The calming drink that provides you a much-needed jolt of energy to get your day started has become a part of many people's everyday lives throughout the world, including those in Nicoya, Costa Rica, home to many of the world's longest-living people. While coffee is widely recognised and eaten globally, the types of beans and preparation processes differ.
However, in Nicoya (and other parts of Costa Rica), you're more likely to see natives making a cup using a chorreador and beans that have been processed using a procedure known as honey coffee (which, no, does not include bees). Instead, according to Monserrat Prado Flores, a Costa Rican coffee producer at the fourth-generation, family-owned, and woman-led Ditsö Café, honey-processed coffee produces a nuanced flavour profile unlike any other. Aside from its excellent and distinct flavour, it is also one of the most environmentally friendly methods of preparing coffee beans for roasting.
Flores defines honey coffee as a method of preparing the coffee fruit or "cherry" to remove the beans for roasting. "The coffee bean is coated with a mucilage that is naturally created up of sugar inside the outer red covering of a coffee berry," Flores adds. This is where different processing processes, such as honey, natural, washed, double-washed, and anaerobic, come into play. The mucilage will either be washed away or retained throughout the procedure, depending on the method used.
"For example, in the production of honey, the red shell of the fruit is removed." "However, the mucilage is retained as the beans dry, resulting in spontaneous fermentation of the sugars and acids," she explains. According to Flores, the sugar fermentation method produces an intense taste profile while reducing acidity levels. However, numerous varieties of honey-processed coffee exist, depending on how much mucilage is left on the bean throughout the processing procedure.
"The sort of honey coffee we make is determined by the quantity of mucilage we leave on the beans." "For example, 100 percent of the mucilage will ferment into black honey, with dark-colored beans due to the "honey" arising from the sugar fermentation," she explains. The flavour of black honey coffee is rich and sweet, with raisin and red fruit undertones. "The more mucilage there is, the longer we'll let the beans to dry—about 15 days for an excellent batch of black honey coffee beans," Flores says.
The second kind of honey coffee is known as "red" honey. "We obtain red honey that has a brownish-red hue and has a well-balanced taste that's sweet and delicious like a peach when we leave around 50% of the mucilage," she says. There's also yellow honey, which has 25% mucilage. It has a golden tint and a lighter flavour than the preceding two, yet it is sweet and fragrant. Though these are the most frequent, there are others, such as white, crystal, or purple honey-processed coffee.