The two most common methods of processing the cherry are washed process and natural process. Honey processing, however, is somewhere in the middle. The cherry peel is removed but some amount of the fleshy inside, the “mucilage”, remains while the beans are dried.
Producers and exporters referring to coffees as white honey, yellow honey, orange honey, red honey, and black honey.
The colour refers to the amount of mucilage kept on the fruit. White honeys are almost fully washed with just a small amount of mucilage for the dry fermentation. Yellow, Orange and Red have more mucilage remaining. This leads to a fuller-bodied coffee. Black honeys are almost fully natural, but with more restraint and clarity than a full natural.
The most obvious benefit to the Honey process over strict Naturals is the speed and efficiency of the drying process, as well as the various flavour characteristics that can emerge through fermentation and exposure. On the other hand, the exposed fruit material does create more risk for the producers, as it requires more labour in drying to prevent taints from developing. These coffees will also often have an uneven or inconsistent appearance in their green forms.
Many coffees in Central America, and especially from Costa Rica, are honey processed but this method in the last few years is spreading all over the world.
If you’re interesting in trying a honey processed coffee go check out El Salvador: Abel Recinos
Check out our partners Cafe Imports video shoot on location below…