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This process can cause some confusion amongst roasters and consumers due to the many different forms that it can take dependent on the country of origin, it is therefore a sort of ‘hybrid’ process that is very much open to interpretation depending on the aim of the farmer.
In Brazil for example, research was carried out to try and find a processing method that would use less water than the washed process, but that would be less susceptible to defects than the natural process. The ‘Pulped Natural’ process therefore came about whereby cherries are depulped to remove the skin and much of the mucilage from the cherry, but rather than being washed to totally rid the bean of any mucilage, they are immediately dried on patios. This results in a coffee that has much of the sweetness and body expected from a natural processed bean, but there is also a rounded acidity in there too which contributes towards better clarity in the cup.
Central American countries such as El Salvador and Costa Rica have more of a focus on experimentation and therefore revert to the true ‘Honey’ process whereby ripe cherries are depulped in a controlled manner to determine exactly how much mucilage is left on the bean. It is in this way that different flavour profiles can be created due to the varying influence of fermentation. In this instance, the drying process is extremely important as there is more of a risk of mould growth and defects so it is essential that the sticky beans are turned regularly and are protected from insect damage. You may come across terms such as ‘yellow honey process’ or ‘perla negra’ which refers to either the amount of time the bean spent in the cherry before it was depulped, or to the amount of mucilage that was left on the bean before it was dried.