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Origin Vocabulary

Density Channels at the Wet Mill
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What the Terms mean

Terms such as coffee farm, wet-mill, and washing station are often used when talking about coffee 'at origin'. Here is a basic overview of what these terms mean in Yunnan, China.

Coffee farm refers to the area where coffee trees are cultivated. Smallholder farms sell coffee cherries directly to an intermediary or another farm. Cooperative-style farms share processing and drying facilities. Plantation-style farms have their own processing and drying facilities.

Wet-mill refers to the place where the first stage of processing takes place after the cherry leaves the tree. Under typical circumstances, coffee cherries begin processing within 8-12 hours of being harvested. We think that a wet-mill can refer to the 'stage of processing' rather than the process. For example, Naturals can be processed at a wet-mill without using any water.

The main activity of the wet-mill is to dry the seed to a stable moisture level (approximately 10-12 %) so that it can be stored or transported to the next stage of processing at the dry-mill. For commercial coffees, the main focus of the wet-mill is to achieve shelf stability. For specialty coffee, quality control considerations are also crucial.

Washing station refers to the same thing as a wet-mill. However, a washing station is typically used to describe a centralized wet-mill where multiple coffee farms such as smallholders or cooperatives sell their coffee cherries.

YUNNAN WASHING STATIONS


  • Washing Station: Banka
  • Service Area: Banka
  • Farmer: Yunnan Coffee Traders
  • Region: Menglian, Yunnan
  • Cultivar: Catimor
  • Nursery: Pacamara, Yellow Bourbon
  • Processing: Washed, Natural, Honey
  • Drying: Patio, Raised Beds
  • Altitude: 1350 meters
  • Harvest Period: Nov-Feb
  • Annual Yield: 60 tons

The majority of coffees processed here are sold to Australia and have become a staple component for the signature blends of specialty roasters such as Pablo & Rusty's Specialty Roasters.

Banka is also home to one of our first micro-lots, known as Badoo Natural. The coffee from this lot is generally superior in sweetness to any other coffee in the region. In fact, Eli Ramirez used coffee from Badoo during the 2017 USBC.

In 2018 Lucia Solis supervised some experimental controlled fermentation here using ORO yeast.

Processing Information

Washed coffees are first pulped and then dry-fermented for 18 hours. Next, they are run through density channels before being spread out on drying patios for approximately 5-8 days.

Natural coffees are hand-picked, run through a (wet) optical color sorter, and then fermented in cherry for two days. Finally, they are spread and dried on raised beds inside a parabolic dryer or alongside the drying patio.


Fuyan Washing Station
  • Washing Station: Fuyan
  • Service Area: Nanben
  • Farmer: Mr Li and Mrs Na
  • Region: Menglian, Yunnan
  • Cultivar: Catimor
  • Nursery: Typica
  • Processing: Washed, Natural
  • Drying: Patio
  • Altitude: 1650 meters
  • Harvest Period: Nov-Feb
  • Annual Yield: 35 tons

Mr Li and Mrs Na co-manage the washing station at Fuyan. Alongside the great coffee, Fuyan also produces about 7 tons of specialty-grade tea.

Mr Li and Mrs Na take a lot of pride in their work, which is one of the reasons this farm consistently produces some of the best coffee in the region. In 2017, Fuyan coffee placed 3rd in the "Best of Yunnan" competition. Again in 2018, Fuyan coffee placed in the top three coffees.

We have worked with this farm for many years and continue to be inspired by their innovations and desire to learn.

PROCESSING INFORMATION

Washed coffees pass through a mechanical de-mucilator (50 % removal) and are then dry-fermented. Next, they are run through density channels before being spread out on drying patios for approximately 7-10 days. 

Natural coffees employ a traditional patio-drying method for 5-8 days.


  • Washing Station: Kaku
  • Service Area: Paliang
  • Manager: Ms Nanu
  • Region: Menglian, Yunnan
  • Cultivar: Catimor
  • Nursery: Not in operation
  • Processing: Washed, Natural
  • Drying: Patio
  • Altitude: 1500 meters
  • Harvest Period: Nov-Feb
  • Annual Yield: 40 tons

The farm is owned by a second-generation coffee farmer who is passionate about building upon the family legacy.

Mr Li is a pillar in the local coffee industry, having one of the few coffee farms in Menglian that has been able to weather the challenges of changing policies, fluctuating markets and the catastrophic frost of 1998.

Managed by Ms Nanu, the farm is deeply involved in the local community, assisting local families with education and medical needs. 

Processing Information

Washed coffees are first pulped and then dry-fermented for 18 hours. Cherries are then run through density channels before being spread out on concrete drying patios for approximately 10 days.


Mangzhang Washing Station
  • Washing Station: Mangzhang
  • Service Area: Nanya
  • Manager: Mrs Li
  • Region: Menglian, Yunnan
  • Cultivar: Catimor
  • Nursery: Gesha, Pacamara, Typica, Bourbon
  • Processing: Washed, Natural
  • Drying: Patio, Raised Beds, Parabolic Dryer 
  • Altitude: 1000 meters
  • Harvest Period: Nov-Feb
  • Annual Yield: 600 tons

Mangzhang Farm, owned and operated by a husband-wife partnership, is one of the longest-running coffee farms in Yunnan. 

Mr Hu is regarded as one of the foremost coffee growers in the region and is also an agronomist. He is regularly called upon to consult on other crops including mangos, avocados, and macadamias!

Mrs Li manages the drying patio and is also responsible for roasting and selling Mangzhang coffees in the domestic market.

Processing Information

Washed coffees are first pulped and then dry-fermented for 18 hours. Cherries are then run through density channels before being spread out on drying patios for approximately 5-8 days.

Natural coffees are first dried on patios or raised beds for approximately 3-4 days. Next, the cherries are sealed in bags until the fermentation cycle is complete (about three days). Finally, drying resumes on the patios or beds until the moisture levels reach approximately 12 %, which can take up to three weeks.


  • Washing Station: O-Yang
  • Service Area: Zhongping
  • Farmer: Mr Ou
  • Region: Pu'er, Yunnan
  • Cultivar: Catimor
  • Nursery: Not in operation
  • Processing: Washed
  • Drying: Patio
  • Altitude: 1600 meters
  • Harvest Period: Nov-Feb
  • Annual Yield: 15 tons

Our first partnership with O-Yang coffee farm was in 2017. The coffees were well received, including a successful launch with Square Mile Coffee in the UK.

O-Yang is named after its owner, Mr Ou, who is personally engaged with the coffee cultivation and processing.

O-Yang farm spans across the mountains of Pu’er in Yunnan.  In addition to producing great coffees, the farm also hosts a coffee experience centre that opened to the public in 2019.

Processing Information

Natural coffees are hand-picked and and then bagged for 2-3 days before being spread out to dry.  At 40 % moisture the coffees are then bagged again for another 4-5 days. This technique is known as a 'double-fermentation.' After the second fermentation, the coffee is spread out onto raised drying beds in a parabolic dryer for another 28 days.


  • Washing Station: Yiwu
  • Service Area: Shigaoqing
  • Farmer: Mr Tang
  • Region: Pu'er, Yunnan
  • Cultivar: Catimor
  • Nursery: Not in operation
  • Processing: Natural, Honey
  • Drying: Raised Beds
  • Altitude: 1600 meters
  • Harvest Period: Nov-Feb
  • Annual Yield: 4 tons

This is a very special farm for us because it is a project started in the village of our colleague, Tiancai. Tiancai joined the team as a roaster before moving into farm management.

As Tiancai's knowledge of specialty coffee has increased, so has his desire to do something unique with coffee on his family's land in Yiwu.

While volumes are still small, Yiwu coffees recently cupped at 85+ at Atlas Coffee Importers in the USA.

Processing Information

Natural coffees are dried on raised beds for 4-5 weeks.

Honey (Pulp-Natural) coffees are first dry-pulped and then spread thinly across raised beds for 2-3 days.  Next, the coffee is grouped into thicker layers and left to dry for another 25 days.


  • Washing Station: Dongka
  • Service Area: Nanmei
  • Farmer: Mr Lan
  • Region: Menglian, Yunnan
  • Cultivar: Catimor
  • Nursery: Gesha
  • Processing: Washed
  • Drying: Patio
  • Altitude: 1300
  • Harvest Period: Nov - Feb
  • Annual Yield: 480 tons

Dongka produces some of the most consistent specialty-grade washed coffees in the Menglian region.

In 2019, we helped Mr Lan to make modifications to the washing station with the aim of ensuring consistent quality even at larger volumes.

Processing Information

Washed coffees are first pulped and then fermented for 12-18 hours. Cherries are then run through density channels before being spread out on concrete drying patios for approximately 10 days.


  • Washing Station:
  • Service Area: 
  • Farmer:
  • Region: 
  • Cultivar:
  • Nursery:
  • Processing:
  • Drying:
  • Altitude: 
  • Harvest Period:
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We regularly visit washing stations across Yunnan to identify new coffees and potential partners. In recent years, we've spent time in Xishuangbanna, Pu'er, Baoshan and Ximeng, in addition to our partner farms and washing stations in Menglian.

In our pursuit of producing the best coffees in Yunnan, we need to remind ourselves that the addition of specialty coffees to a processing line is not always a viable or desirable option.

We're careful to make sure any new partnership is sustainable and beneficial to all involved. And that includes you - your coffees need to be consistent in quality, supply and volume!

General Processing Information

Density Channels at the Wet Mill
Density Channels at the Wet Mill
Washed

The Washed process pulps, de-mucilages, ferments and washes coffee (in density channels) before drying it Recently, we have also been experimenting with the removal of mechanical de-mucilage from the Washed process and allowing mucilage to break down naturally through fermentation and washing. Other innovations include pre-cleaning and sorting of coffee cherries using flotation techniques and optical laser sorters.

Natural

The Natural process (skin-dried) skips the removal of pulp and mucilage; the coffee dries in its skin. Drying methods include greenhouses, parabolic dryers, full-sun drying on raised beds, mechanical static dryers, guardiolas, and patio drying. In Yunnan, raised beds are probably the most prevalent drying method for Naturals, but patio drying is also common.

Pulp-Natural (Honey)

The Honey process (mucilage-dried) only removes the pulp; the coffee dries in its mucilage. Drying methods are similar to those used for Natural coffees. Honey process coffees are not prevalent in Yunnan, although two winners in 2019 Best of Yunnan were Honey process.

For more information about the processing method used for a specific coffee, please visit our coffees page.