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About Kona Coffee
Taxonomically classified as “species Arabica sub-species Typica” or more commonly known as Arabica Typica Kona coffee is world renown as a top quality coffee. Kona coffee beans appear as a waxy bluish-green color in its unroasted state. Roasted, the beans are enjoyably smooth to the palate, having a mildly acidic flavor. Kona Coffee is grown on the Big Island of Hawaii, along the western slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai. Hundreds of coffee farmers from one to hundreds of acres in size produce a total of about 2,000,000 pounds of Kona Coffee in it’s green (unroasted) form.
Upon his return, Chief Bogi handed the trees over to an ex-West Indies settler, John Wilkinson, who planted them on the Chief’s land in Manoa Valley on Oahu. Unfortunately, during his lifetime, Wilkinson was unable to successfully cultivate the tree for production of its fruits. In 1828, Father Samuel Lugress took coffee trees with him from Manoa Valley to Kona, on the Island of Hawaii, planting them in his yard simply for viewing pleasure.
It is primarily the temperature differences, caused by the warm ocean breezes during the day changing to cool mountain breezes at night that perpetuate the growth of this high quality coffee, especially at elevations which are very near sea level. And of course, the archenemies of coffee, winter frosts, have never been a threat in the warm archipelago of Hawaii.
The coffee tree goes into bloom in spring, producing a multitude of small white blossoms purveying a sweet scent. This occurrence is referred to as “Kona Snow,” and lasts for a short time, three days at most. Following the dropping of the blossoms is the development of the fruit that eventually ripens to the red coffee cherry signifying time for harvesting.
The harvest period ranges from September to February, with each cherry being picked by hand. To produce 1 pound of roasted coffee, about 7.5 pounds of cherry is needed. These handpicked cherries are collected into burlap bags and then transported to the pulping mill. Until the 1950s the industry used donkeys to carry these bags.
The demucilaged beans are spread out to dry on a platform (called a hoshidana) in the sun and are raked often in order to spread and turn the wet beans to help them dry evenly and keep them from burning. Dependent upon the weather, this process can range from 5 to 7 days.
As the beans dry in this manner, a parchment skin forms, which is ultimately removed, revealing raw green coffee beans, commonly referred to as “green coffee.” Dry millers then grade the coffee by size and weight while trying to reduce the number of defects or imperfections. The coffee is placed in 100-pound burlap bags and sealed for inspection. At this point, the owner of the green coffee decides whether to have the Hawaii state department of agriculture certify the coffee or not.
Two types of certification are available, a certificate of origin (which just insures that the coffee was grown in the Kona region) and a certificate of quality (which also insures the coffee meets specific criteria for size and number of defects in the coffee). UCC Hawaii always state certifies its green Kona coffee for both origin and quality. When buying Kona coffee, always check for the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture’s Certificate of Origin and Quality.