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.