If you know me you know I love coffee. Yesterday we went to Kona Joe’s in the 20 mile Kona Coffee Belt of Hawaii. We went on the tour which ended up being private so I got the chance to ask all my coffee questions. As you can see their plantation overlooks the ocean in Kona and it is some seriously prime real estate.
Here is what I learned on the tour:
- Dr. Joe and his wife decided to buy some acreage on Kona. They built a house and some coffee trees for personal use and used the trellis method which is used in wine making but had never been used for growing coffee. They found the trellis method allowed the sunlight to be evenly distributed amongst the leaves of the plant giving the cherries more sugar. The trellis method also increases the yield by about 30%.
- The fruit of the coffee tree is called a cherry, which turns red when ripe. Cherries do not ripen all at once so they must be hand picked.
- Most ripening happens around October, so until the 1960s the Kona summer vacation went from September to November.
- It takes 7 pounds of coffee cherries to equal one pound of roasted coffee.
- When coffee beans are drying they can take on odors so they are usually dried outside unless it is a rainy or high humid environment, which Kona has so in Kona they mostly dry their beans in non painted 10% humidity rooms for 2 weeks.
- Each coffee cherry has two coffee beans.
- If the coffee bean has one cherry (instead of two) it is a peaberry bean which is very prized because the plant gives the bean more sugar. Peaberry beans are round unlike other beans which are more oval.
- When the beans are ripe a chemist determines if it is a good time to harvest, based on the sugars in the cherry.
- When the cherry is harvested it is brought to a wet mill to be stripped of its skin and washed of the saccharine/sugars covering the bean.
- There are different coffee grades: peaberry which accounts for about 5% of Kona beans, extra fancy, fancy, and prime which each account for about 20% of Kona beans. They also have “mother beans” and I can’t figure out why they call them that but they are essentially their lowest quality beans. My understanding is they are machine damaged beans or have deformities.
- Machine sorters sort the beans mechanically by grade via screens with different sized holes.
- In addition to sorting by size you also have to sort by density because the extra fancy and mother beans are roughly the same size.
- Kona coffee belt is about 20 miles long. Coffee has to be grown within the 20 mile Kona Belt to be called Kona coffee.
- Estate coffee is not a grade but just means the beans all come from one farm. Estate coffee is harvested, dried, roasted, and hand packaged on site.
- Beans are ripe for about a week to a week and a half and then they turn black and fall of the tree.
- Unripe coffee cherries are green and when they are ripe they turn a dark red.
- Robusta and arabica are the two types of beans. Robusta has 40-50% more caffeine and more bitter taste where arabica in general tends to have less caffeine and less of a bitter taste partly due to the sugar content of the cherry.
- For coffee roasting, most roasting takes place from between 380 to 450 degrees. The longer and higher temperature, the darker the roast. The more you roast the bean the less oil and sugar. Also the more you roast the bean the more caramelized and roasted flavor you will have when the coffee is brewed.
- The darker the roast the less caffeine and less oils the bean has left in it. Darker roasts tend to be less sweet and sometimes more bitter when compared with mild to medium roasts.
- Darker roasts look more oily because the longer and higher roasting brings the oils to the surface of the bean.
- They put a little bit of nitrogen into the package which forces the oxygen out of the one way valve to keep the coffee fresh for up 2 years.
I know there are lots of coffee experts out there so if you find the information above inaccurate, or if you know of other details let me know so I can be sure and add it.
Christina and I are vacationing in Hawaii this week. We often joke that we would make the most hilarious contestants for the TV reality show The Amazing Race because we love to travel but traveling doesn’t seem to love us. I think we’d make a great team though and if nothing else we’d offer some great comedic value to the audience watching us. Christina is the smooth talking nice one with all the time in the world talking to ticket/reservation agents and I am the direct and straight to the point one who wants to quickly get the answers I need. Then once I get the answers I need it is off to our next location until…PALM TREE (like SQUIRREL in Up)…and then I have all the time in the world to take pictures in the middle of the race and enjoy the experience…which is exactly the opposite of her…which is to get going and not see/enjoy everything around her. It is comedy at its best and we have a good time with each other and even remarked at the end of the day how awesome it was we didn’t even fight…not once (but that is us). We are patient with each other and we balance each other out quite nicely. So with that setup, below is how our race officially begun for the week.
Upon printing the time share certificate the night before leaving I realized a mistake…a BIG mistake. The certificate had us arriving at the timeshare on the 20th in Maui and it was the 13th we had been planning for. We didn’t think it would be a big deal but we called the timeshare to let them know of the error. Unfortunately their offices were closed and reopened at 7am the following morning. Our plane was leaving at 9:30am so things were about to get interesting. We stayed up until just passed midnight and called the timeshare office as soon as they opened (while we were driving to Christina’s parent’s house who were taking us to the airport). The first person Christina talked to basically told us we were out of luck and they didn’t have any availability or transfer credits in Maui. I told her to hang up and talk with someone else until we found someone more helpful. The second person she talked to was more helpful but said they only had a timeshare on the Big Island but our plane tickets were for Maui. Upon calling yet again we finally got consistent answers/options and decided we had better take the Big Island timeshare so we could at least have a vacation somewhere.
Upon arriving at the airport the Hawaiian Airlines representative greeted me without a hint of smile and upon me letting her know our travel plans had changed and we needed to rebook tickets she gave me the strangest scowl I think I’ve seen. For some reason she wasn’t grasping what I was telling her so Christina and her spoke the same language and I think she even got a smile or two out of her. She next reported to us that it would cost us $558 each to change our tickets. I reminded her we already had tickets to Oahu and we were planning to transfer to Maui from there so I didn’t understand why the tickets were so high priced. After helping her figure that part out she got the cost down to $169 and we were on our way. We were the last team to arrive to the gate in Oakland but luckily this was a non elimination leg of the race and we received a road block once we arrived at our destination.
Once on the plane we had a 5 hour plane ride ahead of us. I got the MacBook out and organized some files, watched an hour long Gary Vaynerchuk video which I normally wouldn’t have time to do. Life was good, except a little more leg and arm room would have been awesome. I know I looked like a velociraptor trying to type on my laptop with the seat in front of me fully reclined. Once we got to Oahu we arrived at the International Terminal which meant we had to quickly walk to the other side of the airport so we could hit our connecting flight to the Big Island. We walked pretty fast and once we hit the open air portion of the airport I was in heaven. I kept stopping to take some pictures. I love being a tourist and doing all the touristy things. I got about 15 seconds of time to stop and take these before Christina urged me to keep going. I was happy I could photograph my…SQUIRREL!
On the flight from Oahu to the Big Island I snuck out my smart phone and got a great shot of Honolulu. Christina and I ended up sitting apart because of the last minute tickets but I sat next to a helicopter pilot who now lives in the LA area. He knew all the islands and used to do helicopter tours on the Big Island so he could point out all the interesting points of interest.
Upon arriving on the Big Island the helicopter pilot beside me pointed out the lava flows and all sorts of interesting things I wouldn’t have otherwise been aware of.
We got the car rental changed, the timeshare information somewhat sorted out, and we got some groceries for the week. We don’t yet know how we are getting off the island and where we are staying Saturday night, but we’re here. I think we may go over to Maui later in the week to connect back with our original return flight, but we’ll see how things go. Aloha! Yes, I’m that annoying tourist type. So despite our slow and comedic start, I am proud to say we’re still in the race! ;)