This coffee comes to you from El Salvador, and is part of a very small lot of 4 bags (around 240kg) from this farm.
Like much of Central America, El Salvador has been hit hard by La Roya (leaf rust) a fungus that eats at leaves and stops coffee plants flowering or producing coffee beans. Tragically for small family-run farms, losing 75% of coffee crops to leaf rust isn’t unusual. (The BBC has a great story on leaf rust).
Many farmers replaced traditional varieties such as those in this coffee are with hardier varieties to improve yield, however this resulted in arguably lower-quality and flavour.
So we’re excited to see Don Antonio Raís producing great tasting, traditional varietals like the Bourbon and Typica in this bag.
What is honey processed coffee?
This is a red honey processed coffee. But it’s got nothing to do with the stuff from beehives: honey process is when some flesh (or mucilage) is left on the coffee cherry during processing, giving it a sweeter flavour.
There are three common types of honey process: yellow, red and black. Each describes the amount of mucilage that’s left on the cherry: yellow is the least, red leaves more flesh during processing, and black leaves the most.
These colours reflect the changing colour of the cherry at processing: the more flesh left on there, the darker the cherry looks.
Honey process is a third, less common process that's two most common methods of processing coffee: Natural process and Washed process.
Probably the original way of handling coffee, natural process leaves the flesh on the coffee cherry as it is dried in the sun. This tends to give a slightly sweeter flavour, but can also reduce the quality and longevity of the coffee due to the fermentation of the sugars in the flesh.
The other common method, washed process, uses mechanical processes to remove the flesh from the coffee cherry before being fermented in water to remove any remaining flesh, washed again, and finally sun drying. Washed process beans tend to have more distinct, cleaner flavours. This method originated in Africa, but is now common in other countries as producers and wet mills focus on crop quality for the specialty coffee market.
Different processes tend to be more common in each part of the world. Liz Clayton at Serious Eats has a great summary of how coffee is processed around the world.