ICON 32 – Supernatural
ICON 32 – Supernatural

ICON 32 – Supernatural

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The second supernatural we've featured in this series is a certified banger. This micro-lot produced by Koke Shalaye utilises some interesting fermentation techniques developed to reduce the amount of available oxygen, advancing the fermentation whilst limiting some of the microbial activity happening. The results are a "super" naturally tasting coffee, which we find tastes like tangy marmalade with bergamot, milk chocolate and a delightful booziness.

PRODUCER: Koke Shalaye
CULTIVAR: Heirloom Varieties
LOCATION: Yirgacheffe, Gedeo Zone, Ethiopia
ALTITUDE: 1,972 masl
BAG SIZE: 150g

This lot was produced by the Koke Shalaye processing station in the Yirgacheffe coffee region, just 7 km from Yirgacheffe town and part of the Gedeo zone in the ‘Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples’ (SNNP) region of Ethiopia. The wet mill sits at an altitude of 1,972 metres above sea level in beautiful surroundings with the Fetay River running nearby. Over a number of years the region has developed a distinguished reputation for fine coffees, producing some of the most sought-after micro-lots in world. The combination of high altitude (up to 2,200m in some areas), fertile soil, consistent and plentiful rains, and an abundance of local knowledge are all contributing factors to the high status of Yirgacheffe coffees. 

Smallholder farmers in this region typically cultivate Jarc 74110, 7412 and 74165 sub-varieties of traditional Ethiopian heirloom varieties on small garden plots around their homes and then sell them to their local wet mill for processing. Cherries are collected from an around 1,890 farmers each year.

Koke Shalaye pays more than the market price for a kilogram of red cherries, and farmers who bring in quality cherries receive a monetary reward, ensuring an overall higher than average quality. The coffee is selectively picked by hand before being delivered to the factory’s collection points, usually within 5 km of the producers’ homes. Great care is taken at collection to separate over-ripe, under-ripe or damaged fruits before they are combined with other lots on the way to the washing station.

In traditional Ethiopian specialty natural processing, cherries are spread in a thin layer over a raised bed and dried in either indirect or direct sunlight. For this relatively recently designed process, supernatural, cherries - hand harvested and selected via Brix measurement at their optimum ripeness - are weighed and spread evenly in a thick layer on raised drying racks lined with plastic sheet. The sheet is then rolled up (not unlike a burrito) and the cherries are fermented for a pre-determined amount of time. Unlike a strict anoxic fermentation there is a limited amount of oxygen present, contributing to some of the microbial activity. After the fermentation period the coffee is dried slowly under shade in a thick layer. The precise recipe is a closely guarded secret and varies for each washing station with adjustments to fermentation time, cherry volume, and thickness of drying layers making up the possible variables.

In order to ensure consistency, prevent over-fermentation, and avoid mould formation, it is essential that the conditions are strictly monitored throughout. Temperature, Brix and moisture readings are recorded periodically and small adjustments to airflow and ambient temperature are made accordingly.

Once the optimum moisture content has been reached (around 12.5%) the cherries are rested in a cool environment prior to secondary processing - hulling, grading, sorting, handpicking and bagging in GrainPro for export.