Newsletter #9: A Pause on Natural Prep

In the 90s, Natural Prep coffee was not commonly associated with quality in the Canadian Market. They were often seen as a byproduct of harvest nearing its end. Poorly ripened or green coffee cherries mixed together and sold at lower prices for blends. But for us, natural prep was cherished and represented a source of pride for the art of drying perfectly ripe cherries in this way. 

Naturals rely heavily on the whims of mother nature. A perfect combination of factors is necessary to achieve an exceptional natural prep coffee: with notes of brandy and wine-like goodness. There needs to be well-maintained cement patios, sunny and dry weather for an extended amount of time, and consistent temperatures. 

Sadly, our 2023 harvest did not have all the elements lined up in our favour. Thanks, mother nature! We always eagerly await our natural prep harvest every year, so this has been a huge disappointment. 

In Las Sabanas, the patios that were used for preparing natural were significantly damaged over the last 3 years. Twin hurricanes Eta and Iota, the soaring price of cement, and a lack of tradespeople to repair the patio have all contributed to the steady deterioration of patio quality and availability. The conscious pursuit of quality by growers has rendered natural impossible to produce under these conditions. 

Aside from infrastructure, there’s also the weather. Dry and warm days are needed for natural to dry without it fermenting or going rancid because of too much moisture in the air. If you don’t have the right conditions up the mountain where your coffee farm is, then you have to drive them down to a warmer and drier elevation. Like a beneficio in Ocotal. But transporting coffee has its own challenges. The cost of fuel is the most obvious. But aside from that, the moment you put the coffee cherries in a plastic bag, they begin to ferment. The 1.5-hour-long journey is bumpy and winding, which would damage the cherries. All of this relies on the chance of a grower even having the necessary vehicles to take these daily trips. 

Undoubtedly, conducting the transportation in such a manner would prove to be an expensive endeavour. Besides acquiring the appropriate vehicle and covering the daily fuel expenses, wooden crates similar to those used for transporting grapes or tomatoes would be required. The current circumstances made it nearly impossible to execute such a logistical feat.

Despite the challenges being faced during this harvest, the passion for producing exceptional naturals remains unwavering. We hope to have things repaired and ready to go for the 2024 harvest. The setback serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between nature and infrastructure. 

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