So, what is honey coffee? Right away you may think of a honey infused latte, or coffee soaked in honey. But that is not the case with honey coffee. Honey coffee is a nicer way to refer to the third primary coffee processing method.
As we know, coffee beans are the stones that come from a coffee cherry. To get to the coffee beans the cherry skin and pulp must be processed off. At least that is the goal of the first two main processing methods, washed and natural.
With washed coffee, the focus is on the beans true flavor because the cherry is pulped from the coffee beans by a machine that removes the outer layer of skin. The bean still is covered with mucilage and is fermented in water for one to two days. After fermentation, the mucilage is washed from the coffee bean until it is entirely removed.
And for natural coffee, a style that comes from Ethiopia, the farmers wash the coffee cherries and then dry them in the sun. This can be difficult to do just about anywhere because the climate has to be exactly right to ensure the beans dry evenly and quickly while the whole cherries ferment. The risky part of the process is removing the green bean from the dried and fermented cherry.
Then there is Honey Coffee
The honey coffee process, found mainly in Central American countries such as Costa Rica and El Salvador, begins with the cherries mechanically depulped. But the depulping machines are set to leave a specific amount of flesh on the beans. After depulping, the beans go straight to the drying tables or patios to dry. As there is less flesh surrounding the beans, the risk of over-fermentation is lower than in natural process but, the overall sweetness and body in the cup are increased by the sugars in the remaining flesh.
There are distinctions among honey coffee. You have a variety of colors; white, yellow, gold, pink, red, and black. The main differentiation among those colors is how much fruit is left on the bean. White has almost no fruit remaining and black has just about all of the fruit remaining.
There are some risks and advantages to this process. The risk factors are over-fermentation and mold. But there have been great strides to eliminate those risks such as, a more standardized method and color coded drying tables to better track the drying stages. The main two advantages are water conservation and lowering the process cost. Both of these advantages are why we have seen a rise in this process in other countries such as Mexico and Brazil.
If the process is done right, you should have the sweetness of natural coffee and the brightness of washed coffee.
Interested in trying a cup of honey processed coffee? Give our El Salvador Petite Red Honey Finca El Guamo a try and see if you can taste the difference.