History and Geography
Kona Coffee is one of the most unique and valued coffees in the world. Arabica coffee tree seedlings were first introduced to western Hawaii Island in the 1820’s by Samual Ruggles. The plant took to the soils and climatic conditions along the Kona coast. The Kona District is roughly 30 miles long running south from the Kona airport along the slopes of Hualalai and Muana Loa volcanoes at elevations between 800’ and 3000’ above sea level. This belt is ideally suited for growing coffee. It consists of rich slightly acidic volcanic soil; sunny in the morning and shaded by clouds often in the afternoon. During the rainy season of summer, most of the slopes receive about 60” of rain.
Coffee is a fruit. Good coffee farming practices require constant weed control in the orchards, mowing of erosion control grass between rows of trees, fertilization, pruning after harvesting and constant suckering (removing young branch starts from the trunk and limbs). Kona coffee is generally a Kona Typica variety or other Coffea Arabica varieties which are grown by over 900 farmers (mostly 3-7 acres) on about 4,500 acres in the Kona District. Heavenly Hawaiian Farms, with 37.5 acres, is one of the larger Kona coffee farms. 33 acres are planted with over 19,000 trees.
Picking and Processing
Blossoms or “Kona Snow” buds begin growing at the start of the rainy seasons. Coffee beans grow during the wetter spring/summer season and ripen to maturity during the dryer fall/winter months. The ripened bean is called a “cherry.” It is a sweet pulpy fruit that surrounds two half coffee beans or a single peaberry bean. Coffee is usually picked from September to February. Because not all the cherry ripens at the same time there usually are four to six pickings during the harvest season. Pickers manually pick the red cherry fruit containing the coffee beans. A productive picker can harvest 400 lbs of cherry in a day. Some pickers handle as much as 1,200 lbs per day, all by hand, bean by bean. Cherry bags (usually100 lbs) are weighed in.
Within 24 hours of picking, cherry must be processed, usually by a wet mill process which strips the pulp off the bean. Mechanical demucilagers or fermenting are used to remove much of the inner sugary mucilage from the interior bean covering. The beans are then dried to parchment on drying floors (hosidanas) and/or in mechanical dryers. Once the moisture content of the bean is lowered to no more than 12%, the parchment can be safely stored in burlap bags incooled vaults (65% humidity and 65° F) for long periods of time.
When the farmer is ready to sell his coffee, he takes the parchment to a dry mill where the parchment and inner silver skin are removed from the green bean. The beans are then sorted by size and defects (graded) and bagged for final evaluation and certification by the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Ag representatives take samples to their lab where they closely scrutinize the beans to look for defects such as discoloration,cleanliness, mildew, moisture content, CBB damage, nicks and broken beans. They also cup the coffee to test for aroma and flavor. The Ag inspectors then certify each bag of green bean as to grade. The state certification is not required by law, but strongly recommended, for the farmer or processor to sell the green beans outside the Kona District. Only beans grown in the Kona District can be sold as Kona coffee. State certification guarantees you are getting legitimate Kona coffee.
Production and Markets
Kona coffee with its unique rich, full bodied flavor is highly prized and is sold all over the world. It is ranked by coffee buyers as one of the top three coffees. Total annual Kona production varies from year to year depending on climatic conditions. However on average about 3,000,000 lbs of green beans, ready for roasting, are produced from about 15,000,000 lbs of cherry(roughly 18-20% by weight). Roasting further reduces the weight by another 20% (e.g., 100 lbs of green bean produces 80 lbs of roasted coffee).
Kona coffee production represents less than 1% of the worldwide production of coffees. However, because of its unique full body and mellow taste, it is one of the most sought after coffees in the world! It is a favorite in Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan as well as on the mainland, USA. We hope you enjoy our 100% Kona cofee as well. Mahalo!
Health Benefits of Coffee.
According to a recent report from the Harvard School of Public Health, it is now documented that coffee topped the list of most foods in antioxidants. Harvard scientists determined that coffee will help delay of prevent the onset of depression, Alzheimers, dementia, certain cancers, Parkinson’s and Diabetes II. recent studies also indicate regular consumption of coffee can help prolong life. Coffee is by far the largest source of antioxidants in our diet according to Joe Vinson, Chemistry Professor, University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. It surpasses blueberries, broccoli and most other products. Only chocolate, dried fruits and dried beans rank higher. The report goes on to state that caffeine reduces muscle fatigue and boosts speed and endurance. Finally, coffee does not dehydrate but instead quenches thirst as well as any other liquid.
Similarly, a 1/16/06 article in Time Magazine, Pages 94-95, it is reported by Harris Lieberman, Military Nutrition Division, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass. that caffeine can heighten one’s mental performance, and makes people feel more energetic and generally better overall. This article also reports that caffeine triggers the release of dopamine, mostly in the frontal areas of the brain and anterior cingular cortex where executive functions like attention, task management and concentration are located.
The bottom line is that coffee is good for you! Of course, we aficionados already knew that! Another good reason to drink our 100% Kona Coffee and to enjoy!