Honey Processed Coffee

Most of you will be familiar with a natural or washed coffee, but what does a honey process mean? In this blog we focus on this complex process and define the different honey levels.

So first let’s start with the three core layers of a coffee cherry: the bean, the pulp (sweet, fleshy layer also known as mucilage) and the skin. For a natural processed the coffee cherry remains intact whereas for a washed coffee the skin of the cherry and all the pulp is removed. The honey process is somewhere in-between, where the skin of the cherry and only part of the pulp is removed leaving some of the fruit pulp on the beans (this is what the term ‘honey’ relates to rather than anything to do with the flavour profile or bees!).

Honey processed coffees are a true specialty coffee even before being expertly roasted. The green beans present sweet, fruity undertones, and a balanced acidity with depth depending on the which honey process is used. There are four types of honey process, determined by the amount of mucilage left on the bean: white honey, yellow honey, red honey and black honey. The major difference is the altitude, drying time, techniques and mucilage; the higher the level of mucilage, the more intense sweetness & body of the final bean.

I enjoy a honey processed coffee because it adds sweetness, a rich mouthfeel and an almost honey like quality to the cup all of which is achieved by the processing method applied at the farm. i.e. leaving a certain amount of mucilage (cherry flesh) on the seed during the drying phase. This month’s discovery coffee showcases these characteristics. I hope you enjoy the March discovery as much I did roasting it and drinking it.



White honey (on average) has the fastest drying time and is not far off a washed coffee with most of the pulp removed from the bean. White honey processed coffees are often found at higher altitudes which gives natural sweetness to the bean, and therefore don’t benefit from a higher concentration of pulp.

Altitude: Usually High

Average Dry time: 5 days

Technique: exposed to full-sunlight while drying.

Pulp: <25%

Typical flavour profile: light and floral.


Yellow Honey coffee receives full-sunlight giving the coffee a light-yellow colour by the time it has reached its proper finished moisture level.

Altitude: Usually grown at a Higher altitude

Average Dry time: 8 days

Technique: exposed to full-sunlight while drying.

Mucilage: 50%

Typical flavour profile: apricot-like, fruity.

Red Honey takes longer to dry, usually developed during cloud cover, often taking about 12 days to finish drying.

Altitude: Usually grown at a lower altitude

Average Dry time: 12 days

Technique: typically processes during cloud cover.

Typical flavour profile: sweet and syrupy.

Mucilage: 75%


Black honey is the most complex, laborious, and expensive. This is because it takes the longest time to ferment and takes up space on the drying beds for up to twice as long compared to yellow & red honey processing.

Altitude: Usually grown at a lower altitude

Average dry time: 15 days

Technique: covered by a black plastic tarp while turned on raised African-style beds. 

Typical flavour profile: full-bodied, sweet with fruity/pulp depth.

Mucilage: 100%


You can try a honey processed coffee in our El Salvador Three Ways trio pack, or a black honey processed coffee from Myanmar.

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