A little to the South of Yirgacheffe town, the town of Banco Gotete is surrounded by smallholder farmers, most with plots of less than a hectare. Coffee here is grown as cash crop amongst subsistence crop such as sweet potatoes, mango and avocados, thus representing a small but significant income for farmers.
Whilst not certified, the lack of pesticide use and other chemical interference – the cost being too high for farmers and plots too small to make its use worthwhile – means that most coffee from the region is, in fact, Organic – rather like home grown lettuces. You know they are ‘organic’…but you actually can’t sell them as such.
The local coffee varietal – Heritage Gedeo, is, much like ‘Heirloom’, simply named as a result of coffee trees being inherited with the land, farmed by ongoing generations.
Harvested by hand during November and December, freshly picked cherries are delivered on a daily basis to the local Mill. Whilst the vast majority of beans are Wet, or Washed processed, this batch has been Dry or Naturally processed.
Once careful hand sorting has been completed, the coffee cherries are dried under a canopy on African beds. The parchment is turned regularly, protected from hot sun, for around 23 days, or until it reaches the optimum humidity. At this point, the dried cherries will be bagged and rested for several weeks until being de-hulled. As you can imagine, a huge quantity of water is saved through the natural processing of coffee – that alone makes for a reason to try these coffees.
Naturally processed coffees are characterised by their fruity, sometimes almost boozy smell – often strong, so don’t be put off by it! The results in the cup are tremendous, offering fuller body, extra fruitiness and a pizazz that, whilst not always having quite the sophistication as their more traditional, fully washed, brethren, makes for some fantastic drinks!