Coffee is the seed of a fruit that is roughly the size and shape of a cranberry. When a coffee is processed using the washed process, the skin and mucilage is immediately removed and the remaining seed is washed and dried in a protective papery coating that we call parchment. The natural process involves dying the entire fruit and removing the skin and mucilage only once it’s completely dry, imparting the seed with the flavors of the fruit with which it was dried. However, processing coffee doesn’t end with washed and natural.
The honey process is an “in between” process where only the skin of the coffee fruit is removed and the seeds are dried with the mucilage still attached. It’s important to note that this process has nothing to do with actual honey that is created by bees. Some say it’s called honey because the drying seeds look like they are covered in honey while others say the resulting flavor is reminiscent of honey. While some people say that this process was first used in Brazil due to drought problems, Costa Rica has been a pioneer in the innovation of the honey process.
Hacienda Tobosi is one of the farms in Costa Rica that has been working on the honey process with the sole objective of producing only the highest quality coffees. Located in El Guarco de Cartago, at 1450 masl, 12.5 of the 23 hectares are planted with coffee. The main varieties found here are Villasarchí, Gesha, Red and Yellow Catuaí, Villalobos and Kenia. Eco-friendly practices are highly valued in Costa Rica and the quality controls on this farm are based on water conservation and environmental protection.
The focus on quality processes at Hacienda Tobosi has resulted the farm winning a 1st place in the 2017 Cup of Excellence and second place in 2018. Since our goal is to give our customers access to the best coffees, we are excited to present Hacienda Tobosi Villa Sarchí Black Honey. Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into the black honey process.
Why is it called black honey?
There are numerous terms for describing a honey process, but the most common are white, red, black and – most recently – golden honey. The color often refers to the amount of mucilage and skin left on the coffee before drying, which will them turn the seeds into one of the aforementioned colors. Black honey coffees are left with 100% of its mucilage, which leads to very sweet and fruity notes.
At Hacienda Tobosi, ripe cherries are passed through a machine that peel the skin, but leave some mucilage attached to the seed. Following, the coffee is placed on drying beds. The drying process is crucial in order to develop the cleanest fruit flavors and avoid over-fermentation. Once the sugars are crystallized the amount of times the beans are moved is decreased and it begins to resemble nougat. The folks at Hacienda Tobosi offer, “We must remove the coffee to be dried by the sun, trying not to separate the nougat-like mass. if the beans are separated, that means that we are crystallizing more of the sugar and they will not have such a sweet scent. At the end of the process the coffee should smell and taste sweet, and have a moisture content between 9.0 and 10.5%. Once the coffee has reached this point, it needs some rest to cool down before it can be stored.”
Our Hacienda Tobosi Black Honey lot is a single origin, black honey Villa Sarchí. This variety is a natural mutation of Bourbon variety that was discovered in Costa Rica in the 1950s-60s in the northwestern region of the province of Alajuela called Sarchí.