It’s not nice to play favorites among children, but we can’t help the way we feel about our Natural Yellow Caturra. After all, it took one-and-a-half maddening years to turn this variety into exceptional coffee.
From Coffee Review:
“Complex and balanced flavor and aroma: orange-toned citrus, cherry, cedary aromatic wood, a hint of baking spice. The acidity is extraordinary: deep, powerful yet roundly rich and sweet. The mouthfeel is full and syrupy, the finish long and fruit-saturated. … This is a coffee that demonstrates the potential of both dried-in-the-fruit coffees and Ka’u coffees.”
Since that stellar turn in Coffee Review, these beans were used by 2011 U.S. Barista Champion Pete Licata in his winning espresso. Wine Spectator also profiled them in Dec. 2011.
We like Natural Yellow Caturra because it’s especially distinct for a Hawaiian coffee. Generally, beans from the islands are known for being mild, soft and sweet. This coffee, by contrast, is very intense: Grind it, and the aroma of tropical fruits fills the room.
It’s also unusual for a natural-dried coffee. Instead of the simple grape and berry flavors that often result from this processing method, we taste enhanced characteristics of Yellow Caturra: vanilla, lemon and passionfruit. The result is a strikingly good pairing of processing method and coffee variety.
For these reasons, Natural Yellow Caturra has turned into one of our most popular coffees. And with only a few hundred trees on our farm, it’s also one of our most limited. We only roast and sell about 80 pounds a year on our website.
It wasn’t always this way. Lorie first tried her standard washed process on the yellow caturra variety. She pulped ripe, yellow cherries to release the seeds, or coffee beans. After the beans fermented in water, they dried in the sun and rested for a few months to balance the flavors.
The results were disappointing. “Thin and sour,” Miguel said. “It had far less intensity than Typica or Bourbon.”
After more discouraging experiments, Lorie finally tried the natural method. She dried ripe coffee cherries on wire racks, using a rake to turn them.
“It worked astonishingly well,” Miguel says. “The added sweetness and mouthfeel helped to balance the high acidity of this variety.”
To refine the coffee, they let it rest, tasting and evaluating it at different times in a process called cupping. Then they made more batches to ensure its consistency.
Miguel laughs about the early, frustrating days of working with yellow caturra. “Years ago, I thought it might be necessary to pull these trees out and replace them with a different variety,” he says. “Now I wish we had more.”