, semi-wet and wet. Each produces distinct flavour differences.
Most coffees you drink will have been washed and pulped in water in order to remove the red cherry from around the beans inside. It’s the same at the Meru Farm. On top of all the hand-sorting and quality control that will have already happened since the cherries were taken from the tree; this process means that good quality beans will sink to the bottom while un-ripe/defected ones float away.
These high-quality beans are then left in a fermentation tank overnight to soak off the slimy mucilage before being washed and transferred to the drying tables to dry. On the Meru Farm the water used throughout the processing is then recycled and directed either back to the river or onto the Farm to water the trees. The cherry pulp is recycled too as fertiliser on the farm. To try a wet-processed coffee check out the single origins available in our web shop. We recommend the Rwandan as a great place to start. Even better: Why not get yourself your very own coffee tree on the Meru Farm and sample exclusive coffee hand-processed by George Muchomba and his family delivered straight to your door.
In some countries where water is scarce another process has been perfected which bypasses much of the above. The coffee cherries are placed on drying racks, straight from the tree. They are raked and turned frequently to prevent rot as the fruit falls away from the beans inside. Generally, coffees processed in this way have a distinctive, earthy flavour many would describe as ‘funky.’ To try a naturally processed coffee; keep your eyes peeled on our shop page for guest coffees; or give our Brazilian Daterra a try which is partly pulped and then naturally processed – the best of both worlds and known as semi-wet processing.
After a quick whizz around the coffee mill to remove the husk/parchment around the beans they are ready for shipping and roasting. The Meru Farm coffee is delivered straight to our UK roastery where they are expertly roasted to release the coffee oils inside the beans. This is where the aroma and the flavour of the coffee is brought to life. Rigorous taste-testing, known as cupping, ensures that each coffee is treated in just the right way at this point to ensure optimum flavour is achieved.
Following all that hard work what a responsibility you/your barista have to do justice to the coffee you are drinking!
Originally published for Paddy & Scott’s Coffee in the Bury Free Press.