ALOHA FROM JENNIE: There’s a cliché that one can either ‘eat to live or live to eat’. My coffee experiences have ranged from that one extreme to the other. First, there are many coffee suitors vying for our attention, from the fields of South America to the hilly Kona slopes of our Big Island’s Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai regions.
Hawaii exports 100 tons of Kona coffee annually, grown in altitudes between 800 to 2000 feet above sea level, within a perfectly mixed environment of moisture, soil and sun. A coffee bush is 4 to 8 feet tall with branches that hang downwards. The bright red cherry coffee beans grow along the branches and are typically harvested by hand between September and February, with efficient pickers collecting up to 300 pounds of beans a day.
Coffee beans are processed and sun dried, then roasted, packaged whole or ground, and sealed in airtight containers for your utilitarian use or scintillating enjoyment. The Hawaii State Department of Agriculture grades all Hawaiian coffees, and to be labeled Kona coffee, the beans must be grown between the Holualoa and Kealea areas.
When one is young or transient, coffee may be made from instant grains and tepid water, or recycled from yesterday’s filter grinds, solely for the quickie caffeine fix. When one gains better resources, we start frequenting coffee houses and bars rather than gas station convenience stores, enjoying the brew in heat retaining cups and experimenting with enhancers.
As in life, when we mature and become more discriminating, one can discern the differences that result from beans that have been quickly processed to the highly coveted rich and flavorful Peaberry, which represents only 4% of all Kona coffee produced. As someone who has always had coffee passing through my life, it's nice to be able to settle in with a robust and reliable friend.
We hope that you enjoyed this glimpse into our Hawaiian coffee industry and have a chance to visit the Big Island, or to share with us some of your coffee experiences.