Natural, Washed, or Honey... What does it all mean and why should I care?

Simply, coffee is processed to remove the flesh and outer skin from the coffee bean itself. The process used to do this can have a dramatic impact on the flavour profile of the coffee, and as such knowing what it is is a great asset for roasters, baristas, and consumers.

Let's take a quick look at some of the most common processes you'll see on our coffees...

Natural

What it is:

The oldest and most common of the processing methods, sometimes referred to as "dry-processed".

Coffee cherries are picked, and then laid out in a single layer on tables or raised beds to allow air flow around the cherries. Length of drying depends on a number of factors - the cherries are turned frequently to avoid rotting.

Once they're dry, the skin and flesh is removed, and the green beans are packed for export.

The process is traditionally used in regions where water isn't easy to come by.

What it means for you:

Naturally processing coffee can add both sweetness and fruitiness to the coffee, while also adding fermented and sometimes red wine-like notes.

Washed

What it is:

Washed, or "wet-processed", is probably the second most common way to process coffee.

Washed processing opts for removing the skin and flesh (pulp) of the cherries from the beans before drying.

The cherries are picked, depulped, and then left to ferment for a few days in a water tank. Once they've reached optimum fermentation, they're washed to remove any of the leftover flesh.

The freshly washed beans are then laid out on raised beds to dry in a similar way to their naturally processed counterparts, being turned often to avoid mould.

What it means for you:

Washed coffees tend to produce a cleaner, brighter, and more acidic cup with increased complexity.

Honey

What it is:

Commonly used in Central America (Costa Rica, Mexico, El Salvador), honey processed beans are partially depulped.

After picking, a depulper (the machine that removes the flesh) removes a specific amount of the flesh - the beans are then transferred partially depulped to the drying tables.

Colours often accompany honey processed labels: black, red, yellow, and white. Black honeys have the most pulp left on and are most similar to natural processed, while white have the least and lean more toward washed processed coffees.

What it means for you:

Honey processed coffees have been said to be the best of both worlds between natural and washed; natural's sweet fruitiness paired with washed's brightness.

What else?

There are a host of experimental processes that you might see on our shop from time-to-time - Google has a wealth of information on those if you want to take a deep dive, or alternatively, click the little speech bubble in the bottom right of your screen and we'll be happy to answer your questions.