There are many steps needed to produce an amazing cup of coffee, and we consider the processing of the beans to be the point at which the magic truly takes place. There is the fermentation, pulping, drying, and washing - and the combinations and variations in these steps will dictate the flavors that finally end up in your cup, and contribute to the overall experience. Like most agriculture practices, environment plays a large role, and in coffee, the rain can be a big factor when choosing the processing method. Too much rain can cause the cherries to crack, which isn’t good for naturals. Less rain can be ideal for honeys, because the sugars remain in the bean.
Washed process is most often used for true single origin coffee. Despite the fruit being stripped, many of the natural sugars have been absorbed, and remain inside the bean. Its is a pure approach that highlights the true quality, terroir, and the well executed farm practice.
Natural process is the traditional method of drying the beans with their fruit on, and this process could take up to a month to complete while the beans are fermenting inside the fruit. The need for extra attention in a temperate climate can make this a difficult process, and can result in inconsistent flavors if not properly done. Though, if well executed, this process can produce what most people consider to be one of the best cups of coffee.
Honey process can be one of 'middle-grounds' of processing, resulting in wildly sweet beans, with lingering acidity. More mucilage left on the bean results in a sweeter coffee. The result is not as fruity as a natural process, and it often produces a more balanced acidity.
We are always striving to improve the quality of our coffee, and understanding processing methods are key!