Quakers, cup quality, and gen mai cha
When I taste a naturally processed coffee, there is always something that I can't quite put my finger on that I find to be distracting or mildly unpleasant. Often we will describe them with terms such as: "scorchy" "overripe" "rotten" or "fermentation gone wrong." Recently I was showing a friend what a "quaker" was, and as I was picking through a recently roasted batch of an Aricha natural from Ethiopia I noticed there seemed to be an unusually large number of quakers. We chewed on some and what we discovered was so repulsive we spit it out. I decided to sort out all the quakers I could find and cup it along with our other samples for the week.
The profile wasn't nearly as disgusting as I expected but it was definitely a great way magnify some components in the coffee, to the point that we will never mistake it again.
Basically we got vivid gen mai cha green tea on the nose, with a bit of moldy stink. On the palate it was more of the same, burned rice with grassiness and mold. Now to figure out how to improve this:
We can encourage coffee mills to sort out under ripe cherries at every step of the supply chain. In order to do this we need a big enough market to be able to guarantee that the quality steps taken by growers are rewarded financially. I think there is simply not a big enough market for super-specialty coffee that growers can feel assured that they will get the prices they need to take the quality steps necessary to get consistently high cupping scores. This problem can extend to origin if there is a level of opacity between farmer, cooperative and auction, such as with the ECX in Ethiopia.
Finally, as roasters, we need to be willing to stand over a roasted batch of coffee and remove the cherries by hand. We stake our reputation on people having great experiences drinking coffee, we cannot afford to have our brilliantly fruited naturals or rich chocolaty Brazils tasting like gen-mai cha tea.