The coffee industry is huge and has continued to grow all around the world.  Today 125 million people depend on coffee production for their livelihood, and it is consumed in every part of the globe. Coffee is linked with both the economic and cultural histories of so many countries but very few coffee drinkers have scratched the surface to learn what's underneath. 

The coffee industry can be separated into two distinct areas:  commodity and specialty coffees.  These are coffees that are defined by their quality and by how good they taste.  Their origin is important, as this will often determine their taste.  Commodity coffee is the term used to describe coffees that are not traded on their quality, but are considered simply to be "coffee".  Where they are grown doesn't really matter much, or when they were harvested or how they were processed. 

Commodity coffee has defined the way that much of the world thinks about coffee...a generic product from some far away land.  A easy way to get caffeine into the bloodstream and clear the fog from the brain in the morning.  The idea that one might drink coffee for enjoyment, to delight in its complexity of flavor, still has relatively little penetration into global culture but that is changing fast.


The coffee fruit

All cherries start out green and develop deeper colors as the fruit matures. The skin is usually a deep red when ripe, though some trees have yellow fruit as well.  Occasionally a cross between a yellow-fruiting tree and a red-fruiting tree will yield orange fruit.     

Ripeness is tied to the quantity of sugar in the fruit, which is vitally important when trying to grow delicious coffee.  Generally speaking, the more sugar in the fruit, the better.  However, different producers harvest their cherries at different stages of ripeness (underdeveloped or overripe) which can affect the taste of the resulting coffee. 

Harvesting Coffee

Careful harvesting of coffee cherries is fundamentally important to the quality of the resulting cup of coffee.  Obviously, coffee beans harvested from fruit at peak ripeness generally taste the best.  Most experts view the harvest as the point at which the quality of the coffee peaks, and every stage thereafter is about preserving quality rather than improving it. 

Hand-Picking:  For high quality coffee, hand picking remains the most effective way of harvesting.  Pickers select only the cherries that are ready for harvest, leaving the unripe fruit on the tree to be picked later.  This is hard labor and producers face the challenge of incentivizing their pickers to harvest only the ripe fruit.  Pickers are paid by the weight of the fruit they pick, which encourages them to pick unripe fruit to make up additional weight.  

Sorting the Beans:  After picking, the cherries are often sorted using a variety of different methods to prevent unripe or overripe coffee from joining the bulk of the lot.  Some do by hand, others are sorted using a flotation tank.  The cherries are poured into a large tank of water, where the ripe fruit sinks to the bottom, unripe fruit floats to the top and is skimmed off to be processed separately.


How a coffee is processed after harvest can have a big effect on the resulting cup so this is an important part of how it is described and sold.  

 Natural Process

Also known as the dry process (popular in areas with low access to water), this is the oldest method of processing coffee.  After harvest, the coffee cherries are spread out in a thin layer to dry in the sun.  The cherries must be turned regularly to avoid mold, fermentation or rotting taking place.  Once the coffee is properly dry, the outer husk of skin and dried fruit are removed mechanically, and the raw coffee is then stored before export.  The natural process itself adds certain flavors to the coffee, sometimes positive but often quite unpleasant.  This process remains quite traditional is places, and there is certainly demand for the cup qualities that a carefully processed lot can have.  The process will often add fruit flavors to the coffee, regardless of variety.  These are usually described as hints of blueberry, strawberry or tropical fruit, but sometimes with negative terms like barnyard, wild, ferment and manure.  Because of the long drying period the sugars and flavors of the coffee fruit are concentrated and absorbed into the bean resulting in sticky-sweet, complex and unmistakable fruity flavours and aromatics. Naturals are generally more inconsistent in quality because every bean is in its own closed environment of varying levels of sugars and alcohols, so again, more risk/reward with this method but for those who do it right can really produce some unique coffees…….Which is why consistent, exquisite naturals are often highly revered.

Honey Process

This is where the coffee cherries are "de-pulped" but allowed to dry with the remaining golden, sticky mucilage that's reminiscent of honey still on the beans, which is where the process gets it name. The honey process is a nice middle-ground between the washed & natural methods. Several factors play a role in the outcome of honey processed coffees such as the amount of fruit remaining on the beans, humidity, heat, shade, and the oxidation of sugar during the drying phase which results in specific "levels" of honey most often called yellow, red or black….which describes the color of the parchment/skin once dried. With more sun & heat a lighter color will emerge (yellowish), less amounts will give a reddish color with black being the one dried with the most fruit on the bean, less heat, and less direct sunlight. Very labor intensive as well dealing with this method, plus…..dealing with really sticky hands until it's completely dried;)  One major benefit, of course, is the diversity of flavors (different than washed) and quality that a producer can achieve by applying different honey processes which generally have some of the body and sweetness of a natural while retaining some of the acidity of a washed. Honey coffees often have a syrupy body with enhanced sweetness, round acidity and earthy undertones….complex fruit notes and flowery aromas are very common in honey processed coffee and the increased sweetness is definitely noticeable. Another benefit is the reduction of acidity in honey processed coffee (compared to washed) rendering it more easily enjoyed by coffee lovers with sensitive stomachs (so they say;). Honey processed are a pleasant middle ground between washed and natural coffees with mellow acidity, thick mouthfeel and an extra hint of sweetness. None of this means honey produces a “better” cup than wet-processing or natural, just more exotic and predictable than washed, not as risky or exotic as a natural, it brings a gently exotic, mildly unpredictable complexity…...Fits nicely in-between;)

 Washed Process

 The goal of the washed process is to remove all of the sticky flesh from the coffee seed before it is dried.  This greatly reduces the chance of something going wrong during drying, this process is also more expensive than the others.  After picking, the coffee cherry has its outer skin and most of the fruit flesh stripped off using a machine called a depulper.  The coffee is then moved to a clean tank of water where the remainder of the flesh is removed by fermentation.  The fruit flesh contains a lot of pectin and it is firmly attached to the seed but the fermentation breaks down the remaining flesh enough for it to be washed away.  The results of the washed process depend on almost 100% of the bean having absorbed enough natural sugars and nutrients during its growing cycle which means it's the best method to taste exactly where it came from plus it's varietal, soil, weather, ripeness, fermentation, & washing/drying are all key to it's overall quality. The washed process is able to highlight the true character of a single origin bean like no other process-and the reason for the popularity of washed coffee along with being the most consistent method when it comes to quality. All this gives a refined and balanced coffee with complex notes, a medium body and a pronounced acidity, while still being somewhat sweet. The washed process is able to highlight the true character of a single origin bean like no other process.

Drying Process 

The objective of drying is to lower the moisture content of parchment or cherry coffee to about 12% so as to preserve the beans safely in storage.

There are two methods of drying, solar or mechanical. As a rule, coffee that is dried more slowly will have a more homogeneous moisture content and a more uniform color because longer drying grants the beans more time to exchange moisture and to equalize their moisture content. Research seems to suggest that during coffee very slowly and very evenly can have benefits not only to quality in the short term, but also to how long a coffee will retain its good flavor when stored in its raw state.  Coffees dried to quickly can lose their attractive qualities shortly after being delivered to the roaster which is bad news for both the roaster and the end consumer. When asking local coffee producers, roasters, and those in the coffee business here in Colombia it seems that all agree that solar drying results in better tasting coffee.  There is research that debates this issue but we tend to side with those who deal with coffee on a daily basis to advise us on what's best for our coffee. 

Roasting Coffee

Roasting takes the green coffee seed, which has almost no flavor beyond a quite unpleasant vegetal taste, and transforms it into an incredibly aromatic, astonishingly complex coffee bean.  It can be said that the roast of a coffee is a product of the final color of the coffee bean (light or dark) and the time it took to get to that color (fast or slow).  Simply describing a coffee as a light or dark roast is not enough, as the roast could have been relatively fast or it could have been quite slow.  The flavor will be quite different between the fast and the slow, even though the bean may look the same.   

The roasting process can be controlled to determine three key aspects of how the coffee will taste:  acidity, sweetness and bitterness.  It is generally agreed that the longer a coffee is roasted, the less acidity it will have in the end.  On the other hand, bitterness will slowly increase the longer a coffee is roasted, and will definitely increase the darker a coffee is roasted. Sweetness is shown as a bell curve, peaking in between the highs of acidity and bitterness.  A good roaster can manipulate where a coffee may be sweetest in relation to its roast degree, producing either a very sweet, yet also quite acidic coffee, or a very sweet, but more muted cup by using a different roast profile. Roasting Coffee 

After searching our area for a quality roaster we could trust we found Alejandro Vidarte Aranda who impressed us with his overall knowledge, cleanliness of working facility, and professionally run business practices leaving us feeling confident on producing the best coffee possible for our customers. His business & facility ([email protected]) is where Cafe Zentimana is roasted & packaged with great care and commitment to detail.

The quality and flavor of Café Zentimana has been our primary concern.

Our Process

From start to finish our goal is to make the best coffee possible and that starts with harvesting ripe cherries when they're ready.  Because our farm isn't too big it's easier to do more frequent "harvests" (picking ripe cherries) thereby resulting in higher quality coffee being processed.   Most coffee growing regions of the world have one or two harvesting seasons, but here in Colombia it's a little different.  Not only do you have two big harvest times but all year long there's  usually something to pick thanks to the perfect climate and conditions.  This is why hand picking is so important but also time consuming, a constant watch over the ripeness is necessary to harvest when needed to avoid waste, plant health, and natural pest control.

Once picked, our coffee goes through a depulping machine that separates the bean from the cherry and then gets "wet processed".   Using only natural spring water (no municipal water ever used) the coffee beans soak for 12-24 hours (called "fermentation") which helps remove the outer skin of the bean.  This is also when "floater" beans are removed, these are under or over developed beans that will negatively affect the quality of the coffee later on when roasted and consumed. 

Our HONEY falls between a yellow & red type of honey due to a couple factors. First, after removing the skin our coffee gets a quick rinse (natural spring water) before being taken to the solar dryer because we like it clean before entering the drying process. Secondly, we don't shade the coffee during drying, it sits in our solar dryer (plastic covered dome) while being raked often to ensure proper drying....getting some indirect sun & shade depending on the weather. While it's drying defects are removed (as usual, we like as near "perfect" coffee as we can)....this is the fun part with the honey process as your hands get coated with the mucilage still on the beans, sticky stuff!  When it comes to the finished product, the roast is a lighter medium color to bring out as much flavor as possible.  We don't want to list a bunch of flavors & notes which each person may or may not taste themselves so we'll just keep it simple with the description. SWEETNESS! It's amazing how sweet this coffee tastes on it's own, a really syrup-y feel to it for sure. It has a wonderful mouthfeel & aftertaste, couldn't be more proud of the finished product.

After this our coffee is solar dried.  It can take anywhere from 7-14 days for the beans to dry to the desired level of 12% moisture content.  During this time constant "raking" of the beans is required to help with even drying.  Also occurring at this time is the removal of unwanted beans that are defective or undesirable (our goal is perfect coffee).  After the coffee has dried, now in its "parchment" stage, it gets bagged up and stored for future roasting in GrainPro bags to preserve freshness.   Our storage room is carefully monitored (cool & dark) and has a dehumidifier to maintain the level of moisture in the room.  Our attention to detail during the entire process ensures our coffee will be the best it can be.