Costa Rica Coffee: Black Honey

In March 2015, Vigilante Coffee traveled to Tarrazu, Costa Rica to directly source coffee from a farm named Hacienda Tobosi. The farm is located in lush, clouded mountains about 3 hours from San Jose - the capital of Costa Rica. Jorge Bernes, the farm’s owner, met us in Tarrazu and guided us through his incredible farm.  

We spent two days learning about Jorge, his family, his land, and the processes he uses to develop his coffee. While Jorge’s farm employs each of the main processing methods used for coffee, we spent the majority of our time learning about and exploring the various types of “honey” processing techniques Jorge uses.

Costa Rican Coffee honey process vigilante coffee company origin trip

What is Processing and What Makes it “Honey”?

After coffee cherries are harvested, they enter a phase called “processing” where the cherries are prepared for the drying phase. Depending on the method, the coffee seeds may remain in the cherries, or they may be stripped completely from fruit using a machine called a depulper.  

In the “honey” method, the depulper fully removes the cherry and its pulp, but leaves the mucilage surrounding the seed intact. The coffee is then dried on raised beds (this allows for an even airflow on all sides of the bean) for up to 2 weeks.  

When the seeds first hit the drying beds, they are very wet and slippery.  As the beans dry, the sugars inside the mucilage break down and thicken into a thick, gooey substance. This is where the nickname “honey” comes from - the sugary mucilage that slowly dries on the beans.

Due to the high levels of moisture contained in the mucilage, a certain amount of fermentation occurs as the seeds dry. When properly and carefully controlled, this fermentation equates to a very interesting, syrupy cup of coffee.

Honey Processes at Hacienda Tobosi

There are 4 Honey Processes used at Hacienda Tobosi.  Each type is defined by the amount of mucilage left surrounding the seeds.

  1. White Honey (50% Honey)
  2. Yellow Honey (60% Honey)
  3. Red Honey (80% Honey)
  4. Black Honey (100% Honey)

After a thorough cupping of several varietals of coffee processed various different ways, the most interesting coffee to us was the Black Honey processed Red Caturra. After harvest, these beans were only loosely stripped of the skin and pulp, while 100% of the mucilage slowly dried around the beans.

The Cup Profile of Our New Black Honey

Imagine you're standing in the dried fruit section at the grocery store, inhaling deeply. Deep fruit note fragrances engulf your taste buds.

In the cup, you can expect balance, sweet chocolate notes with a dry fruit/apricot acidity. The silky medium body makes your mouth crave another sip. Relaxing low acidity and toasty notes greet you on the finish.

Check out the Vigilante Coffee Company Team sourcing this incredible coffee, and stop by the roastery, or order online, to try it for yourself. 

Costa Rican Coffee - Black Honey Process from Vigilante Coffee on Vimeo.