In early 2015, I took my first real vacation since starting PROTEIN BAR® - a chain of healthy fast casual restaurants. One of the stops on my trip was the Indonesian island of Bali where I found myself on a yoga and meditation retreat. During one of the off days, I took a stroll and found myself walking past a coffee farm.
Curious to see where coffee comes from and after all, in the country where the most populous island is called “Java”, I decided to approach after a sign I saw read “TOURS + TASTINGS”. After the usual Balinese pleasantries, I was whisked on to the farm where a pleasant third-generation coffee farmer named Wayan began explaining the history of coffee and how his family came into the business. Not a coffee drinker, I was more curious as to the business aspects and economic model of coffee farming.
With pride, Wayan showed the numerous beds in which picked coffee cherries were laid in the sun to dry out for up to 3 months, leaving only the dried pit of the cherry – or the “green” coffee bean as we know it. I was intrigued as I inched closer to the beds of dried coffee but was slightly disgusted when I saw bugs and insects, dust and dirt, twigs and leaves mixed in with the drying, fermenting bed of coffee cherries. “Give coffee flavor,” Wayan responded when I asked about the relative filth of the coffee beans that were sitting in the sun for months exposed to poor conditions and a dirty climate. Something didn’t sit right with me as I left that coffee farm that day in March 2015. Like many entrepreneurs, I had a proverbial “there has to be a better way!” moment.
On my return to the United States, I began to research everything I could get my hands on regarding coffee farming, processing and the history of the 2nd most consumed beverage in the world. I found that there is another way – wet washed coffee beans. Wet washing is a process that happens right at the source. Discovered and implemented in the early 20th century, just as the Industrial Revolution was sweeping the world, coffee pioneers developed a way to immediately rinse, wash, dry and ultimately sell the beans within a 24-to-48-hour period.
This process was originally designed to speed the literal cash flow of process (imagine your cash sitting in a field for ninety days!) but the unintended benefit was that it results in a literally cleaner bean.
At LIMITLESS™ Coffee & Tea, we exclusively source Wet Washed coffee beans – beans that were washed right at the source and immediately shipped to us for roasting.
In December 2015, we traveled to the farms in Central and South America to buy Wet Washed beans direct from the source. This winter, we plan on going to Colombia on another buying trip. We invite anyone that is interested in learning more about this process to join us on our trip!
All coffee begins as a “cherry” that grows on a tree (well, a bush actually) in high altitude, jungle-like conditions
Most people don’t know that what ends up as the actual coffee bean is actually the pit of the cherry
“Natural” process beans will sit out in the sun for up to ninety days and while drying, the fermenting sugars of the fruit attract insects and wild animals while also being exposed to natural elements such as dirt, dust, rain water and human contact.
Wet Wash beans emerging from the initial rinse
Wet Wash beans after friction has been applied to remove the fruit of the cherry
Wet Wash beans are then soaked for up to 24 hours, further removing fruit and contaminants.
Wet Wash beans that are ready to be shipped and roasted. “Extra Lavado” is Spanish for “extra washed.”
Beds of “wet wash” beans (center) sitting next to Natural Wash beans (left). Which bean would you rather drink?