What exactly makes a coffee “Honey processed?” Usually I would answer this question with the phrase “depulped, but not fermented.” Yet that is not the case here, and proves how much we still have to learn and develop our language as coffee professionals when speaking about the field of processing.
The farmer, César Sampertegui, harvested and processed this micro-lot on his 12 acre farm called Bosques de Huamantanga located near the community of Santa Maria in Jaén. Sampertegui has created what you could potentially call “mixed” or “double” fermented which has been dried in the parchment with some mucilage.
Let’s get specific: César’s coffee cherries are picked and floated in water to rinse and to remove low density fruit. They are then moved to a shaded cement tank which is covered with a plastic tarp for 24 hours. After this “fermentation in cherry,” the coffee is depulped on César’s small motorized depulper and then placed in an aluminum tank for an additional 12 hours of “fermentation.” Finally, this lightly macerated pulpy parchment is dried for approximately 20 days.
Admittedly, calling this a “honey process” doesn’t quite do justice to the complexity of the process. But then, you could argue the same about the terms “washed” or “natural” and even “fermented.” All this broad categorical jargon is reductive by nature. And so we’ve settled on a single term with the unwritten asterisk: read the fine print on the process. In fact, this is probably good advice no matter what coffee you are interested in: get to know it and the people and processes behind it.
And so, while César has designed farm management and post-harvest solutions to fit his needs, he also has a strong alliance to bring his coffee to the international market and earn fair prices. He started working with Aroma del Valle, an organization established to assist producers access the specialty coffee market. With the help of Aroma del Valle, Cesar and his wife have been able to pay for their two children to attend school.
Lest you think César’s processing method sounds like an unvetted experiment, Sampertegui has a counterargument. His coffee is currently participating in the Cup of Excellence in Peru, where it has continued on to the final round, making it one of the top 36 coffees in the country.
I’ll happily add a chorus: we’re loving this coffee. What a strange and wonderful experience! It immediately makes an impression on dry fragrance with notes of dried peach and fresh herbs. In the cup the flavors are striking: musk melon, guava, and ripe tomato meet hops and caramelized onions in a completely unique and unforgettable experience.