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.