Here I am in Hawaii, eating mango, papaya, and macadamia nuts, and drinking coffee as part of a 100 mile diet.
Monday we toured Greenwell Farms. Kona's oldest coffee farm was established in 1850.
Some of the trees producing coffee here are 117 years old. While these trees don't produce a lot of fruit, the flavour of the bean is deep and complex, and used to make Onouli coffee. We sampled Peaberry, Full City Roast, Espresso, Jenny K, and Autumn Harvest. A full range of tastes and bodies. Coffee heaven!
As we were driving around the countryside, we saw lots of coffee trees. In addition to growing beans, Greenwell buys from the many independent growers in Kona.
Beans are harvested August to November, and must be picked by hand, because each bean ripens at a different rate. Then they are inspected for beetles and if there is too much damage, are discarded. On average, a tree will produce 2 - 3 pounds of coffee in a year - and that's before drying. It's a very labour intensive, time-consuming business, which is part of the reason why Kona coffee is so expensive. To order this coffee and have it shipped home would be more than $100 a pound, so when we left with 12 ounces of Jenny K we felt we were leaving with treasure.
Coffee cherries are the new superfood. These are the colourful red casings that have been discarded for years by the industry. Now they've been discovered as a powerful anti-oxidant. The latest superfood is touted to to boost the immune system, protect against free radicals and act as an anti-inflammatory. So within a few days of receiving the bean, Greenwell farms now preserves the fruit and uses it to create a wellness drink called Kona Red.
Coffee beans dry in the sun and are turned so effects are even. At peak harvest, because there are enough beans to fill them, drums are used. Tasters can't tell the difference but the romantic in me will imagine kona coffee sun-dried, always. Once thoroughly dried, beans are roasted.
There is so much difference between coffee beans, which is in part terroir, but also the roasting. Flavour is so much different for the same bean, when roasted to light, medium or dark. Even then, the temperature at which they are roasted and the length of time make a difference. A hotter temperature means the bean will pop that much faster, but sometimes to achieve the proper effect you want to take a bit longer to pull the full flavour from the bean.
Sipping the Jenny K now, and really appreciating the depth of the taste and incredible finish. I would pack my suitcase with it, but roasted beans last only 4-6 weeks. Greenwell sells their green beans in 100 pound bags, so maybe we could get enough people together to make a purchase...