I’m stood on the roastery floor with my head in a bucket of natural process green beans. To say it’s an aromatic experience is an understatement. It stinks.
Far from the fruity / citrusy notes of washed green beans, this smell is farmy. There’s something fermented about the aroma that reminds you of straw. Not wholly unpleasant, but definitely funky.
Natural coffees are some of the most divisive in in the industry. People love or hate them. They require skilled baristas to bring out their best qualities, and yet they are some of the most exciting and unusual coffees to work with. Many of the team here report something of a coffee epiphany when tasting their first natural. (deep right? But then we are really into coffee)
Unkle Funka is an opportunity for us, as roasters to delve into the funky. To explore the most weird and wonderful flavours of naturals.
Our goal is to roast the very best example of what a natural espresso could and should be. Big bodied, chocolatey, a rounded fruitiness and boozey sweetness. Deliciously smooth with milk, punchy without.
And this is how the journey starts, with the end in mind.
This year our journey started visiting farms in South America and we were stoked to find something on the cupping table with just the boozy hit we were looking for.
Boom. Cupped and ordered, it was just a case of waiting for those beans to be shipped.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy, and this year’s Funka story is not without its twist…
Coffee arrives off the boat and the first shipment is delivered to the roastery.
We open the bag and brace ourselves for that distinctive natural stink. But it’s tamer than expected. Hmmm…
Roasted and cupped, it’s fruity, sweet and well balanced. A beautiful coffee, but missing the funk.
Shit. Time to find a new coffee.
And this, folks, is the rollercoaster of roasting. The funkiest cup on the table one day, may not be the funkiest in the roastery when it lands months later.
We are unashamed perfectionists. We know the flavours that we’re gunning for and, whilst the coffee was a beautiful single origin, it just wasn’t Funka.
After more cuppings, meetings and phone calls with suppliers and importers we find two naturals from Nicaragua.
The coffees are from different farms but owned and operated by the same farmer, and in the same region.
The lots are comprised of hand-picked perfectly-ripe cherries, dried on raised beds. Carefully controlled fermentation lets that unusual, pungent fruit flavour develop, which manifests as that strong boozey sweetness in this year’s Unkle Funka.
Blended together they are perfect. Floral quince, sticky raisin and rum softening to ripe plums and vanilla when drank with milk.
Unkle Funka is about challenging perceptions of what naturally processed coffee tastes like. It’s about us challenging ourselves to roast the finest natural espresso on the market. Transforming the funky and weird to the wonderful. We’re proud to say that we think we’ve nailed it.
Really. Funkin’. Good.
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