Coffee beans are found within fruits, these fruits have many layers that help the coffee bean to be protected. Each layer is removed to find the bean within. The act of honey processing is taking the mucilage layer which is sticky and slimy in texture (similar to honey) and drying the beans while it is still in contact with the bean. The cherries are picked, sorted, de-pulped and the dried for varying periods of time. It is because of the fermentation of the mucilage that the coffees processed with this method have a very balanced acidity.
The degree in which a farmer honey processes his coffee is assigned a colour to attribute for the amount of light the coffee gets exposed to during drying. These colours are:
- Yellow Honey
- Red Honey
- Black Honey
Yellow honey is exposed to the most light, and therefore the most heat. The process takes about a week to dry the beans.
Red honey takes 2-3 weeks to dry usually in the shade or on overcast days. If the beans are exposed to too much sun, workers will cover the beans to reduce the light exposure. This will ensure the drying time is done properly.
Black honey gets the most sheltered from light and also takes the longest amount of time. This is the most labour intensive process of the bunch. In order to reach the Black honey level it needs to be closely monitored to make sure the process is not going too quickly or too slowly.The shorter amount of time the beans are dried leaves them with a cleaner flavour (washed) and the longer the beans are dried gives the most fruit forward flavour (Natural).
The advantage of this process as well as the degree of this process allows us to get different arrays of flavour from the same coffee bean. This means as a consumer we are able to get intensely sweet coffees, clean mild coffees and an array within that, all from the same region.