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Subscription Spotlight: Pineda Pack

This blog is the first entry in what will be an ongoing series highlighting a unique group of special-release coffees. Before making their way to other avenues, these especially radiant and limited coffees will be available to our coffee subscription humans; this new perk allows us to offer a special thank you to all our immensely important subscribers!

Introduction aside, let’s get to what’s important, the coffee and the humans behind it.

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Over the last several years, we’ve been lucky to develop a relationship with Alma Pineda. The matriarch of a talented coffee family (her husband Evin Moreno also a prolific producer), Alma runs her own, small farm in Honduras’ Santa Barbara department.* This year in particular though, Alma and her colleagues have decided to push the boundaries of her Paraneima coffees.

In the past, Alma has focused her resources into producing delicious washed coffees. Washed in this context refers to the coffee’s processing, i.e., the process in which the coffee seed undergoes from coffee cherry to bean. To wash process coffee is to rid the coffee seed of any residual mucilage entirely, i.e., the fruit sediment remaining from the coffee cherry. Asking what if..., Alma decided to venture down other routes opposed to simply continuing to fully wash all her coffee.

To walk us down the two innovative routes Alma took, we had Xavier (co-owner and green buyer) write up his first-hand account of Alma’s work:

Experimental, aka Weirdo Fermento--

The Weirdo Fermento's impetus sprawled out from a conversation between Evin Moreno, Alma’s husband, and Benjamin Paz. Their question: What happens if you bag up a cargo of cherries and dunk it into cold water? Further, what happens after milling them? Paranima’s profile verges on the bright and usually yield citrus/lime notes when washed. Understanding this trend allowed Alma to imagine where they could take her coffee with experimentation. After 2 days floating in water, the coffee was pulped and left in its own mucilage for up to 72 hours. This experimental semi-washing developed an aroma reminiscent of rose water and pineapple. The final result, a really clean and complex cup that exhibits a cornucopia of fruity depth.”

Honey--

“No, Alma Honey is not the follow up to Pablo Honey (though this coffee certainly is a jam). Much like Weirdo, Alma Honey was born out of a desire to push the boundaries of this lot-- to see what other flavors they could muster from this Melado, Honey process. The result, amplified sweetness, which would usually be expected from a natural process, remaining balanced with creaminess and floral notes. This year, Alma and Evin produced only about a bag’s worth of raw coffee. But with how well this coffee is cupping, we’re eager to see them produce more honey processed lots in the future.”

 

*Santa Barbara is an area near and dear to as its the home to other partner/friends of ours, such as Benjamin Paz and Denis Enamorado.

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Due to both coffees having an experimental nature for Alma, as X mentioned, she only produced a tiny yield. We’re proud to have secured one bag of each (only approx 150 lbs), and we’re now excited to share them with you.

Whether you sign-up for a subscription or risk waiting for them to hit our website next week, make sure you give yourself the gift of tasting these special-release micro-lots!

Part of a Process, Chapter III: Dry/Natural and Honey Process Coffee

 Pictured Above: Pre-sorted coffee cherries; dark, ripe cherries will be hand-selected to undergo the dry/natural process
Photo Credit: Ryan Lodge

 

Dry/Natural Process

At one point avoided because of perceptions of cloying sweetness, overly floral notes, and even vinegar-like fermented flavors, the dry or natural process is gaining ground in the specialty coffee industry by overcoming those stereotypes—in fact, well done dry processed coffee can be something balanced, complex, and delicious.

In undergoing the natural process, cherries are plucked from the shrub and then simply dried on patios or raised beds. In the case of Metric’s El Pilar Natural y Honey Hybrid, the natural lot is dried over twelve days. The coffee cherry is left on the bean throughout the entire drying process. Because the cherry stays intact, distinct flavors from the fruit are introduced to the bean. The bean itself interacts with natural microbes of the cherry that impart unique regional flavors, natural sugars, and fermented fruit tones naturals are known for as enzymes break down the mucilage. Before export, the cherry’s pulp and parchment are scrubbed mechanically from the bean.

Although ideal for drier climates, Central and South American countries are keen to master the natural process. It can prove to be very labor intensive, requiring manual sorting to sift out defects and careful attention in assuring drying occurs consistently and completely. Yet it can be done, and coffees like this El Pilar Natural y Honey prove that this processing is viable anywhere if enough work and attention are given to it. As the process gains traction, we can find natural processed coffees that have it all—balanced and unique fruit flavors working in tandem with the inherent flavors of the bean.  The trick is, just like with wet processed coffee, to do it well. It is yet another example of the forever changing nature of the coffee industry, and another reason why cupping everything with an open mind is important. 

 Pictured Above: Mill worker turning coffee cherries via the dry/natural process at Finca El Pilar
Photo Credit: Ryan Lodge

Pulped Natural/Honey Processed/Semi-dry

 Gaining popularity across Central and South America is the honey process. 

“Honey process” is an admittedly conflated term that refers to a process in which some outer layers remaining in contact with the bean during the drying process. Some grade honeying with how many outer layers are left to dry with the bean, and some grade honeying in terms of how often the bean is turned during the drying process, or in general how long the drying is managed (yellow, red, and black are terms referring to the length of time the bean is dried with the mucilage left on). Although terminology and definition of such terms differ across producers and roasters alike, the important part of the honey process is that some parts of the the sticky outer layers are left to ferment, lending an amplified acidity unique to both the region and the coffee. 

For Metric’s Guatemala El Pilar Natural y Honey Hybrid, select lots are honeyed to a “yellow,” with some skin of the cherry and a portion of the pulp being removed before being left to ferment and dry. These lots are blended in with with natural process coffees, and the result brews into a balanced yet vibrant brew. Pleasant wine-like acidity and strawberry notes come through beautifully, and showcase the best of natural and honey-processed coffees all in one cup.