Colour Your World!

Coffee can be processed from the cherry to the green beans that are going to be roasted via a ‘Honey’ Processing Method.

In doing so, only the skin and the pulp of the coffee cherry are removed. The coffee beans (seeds) are dried within the remaining honey-like, sugary, mucilage layer – the gluey substance, underneath the pulp of the cherry, covering the two coffee seeds.

Hand of Farmer
Hand of Farmer

Honey processed coffee can be classified by colour – from white to black – depending on the amount of mucilage that had been left on the coffee seeds. The smaller the amount of mucilage that is left on the coffee seeds, the lighter the color of the dried coffee seed will be.

White and yellow colored honey processed coffee beans also receive full-sunlight exposure, while black honey beans get the highest protection from the sunlight.

Origin Coffee, UK, provides a brief guide about the ‘various shades’ and characteristics of honey processed coffee beans:


Black Honey

Mucilage: 0% removed
Drying: Covered and left to ferment with a relatively quick drying time compared to the other honeys
Character: Sweet and full bodied with fruity/pulp depth

Red Honey

Mucilage: 25% removed
Drying: Dried uncovered
Character: Sweet and syrupy

Yellow Honey

Mucilage: 50% removed
Drying: Dried uncovered
Character: Floral, light body, apricot

Golden Honey

Mucilage: 75% removed
Drying: Dried uncovered
Character: Crisp, citrusy

White Honey

Mucilage: 100% removed
Drying: Dried uncovered
Character: Clean, balanced

Honey process

Source:  here

Since the coffee seeds are drying within the sweet mucilage layer, honey processed coffee beans develop unique aroma flavor profiles:

“What you wind up with are coffees that have a lot of the sweetness you would expect from a natural process, without a lot of the distinct fruit flavors because you got rid of the skin where a lot of fruit flavor sits.” (Lewontin, co-owner of New York’s Everyman Espresso)

“Typically you’re going to get a creamier body, muted acidity, and a lot of times it does taste like honey.”

“You might get a strawberry or raspberry, but it won’t be all the way to blueberry. And on the other side, you can still get orange citrus, but none of that super tart lemon. So the mucilage might mute some of those more extreme flavors bringing them closer to the middle.” (Talya Strader of Bay Area roaster Equator Coffees & Teas)

Source: here

Honey processing techniques – especially the black honey method – are more complicated, time and labor-intensive.

The various different honey processing methods are common (and constantly being modernized) within the small coffee market of Costa Rica, where farmers are passionate to find ways to differentiate themselves and stand out in the specialty coffee movement.

In a small market like Costa Rica, which contributes less than 1 percent of the world’s coffee to the market, it is important for the producers to find other ways to stand out and earn higher prices, and the artisanal honey movement is certainly one way to go in that direction.

There are various different levels of honey processed coffees.

Yellow, Red, and Black.

Some of the most exciting flavors and aromas of great coffee are created during the fermentation of pectin and sugars found in the mucilage.

coffee cherry on hand
Coffee cherry

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