Outside of Brazil the pulped natural process is frequently referred to as the honey process, with producers leaving various amounts of mucilage adhering to the parchment as well as employing different depths of the coffee layer in drying, both resulting in unique profiles that span and even expand the range from dry to wet process. There can also be varying levels of honey-processed coffee, typically referred to as black, red, or yellow honey. This is where it gets a bit complicated.
In some regions, the level of honey is determined by the frequency of turning the parchment while drying, with the black end of the spectrum being turned least often. Not turning the coffee often allows the sugars to caramelize quickly on the outside of the parchment, leaving it stained a dark maroon or “black” color. In other places, the degree of honey is determined by the amount of mucilage left on the parchment after being passed through a mechanical demucilaginator or quick fermentation. In this scenario, the black end of the spectrum has the most mucilage left on, while the yellow has the least. There are no hard and fast rules with terminology for honeys as there are currently no global processing standards. But having this basic understanding will be a great start.
Because of the in-between nature and large profile range of pulped natural coffees, assessment is difficult to codify. In our lab, we label pulped naturals with an H (honey) and ask our panelists to assess basis our natural standard, though without considering a lack of coffee cherry character as a limiting factor in scoring as it would be for a naturally processed coffee.
“In the semi-dry process, that Brazilians call the pulped natural process, the mucilage is not fully removed after pulping, and parchment is dried together with most or all its mucilage. Green coffee is obtained by hulling dry parchment with dried mucilage adhering to it. The semi-dry process, originally used in Brazil, is now being introduced in other countries too.” (Wintgens 611)