No, it's not real honey!
A popular process among our Proud Mary fans, the honey process is a crowd favourite for its smooth, sweet flavours and often thick, syrupy mouthfeel. So many of our customers in the cafes and online ask us, why is it called a honey process! So here is our FYI on honey process.
WHAT IS HONEY PROCESSED?
First of all, coffee is a cherry with a few important layers.
Pulp - outside skin
Mucilage - slimy thin fruit layer
Parchment - the protective shell that the beans sit inside
Coffee bean(s) - normally two, but sometimes only one - the rare peaberry!
(Image credit: Seattle Coffee Works)
Honey process is where the outside skin or pulp is removed from the coffee cherry. The mucilage and parchment are left intact while the coffee goes through the drying process. Mucilage is the thin, slimy fruit layer of the coffee cherry, and has a high sugar content and is sweet to taste. As the coffee begins to dry, the mucilage becomes sticky and slowly hardens, turning yellow (through oxidation and fermentation).
The farmer can decide how much mucilage they would like to leave on the parchment. A thin layer can result in a less "honey" flavour profile, and a thicker layer provides more sugar to ferment which gives bolder and more pronounced "honey" style flavours. See below:
^ A honey process with less mucilage left on (lighter in colour). Most likely will be higher acidity and more similar flavours to a washed coffee.
^ Javier Fernandez with his honey process. A thicker layer of mucilage has been left on (darker in colour). Most likely will be sweeter and more syrupy compared to a washed coffee.
BREAKDOWN OF HOW HONEY PROCESSING IS DONE
(Image credit: beannbeancoffee.com)
Fruit Removal: Fruit skin is removed within 24 hours of harvest; all or some of the mucilage is left to dry on the seeds
Fermentation: Occurs throughout the drying process (until seeds reach a moisture content of 11%)
Drying Time: 18–25 days on average
Honey processing is becoming a "must-do" process for many coffee farmers around the world. Popular in Brazil (pulp natural), honey processed coffees can be found throughout Central and South America. The more traditional coffee-producing countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, India, and Papua New Guinee are now producing exciting new honey processed coffees. We're hooked!
TYPICAL FLAVOURS & TEXTURES OF HONEY PROCESSED COFFEES
Flavours of coffee are very regional (farm to farm, country to country) and variety influenced (Parainema vs. Geisha). Processing provides a different "lens" to see the coffee through.
Honey processed coffees often show flavours like:
Sweet, ripe, honey-like fuits: Apricot, yellow peach, honey
Florals: Flowers, earl grey etc.
Sweetness: Honey, ripe stone-fruit, caramel, chocolate
Textures and mouthfeel:
The texture and mouthfeel of honey processed coffees are often thick and syrupy. But it does depend on how much mucilage was left on the parchment when it was dried.