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Why does your coffee bag say ‘washed’ on it? Is ‘natural’ like, organic? Does this coffee have ‘honey’ in it?

If these words make no sense to you, have a read and let us explain processing! We’re going to talk about what processing is, what washed, natural, honey, and pulped natural coffees are, and what that means for your purchasing choices!

What is processing?

The coffee we know and love is the seed of a cherry – just like an actual cherry – that grows on a coffee plant. The seed has to be fermented and removed from the fruity part, then dried and shipped to us. That’s where we, the roasters, roast it up. The picking, fermenting and drying part is what ‘processing’ is. Processing methods tend to vary country to country, farm to farm, region to region, and are often methods used by producers to find the value of their crops. Access to water, as well as infrastructure influence these processing decisions greatly. The image here is a coffee cherry and its removed seed!

What is 'Washed' processing?

In the washed process, the goal is to seperate the cherry from the fruit as soon as possible. Then, producers soak, float and ferment the coffee in water to activate sugars, to make it easier to remove the sticky remaining bits of fruit that surround the seed called mucilage. The seed is usually soaked in a tank, and the mucilage is removed by being washed with water and agitated. Then the coffee seed, is left to dry in the sun (or sometimes in big dryers)! The image here is coffee being washed!

Coffee seeds being washed to remove mucilage

Why would I drink washed coffee?

Washed coffees are known for their lighter, ‘cleaner’ flavour profiles. If you like coffee that tastes crisp, bright and easygoing then washed coffees are the way to go. The reason why is the fermentation – when the sugars are being activated – happens with only a small amount of fruit left on the seed. As a result, what you’re tasting is the flavour of the environment the coffee was grown and a clean, crisp flavour! The image here is coffee being fermented in water!

Coffee seeds being fermented

Natural Process

Natural process is the oldest and most traditional way of removing the seed from a coffee cherry. It’s quite simple, basically the coffee is picked, and left to dry in the sun over a couple of weeks, and is turned regularly to prevent mould. After the cherry has completely dried, the fruit remaining is removed leaving just the seed. Here you can see natural coffee drying in Ethiopia!

Natural coffees drying in Ethiopia

Why would I drink natural coffee?

The fermentation is a little more intense in a way – the main flavour that’s passed on is the flavour of the fruit drying. The result is a cup profile that is heavier, almost winey, and very very fruit driven. You should grab a bag if you like your coffees to be absolute fruit bombs!

Honey Process

Honey processed coffee gets its name for its appearance, not because of any flying insect related products. This processing method begins like the washed process – the seed is removed from the fruit, but the mucilage – that sticky outer later – is then dried in the sun, like the natural process. The result is a cleaner cup profile than natural coffees, with more fruit forward flavours than washed. Below is honey processed coffees in the foreground, and naturals in the background!

Honey coffees drying in El Salvador

Why would I drink honey processed coffees?

Honey processing can lead to some interesting flavours and cup profiles. These are great coffees to try if you like something a little different, but honey processed coffees can be as easy going as a washed or as complex and big as a natural!

Pulped Natural ProcessPulped natural is quite similar to honey processing, but the imporant thing here is how much mucilage is left. In pulped natural processing, only the skin layer of the cherry is removed, leaving a lot of mucilage left. At Fazenda Progresso, coffees are dried overnight and then mechanically dried, whereas honey processing is often left to dry for several weeks. There can be some similarities between the different styles, and often the wording is representative of the producer.

Pulped natural is quite similar to honey processing, but the imporant thing here is how much mucilage is left. In pulped natural processing, only the skin layer of the cherry is removed, leaving a lot of mucilage left. At Fazenda Progresso, coffees are dried overnight and then mechanically dried, whereas honey processing is often left to dry for several weeks. There can be some similarities between the different styles, and often the wording is representative of the producer. Here you can see coffees being pulped in Brazil!

Cherries being pulped in Brazil

Why would I drink pulped natural coffees?

Any pulped natural coffee we have, we share because of any high quality flavours from the farming and processing method. The cup profile tends to be fruitier than a washed coffee, and bigger than a natural, with many slight differences depending on the producers approach. You might see a lot of pulped naturals in our blends because of the body the process can add to the coffee. We also share some very special pulped naturals as singles, which we love for their unique flavours.

Thanks for making it this far! Now you know a little more about the terminology that goes onto our coffee bags.