Full Naturals: An odd chain of mistakes that might turn out great.
23 March 2015
We've produced pulped naturals a couple times before and it was always very popular. Even though it is requested regularly and sells for a much higher price, creating pulped naturals is such a hassle that I don't want to do it unless I have the time to do it correctly. Well, this year conditions happened to be just right so we produced another batch. It's a small batch, just enough for a few of our favorite customers. We'll be offering it soon.
This year is the first time we've ever tried making a batch of full naturals. It wasn't on purpose though, I've always said I don't want to make full naturals because it's too risky. I see other farmers trying and failing. I don't want to risk losing a batch of good coffee just because I was experimenting. Well, this year an odd sequence of mistakes forced my hand.
First, our picking crew said they were going to show up but didn't. Then a winter storm came through with unusually cold and wet weather. Early in the harvest season the picking crews have no problem working in the rain. Later in the season, after the picking crews have been receiving fat paychecks for several months, they are no longer interested in working in the rain. So our already ripe coffee sat there for a couple weeks longer than usual. I was not happy. Oddly though, due to the unusually cold and wet weather, the coffee didn't turn to raisin like it normally would if not picked in time.
When the rain finally stopped and the pickers finally showed up, the coffee they picked looked almost ruined. I tried to pulp it as usual but most of it was rejected by the machine. The delay combined with the odd weather had allowed the beans to dry while still on the trees. I was really upset now because I was going to have to throw it all away.
That's when my friend Colin, a friend who had just purchased a new coffee farm of his own, suggested that I make naturals. My first reaction was "No, that never works in Kona, everyone that tries it ends up with moldy, nasty coffee." Colin was adamant that it would work because the coffee was already almost dried. I argued because I'm the expert and he's just the new guy. In the end though, I had to admit that he was correct. The odd chain of events had allowed the coffee to dry on the trees without turning to raisin. To top it off, the forecast was predicting sunny and dry weather ahead. All the elements had come together so we gave it a shot.
We were very nervous at first. It felt odd putting all that cherry out on the deck. I was sure we were going to end up with a huge mess. It worked though, by the second day of unrelenting tropical sun, the coffee was already so dry that we were out of the danger zone. There was no sign of ants, mold or musty odor. I went from bring angry at the unreliable pickers and bad weather to being happy at my unusually good luck.
It's not ready yet, it needs to sit and age in our storage room for another month first. When it is ready, we'll have to do a cupping to make sure it really is as good as I think it will be. I'm optimistic but I don't want to promise anything yet.
Of course if it does turn out great, the first few pounds will go to my friend Colin.