It was 2007, when i tasted my first natural processed coffee ever. This was my short review:
The Ethiopia Misty Valley Idido (Yirgacheffe) must have been the best coffee i ever cupped. An incredible combination of well known Mokka's and Yirgacheffe, but with much more taste, very sweet, caramel, lemon zest, a lingering body and strong spiced chocolate aftertaste. Fantastic!
Actually it wasn't my first unwashed Ethiopian coffee, but in those days i didn't realize that the all famous Mokka Harrar was something comparable in process but with a different taste profile.
Maybe you can say that Harrar coffees, grade 5 Jimmas or classic Brazils are always natural processed and this Misty Valley Idido was natural on purpose to enhance certain flavors.
On my first visit to Ethiopia in 2009 i learned a bit more about it. Abdullah Bagersh, who was the initiator of the Misty Valley Idido, explained how he came up with the idea and what it could mean for the future of coffee. He also told me that lots of people were angry at him and argued this process ruined the authentic flavors and that the result in the cup didn't taste like 'coffee' anymore.
I never had problems with this new type of coffees and learned quickly that it stood not so far apart from fermenty Harrar grade 4 or certain Yemen beans, but just better, cleaner, less earthy.
Around 2010 we saw more and more natural (or dry) processed Ethiopian coffees popping up and we were eagerly promoting it in our bar.
But it was only by 2015 that these type of coffees reached their full potential, people were coming back for it and the best ones started landing in our TOP 5 (best coffees of the year).
Probably the wider appreciating started to come when in those years also Central American producers launched natural processed lots and because of improved practices the beans were shaking off their fermented barnyard-like flavors and a wider audience started to drink them.
Now in 2020 we expect the TOP 5 lists will be invaded by so called 'naturals' and for the first time ever we are going to blend in a natural in our Mister LGB blend, which was until now forbidden territory for them.
Today we have a fantastic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe CHELCHELE Natural on display (almost tasting on filter like the coffee version of a Fristi) and 3 more naturals will be landing soon, from which one lot is labeled as a 90+ coffee, our highest special grade at Caffenation.
Some info on the side: In the natural (or dry) process, coffee beans are left in their skin and fleshy fruit casing. The cherries are laid out on patios or raised beds under the sun or in shade. For up to a month, the beans undergo a sugar fermentation, where they develop their unique, exciting profile. In general the natural processed coffee tastes sweeter, fruiter and has more body.