Honey process coffee came about as farmers' need for an efficient method of processing that used less water than the washed process but didn't leave the beans as susceptible to mould and parasites as much as the natural process does.
The washed process involves washing all of the skin and mucilage from a coffee cherry, and while it is much faster and more efficient than the natural process, a single cup of coffee can require over 150 litres of water. This often just isn't practical in a lot of coffee-growing communities.
Using substantially less water than the washed process, honey process coffees only have some of the mucilage manually removed, with the rest being allowed to dry onto the bean on patios. The remaining mucilage is of a sticky golden colour, hence the 'honey' title, and over time can be allowed to turn red and then black as a result of oxidisation.
Honey process coffees retain the body and sweetness of natural coffees, but have hints of acidity reminiscent of fully washed coffees. The amount the beans are turned during the drying process, which effects the colour they turn over time, has a strong effect on fruity flavours in the coffee. As a result, farmers can produce a range of different coffees within this process, including 'yellow honey', 'red honey' and 'black honey'.
Increasing water shortages in coffee growing communities have created the need for sustainable methods of coffee processing. Honey processing allows for coffee processing to stay at origin, without environmental factors prohibiting production. Methods like this are more important than ever as demand for sustainable and responsibly-farmed coffee grows, and we can't wait to see how this develops in the near future.