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Producing quality coffee is hard work. Though exceptional natural conditions of the Kona region nurture the plants into unparalleled condition, our orchard requires constant attention in order to cultivate a consistently superior crop. We work all year to get the most out of Kona’s natural splendor.
Kona conditions are ideal for growth, and the coffee trees release many shoots all year round. They must be pruned to maximize the yield and quality of the year’s harvest. Many new shoots are removed, allowing each tree to focus its energy into three or four branches, called verticals. This way, each branch will produce larger, more flavorful fruit in greater quantity. To prepare for bearing fruit, the coffee absorbs bright rays from the Hawaiian sun and nutrients from the soil, growing at a lightning rate. Within just one season, a green shoot transforms into a massive, fruit-bearing branch measuring up to eight feet in length. In wintertime, small white blossoms, dubbed “Kona snow,” begin to appear and will soon fall to reveal the new baby beans of the next crop.
Soon, the green fruit begins maturing into a beautiful cherry red, and harvest begins. The harvesting season lasts from late August until early January in Kona, and the coffee must be constantly hand-picked as it ripens during this time. Hand-picking is an essential hallmark of Kona coffee; it ensures that each cherry is carefully assessed for ripeness and quality. Once picked, the crop is immediately processed by a special pulping machine, which strips the red outer skin and most of the inner fruit pulp away from the bean. Next, the pulped beans are fermented for 12 to 24 hours and washed in fresh water; during this process, the residual fruit covering around the beans is degraded, leaving behind only a stiff shell. The washed beans are sun-dried until their shells become hard and white. Protected by this dry parchment, the beans can be aged to a finely balanced flavor. Finally, the beans are milled to remove the parchment and a thin silverskin below it, exposing green coffee beans. These are ready for roasting, grinding and brewing.
Are all beans created equal? Not according to the experts. Kona Coffee is graded and valued according to the shape and size of beans. In 1999 the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill requiring all green coffee leaving Kona to be certified and classified according to the following strict standards.
Kona Extra Fancy – Type I Beans – Size 19. Or Type II Beans – Size 13. 10 or less imperfections.
Kona Fancy – Type I Beans – Size 18. Or Type II Beans – Size 12. 16 or less imperfections.
Kona No. 1 – Type I Beans – Size 16. Or Type II Beans – Size 10. 20 or less imperfections.
Kona Prime – May contain Type I and Type II beans of any size, 15% or less defective beans by weight, no more than 5% sour or black beans.
Check out the Kona Coffee Council website for more information about Kona Coffee standards.