Earlier this year, I ordered a cup of single-origin Verve Ethiopian Worka to-go and grabbed a bag of the same beans from SO (which stands for Single Origin) in the Original Farmers Market. Despite my protest that I don’t like super fruity coffees, the barista assured me it was “amazing.” And amazing it was. But not in a good way. At first I thought the fancy pour-over technique must be to blame for the drink’s curiously familiar nuances, but when I got the beans home and brewed a pot myself, my 3 year old confirmed what I was already thinking. “Mommy, I smell poop.” More specifically, it smelled like a dirty diaper, a sentiment I uncharitably tweeted later that day.
But I’d had enough. Single Origin. Coffee Cupping. Pour Over. Cold brew. Coffee culture was, to my mind, spiraling out of control—and this coming from a wine writer! Don’t get me wrong. I love coffee, and I love GOOD coffee. But I hate that at the serious coffee joints in San Francisco and New York that a cup of joe is accompanied by a condescending sigh when I ask to add a splash of milk to a sludgy cup. So it was with great surprise that I opened a friendly email from Colby Barr, owner of Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, in response to my unfriendly words about his elite beans.
“Sooooooo, you didn’t like the Ethiopia Worka. Cool,” he wrote in an email entitled “Worka no Workie.” And thus began my education. The Worka, he explained, is what’s known as a “dry-processed” coffee. Dry processed coffee beans, or cherries, are dried with their skins on, which leads to an influx of sugars and fruit compounds into the coffee. “Wet-processed” coffees are stripped of their skin and fruit (i.e. pulp) before the beans are dried, yielding cleaner, crisper coffees—the kind of coffee I like to drink. He sent me these photos to illustrate:
“I think it’s safe to say that you do not like dry-processed coffee,” Colby concluded. “They can be love/hate for sure.” So I decided to give one of Verve’s wet-processed coffees a try and got a pound of Don Mayo from Costa Rica, which I served at brunch that weekend to a bunch of neighborhood girls. Everyone—myself included—loved it. Creamy and smooth with honeyed notes, it was perfection. And I’ve tried several more of Verve’s wet-processed coffees and am one smitten customer. And for those of you who like fruit bombs (and, I’m sure, all sorts of nuanced molasses complexity that is lost on me), do give the dry-processed beans a try. Thank you, Colby!