“Project Echelon” by Onyx Coffee Lab invites you to enter a world where you can fully experience the best and most award winning coffees. Unique, rare cultivars, world famous agronomy experiments and competition winning coffees.
This coffee took us completely by surprise. It arrived as an unlabeled bag within a box of other samples from our friend at Forest Coffee. Initially we thought this unlabeled bag was a mistake, but our friends simply wanted to add some intrigue to this special coffee. After cupping it, we immediately sent a message asking what it was. With notes of strawberry, jasmine, and tropical fruits, this coffee was vibrant and immediately stood off the table. This exciting Gesha comes from a small producer named Milton Monroy in Tolima, Colombia, and we contracted as much of this coffee as we could.
When the folks from Forest Coffee first decided to visit Milton Monroy’s farm in Tolima, it was because they were thoroughly impressed with the impeccable cup profile of his Gesha. Milton is a fourth generation coffee producer, growing primarily caturra and castillo, but has recently added a plot of Gesha to his farm. When the folks from Forest visited, they were interested in seeing the trees that this stunning lot came from. These 7,000 trees were planted at the very top of the farm, and after hiking up to this plot the trees were obscured by a thick fog. This high elevation fog prompted them to name this coffee Gesha Clouds, after the extremely high elevation that these trees were grown at.
Milton’s history in specialty coffee is short, after inheriting the farm from his parents he continued to produce coffee as was done over the many generations before him. However, due to the market downturn, Milton noted that many producers in the area were fetching higher prices for exotic varieties and processes and turned to farming specialty in 2014. This pivot in practice came with many changes in processing and agronomy, the foremost starting with cherry selection within picking. Milton is onsite during harvest to ensure that only ripe cherries go into the processing station, with quality checks like sizing and floating the cherries. With his keen eye for processing and his strict loyalty to quality, it’s safe to say that Milton Monroy will continue to develop amazing coffees like this Gesha for years to come.
NATURALLY PROCESSED COFFEE
Natural coffees are beautiful…Okay, natural coffees are beautiful when done properly, but can be equally terrible when things go wrong. Natural processing, or dry processing, refers to the act of drying and fermenting coffee inside the cherry. Long before the age of portafilter tattoos and dual-boiler home espresso machines, coffee was picked and dried this way out of convenience. It is, to this day, still the most convenient and economically friendly way to process coffee cherries. (It’s estimated that dry-processing can use up to 90% less water than the washing process.)
So why isn’t all coffee processed this way? Well, as coffee made its way across the world, it was commoditized and standardized, just like all other products spread by colonialism, but that’s a whole other story... Adding to the boom of washed processing, the natural process method can be tricky to get right, due to the delicate nature of fermentation and drying. What does all this have to do with the final cup? Well, when you leave the skin and fruit of the coffee cherry on the seed throughout fermentation and drying, that fruit begins to break down, imparting esters that influence delicate florals and big fruit notes into the seed that survive the roasting process. If it’s rushed or handled incorrectly, this fruit rot can lend off-flavors to the coffee, making the final cup dirty or ‘fermenty.’ Basically that single cherry begins to slowly decay, and controlling that delicate action through advanced technique and metrics allow us, lucky folks, to drink wonderfully floral and fruity coffees. We have long promoted natural processed coffees, and this coffee is just one of the reasons we do.