Sweetness is delicious, think honey, caramel, brown sugar. Sweetness and acidity, dare I say, is even more delicious, think orange juice, rich mangoes, and fresh strawberries.
Coffee begins life as a fruit and so is damn delicious fresh of the plant, the cherry is syrupy sweet, juicy, and full of fruit flavour.
It's something I dived deeper into at Finca Diamante, Colombia, in March 2021.
In the picture below Sebastian Velazquez, the farmer picked a flight of coffee cherries ranging from green to an overripe purple.
Now pay close attention to the two cherries in the green box, to the naked eye there is not much difference but we can squeeze the juices out of these cherries onto a Brix Refractometer which will tell us the sucrose (sugar) content of the cherry.
The way it works is that after you squeeze the juice onto the device, you hold it up to natural sunlight, the light then bends or refracts according to the quantity of sucrose dissolved in the juice giving us a reading of Brix%. The higher the percentage the sweeter the cherry. The results above show that the marginally darker cherry had a Brix% of 21 and the neighbouring cherry 14 - that's 50% more sugars!! (image above, middle and bottom right). However, these values are approximations of sucrose content as coffee cherry juice also has many other dissolved solids which will cause the sunlight to refract more.
So, I had to perform the ultimate test for you, the taste test, and my goodness was the slightly more purple cherry a good amount sweeter! These are the super delicious coffee cherries Sebastian and his team pick and add to the big sack above for our tasting pleasure.
The key is to dry the sweet cherries whole, it's called 'natural processing' and it retains many of the sugars lost in the traditional style of processing where the cherry is washed off. There is another type of processing too called the 'honey process' in which part of the fruit is dried with the cherry which also leaves a wonderful sweetness.
Sebastian explained that a slow drying of 34 days is also key to the final sweet texture on the palate, at least that's what his experiments had revealed.
I feel it's truly special to be working with farmers who take this much care as the reality is these coffees are hard to produce, the persistent humidity of the tropics means that many who attempt to natural process coffees end up with off, mouldy or over fermented cherries.
Now, it's important to mention that these delicious cherries are fermented before drying to raise the complexity in their flavour, the fermentation turns sugars into acids and so these coffees have elevated juiciness. This also means the sweetness in your final cup is not like eating dried fruit. It's much a milder, gentler, and complimentary sweetness like a honey glaze or brown sugar.
That's what you'll find in Sebastian's coffee and others we have at chetventurecoffee.com.
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Thank you for reading, Chetan