Finding Your Honey

Who doesn’t want to find his honey? I found mine with Lisa, my wife, but this is not about us. It’s about bees and beans, coffee beans that is.

When you live on a coffee farm, you pay attention to details you simply never noticed before. We not only have 300 coffee trees, we have three bee hives. When the coffee trees burst into bloom, the air is filled with the fragrant aroma of tiny gardenia (coffee) flowers and 27459473_10212742740138201_5095573786419470879_nthe buzz of thousands of bees wandering from flower to flower. They take pollen and collect nectar, coincidentally pollinating flowers and helping to start the production of bright red coffee cherry in six to eight months.

Bees really do not produce much honey in months where their favorite flowers are not in bloom in profusion. Honey comes in bursts called nectar flows, when one or two kinds of flowers that produce lots of nectar are blooming in profusion. When I had bees in Colorado, it was the summer alfalfa fields in bloom creating light, tasty clover honey. In the fall it was rabbitbrush’s dense yellow flowers providing a very dark, sorghum-like honey.

In Hawaii, mid-January brings the occasional rain in the dry season and our coffee trees bloom along with the many macadamia nut trees in our area. Our neighbors have large orchards of macnuts in dense groves of the dark green, spiny-leafed trees. The rain and winter season brings them into bloom with long racemes of tiny white flowers producing amazing nectar that bees love. This  lasts for two to three months.

I went out to our Langstroth hive at end of January, thinking that there might be some new honey. I quickly pulled five honey-laden frames from one hive and then looked into one of the African top bar hives and found four new leaves of comb honey. In only two weeks our happy bees had put away more than five quarts of coffee/macnut honey. I see beekeepers advertising coffee honey in our area. I don’t know how they know that. These two trees are next to each all over Kona district and the bees simply work both at the same time. I think the honey is from both flowers. Coffee blooms for only two days and the flowers dry up. The macnut trees bloom continuously for months, so macnut nectar is the bulk of the flow. The honey color is a deep amber and the flavor is simply amazing, maybe the best honey I’ve ever tasted. It defies a description except to say it is as distinctively tasty as maple syrup is in its own way.

28056562_10212836109992389_3850532939932096107_nLisa processes the honey, putting it through two strainers to filter out such things as chunks of wax or occasional bee parts. She tastes each side of each frame to make sure the flavor is consistent. Each frame in this last batch was simply perfect. We soon had enough set aside for our home use for the next year and perhaps two more months remain of great flows of macnut and coffee honey. We will harvest again in late March and bottle the honey to sell.

Bees are great partners on a coffee farm. They help insure that you have lots of cherries by pollinating every flower. They produce delicious honey as an added crop. And they pollinate all sorts of other flowers for us and the neighbors, especially macnuts. On the mainland you must leave the bees 50 to 100 pounds of honey to make it through the winter. Here we are producing honey in the dead (live) of winter.

My favorite bakery on the Big Island is Punaluʻu Bakery in Naʻalehu near South Point. They make a sweetbread that I like to slice into a buttered skillet to make fried toast. Then I drizzle the coffee/macnut honey on top and try to stop eating after one slice. A cup of Kona coffee from our farm is the right followup to the honeyed toast.

When you shop for honey be aware that all nectars taste different and some make spectacular honey, better than any you have ever tasted. And to some degree it is all up to you. Select your personal preference by testing a variety for a great flavor from nature that you prefer. Macnut/coffee has become my new favorite flavor. Who doesn’t want to find their honey?

Tim Merriman


Do Me a Flavor – Enjoy Some Coffee Quotes

27540013_10212736826270358_1637706871554896684_nOh, what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day. I’m drinking this whole pot of coffee. You better stay out of my way!

– Unknown

These are the confessions of a coffee fanatic and now a Kona coffee farmer. I remember my first taste. My dad took me hunting as a kid of ten or so and the only beverage with the delicious bologna sandwiches with lettuce and mayo would be a hot thermos of coffee heavily laced with real cream and lots of sugar. I hated it, but it was warm and we were hunting in the snow. And then I kind of liked it. And then I tried it without the cream and sugar, and I loved it, even as a teenager.

Love is in the air, and it smells like coffee.

– Unknown

I started reading a barista site with coffee quotes and enjoyed so many of them it was hard to choose just one to accompany my attempts to engage you in a coff-versation. I was looking for a quote I have seen that is something like, “If you have to add something to it, you’re drinking the wrong kind of coffee.” If I have quoted someone without attribution, I apologize.

I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community.

– Howard Schultz

In college I remember coffee as the universal balm. It hyped you up to face the day. You shared a cup with friends who were also cutting class to play Bridge or shoot pool. You drank it all night before the paper was due so that you could put the finishing touches on your masterpiece at 7:45 AM and turn in the paper at 8:00 AM. Any kind or strength of black coffee would do, the more caffeine the better.

I spent the summer at 22 years of age in Spain and developed a new appreciation for coffee at all levels. Breakfast was bread torn from a baguette and basted with jam. Coffee was a huge mug of boiling milk and several teaspoons of Taster’s Choice Instant. My Spanish family members would add lots of sugar. I stayed with cafe con leche sin azucar (without sugar). I kind of liked how the hot milk softened the taste of too much instant coffee. In the afternoon we would go to Oliveri outdoor cafe and I had an Americano, a sacrilege at this place to dilute the espresso but I was young and American. With the coffee came una marquesa, a dessert to blow your mind. I was still enjoying coffee mostly for the caffeine and began to notice flavor, but not so seriously that I quit drinking instant coffee.

Sometimes I go hours without drinking coffee…it’s called sleeping.

– Anonymous

In our last years of full-time work Lisa and I traveled 100,000 + air miles a year, hung out way too many hours in airport lounges. Coffee was essential and the flavor varied widely. I somewhat preferred the places serving Starbucks coffee, but wondered if it was just brand adoration. I didn’t buy their packaged coffee at home. I liked several other medium dark roast coffees more.

If you are not coffee, chocolate or bacon, I’m going to need you to go away.

– Anonymous

Moving to Hawaii three plus years ago changed our lives. Buying a Kona coffee farm was interesting in theory and a new passion in real life. The coffee we produce has exceptional flavor and aroma others tell us. We think so too. A novice coffee farmer pulls off this amazing feat only because the trees have been here many decades, the soil is volcanic pebbles in a rich humus and it rains like crazy eight months of the year (thankfully mostly at night). It was growing amazing Kona coffee long before we took over. We planted cacao trees among our coffee trees (they are very compatible) and they are going to yield our own chocolate nibs in a couple of years. All we need then is bacon – oh wait, there are wild pigs here too. The problem is we fenced them out and our dogs in. Wow, Kona coffee, Kona chocolate and Big Island Bacon. What a combination that will be (but we’ll still buy the bacon instead of raising our own, I think) .


Coffee is a hug in a mug.

– Anonymous

We roast to medium, the coffee lovers “Goldilocks” level of roasting. Blonde is too light and not enough of the rich flavor of the bean. Medium dark roast and dark roast add the charred coffee taste and aroma. The three bears would say, “Grrrreat, medium is just right, not too charred, not too light, and just the right amount of caffeine (counterintuitively more than dark roast).

I put coffee in my coffee.

– Anonymous

Whatever you choose as your coffee, be sure you truly like it and not just as a conveyor of flavored syrups and other additives. We’ve landed in the garden of great coffee in Captain Cook, Hawaii. And we produce it because we love it. I enjoy a great coffee quote along with my coffee. Don’t be like Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire (see below). Get a good cup of coffee . . . you can order from us here.

Tim Merriman

Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.

– Edward Abbey

December: Ending & Beginning the Cycle

Our coffee farm is nestled above Kealakekua Bay at 930 feet elevation. The end of November brings the end of the coffee harvest. When only a few cherries are left on the trees, we do a final round to strip the remaining cherries, whether green, red or raisins (dried cherry) and throw them away. A high percentage of the last round are damaged by Japanese coffee borer beetles, a new pest on the island since 2009, and the quantity of good coffee beans in the cherries is just not enough to be worth the effort to process them further. Leaving cherry of any kind on the trees serves as food for the beetle and stripping the trees helps to starve them out.

Cherry is fed into the pulper bin at the top. Turn the handle, beans fall to the right and pulp waste falls into the bin below to the left.

Earlier in the season, we process the good cherries by putting them through a pulper to remove the skins and pulp, leaving behind the coffee beans covered with mucilage. We place the beans in a bucket of water, skim off the floaters (beetle damaged), and let the wet mix naturally ferment overnight. The next day we change the water and feel the beans. If they’re still slimy, we let it sit another night and the

We remove the parenchyma or mucilage by the wet method. Large growers do it with a machine.

fermentation effectively breaks down the rest of the slime. When the beans have a gritty texture and are no longer slick, they’re ready for drying. We strain off the water and place the wet beans in a plastic tray to dry in the sun for 5 to 10 days, stirring regularly to keep the wet beans exposed. When it rains, we move the beans under cover.

IMG_5185When the moisture is less than 10%, the beans are green and hard inside a white outer cover of parchment that protects them. At this stage, they can be stored for long periods before dry hulling and roasting. But first, we go through the very slow process of grading the beans on a glass table with a light beneath it. Dark beans, damaged beans and waste material show up good with normal light and with a light below they really stand out. They get manually removed and discarded. Finally, the good white parchment is ready to go to the roaster. We use a custom roaster, Greenwell Farms, who have been doing this work for 137 years. They do it well including dry milling the parchment off the bean, roasting to medium, weighing and packaging. In December we have lots of coffee for sale and it sells out usually well before the next harvest. Order now if you want to try our rich, flavorful Kona coffee.

The end of one coffee season is just the beginning of the next coffee season. We spray Beauvaria spores, a fungal spore infusion that attacks the beetle eggs and larvae on cherries missed on the trees or on the ground. If left alone, the beetles lay eggs in the fruit, the larvae eat the growing beans, and the damaged cherries are hollowed out. Leaving damaged cherries with larvae of the beetle in the field will make next year’s crop infested with beetles.

Each December we prune away the extra limbs and haul them to the “green” dump, a county operation that grinds and composts all plant material into bug-free mulch that they give back to the public at no charge.

December is a good time to do the last fertilization for the year and prune the trees for the new year, leaving three to five vertical stems on each trees. One third of the tree trunks are cut off at knee height every year, making those trees put out new vertical stems. After a year or two, they produce lots of coffee cherry. After that the stems get brittle, too tall and less productive, they are cut away and mulched or hauled to the “green” dump to be composted. Coffee trees often live a hundred years but they always look like stumps with three to five stems after they are a few years old.

Coffee flower buds grow in clusters and open into tiny bouquets that attract bees. The aroma of these gardenia relatives is unmistakable.

This year we had an inch of rain just before we pruned the trees. They immediately formed flowers and just after Christmas Day the miniature white flowers of the coffee covered the limbs like snow. Our honeybees hurried to collect nectar and pollen and help pollinate the flowers. The flowers will quickly transform into tiny green cherries that will grow over the next seven months and eventually turn bright red for a harvest by early August of 2018.

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 4.24.12 PMOur medium roast gets the richest, aromatic flavor from Kona Arabica beans. We ship them as whole beans so you can grind them at home for the freshest flavor possible. Our coffee is always carefully picked and processed by us and never mixed with beans from other places so it is 100% Heartfelt Kona estate coffee. To order send $35 per pound to PO Box 685, Kealakekua, HI 96750 or pay through Paypal to tim(at) Be sure to provide your shipping address. We pay the shipping and ship the next day by USPS Priority Mail. It arrives at any U.S. home in three to four business days. We contribute 10% of all sales to local community organizations that help people and the environment on the Big Island. There’s community in every cup of Heartfelt Kona Coffee.

Happy New Year!

Tim and Lisa





Heartfelt Kona Coffee

Just four years ago we were planning a move from our home in Fort Collins, Colorado, to the Big Island of Hawaii. Lisa researched the real estate options and found a property we quickly grew to love in the Captain Cook area above Kealakekua Bay, where we began building our dreams in 2014. Our farm is not large, but it suits our style. We built a bamboo house with off-grid solar power and saltwater storage batteries. We raise miniature Appaloosa horses along with two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and koi. Slowly but surely, we have planted a variety of fruit trees and rehabilitated the half acre of 300 Arabica coffee trees that were on the property to make them productive and healthy. Many of them are 100 years old or older but they had all been badly neglected for over a decade, overgrown by vines and ten foot tall grasses when we arrived, knowing virtually nothing about coffee farming.

The trees are wonderful teachers. And fortunately, there are lots of resources available for the novice. Some of the basics:

• It takes 5-7 pounds of coffee cherries to yield 1 pound of finished Kona coffee – leaving 4-6 lbs of waste or byproducts if you can figure out how to use them. Some farms make tea from cherry skins, while others compost the skins. We’ve opted to compost, with the horses contributing manure to the process of making new rich soil we use on the farm.

• In 2009, the Japanese coffee borer beetle made it to the Big Island from elsewhere and it now infests all coffee groves here. Beauvaria, a fungus that infects and destroys beetles, can be introduced in coffee groves through spraying the spores of the fungus. With regular application and careful management of the trees, we have only 5 to 10% damage to our crop, not 30 or 40% like the farms that don’t manage the beetles.

• There’s something to do year-round to keep the coffee healthy. In the dry season, usually from December through March, we prune, fertilize, irrigate and spray Beauvaria, along with enriching the soil base around the trees. As the coffee begins to grow in spring with the start of the rainy season, we’re fine pruning the small branches of new growth that would otherwise make the tree too dense and hard to pick. By early August, it’s time to pick with the harvest season usually lasting through some time in November.

• Reading the label is an art form when it comes to Kona coffee. If it says “estate,” it means the coffee comes from one farm, not mixed crops from multiple farms. If it says “100%,” it’s pure Kona, grown here on the Big Island, as opposed to a “Kona blend” which may include coffee from anywhere else in the world. Look for “medium roast” which is the preferred roast for Kona coffee to bring out the subtle, sweet finish that makes creamer and sweeteners unnecessary.

We are now three years into the experience and had our largest yield this year, about 1000 pounds of cherry, yielding more than 150 pounds of finished Kona coffee. That’s not a lot, but not bad considering our first year was a mere 40 pounds of finished coffee. We pick it ourselves, pulp off the cherry skins, sun dry the entire crop, and carefully select only the best, bug-free beans at the dry parchment stage to take for custom roasting and packaging by Greenwell Farms. They’ve been processing coffee for 137 years and are considered one of the top processors for estate coffee. We take great care and inspect every single bean on a glass table with lighting from below to remove damaged beans. Kona is known for excellent coffee. That’s more than good marketing – the combination of trees, weather, soils, and good stewardship in the handling of the product all contribute to quality and there are significant variations in the coffee produced by small farms. Each year, we keep enough for ourselves and sell the excess.

You can order our Heartfelt Kona Coffee from this site. We ship to the mainland United States by US Postal Service Priority Mail, so you receive it within three to four days. The cost of postage (about $7.15 a pound) is included in the price. 10% of all sales are donated to local charities that encourage people to care for each other and the island on which we live.

And just a reminder at this time of year – a pound of 100% Kona coffee makes a great Christmas gift for your friends, family, or office break room.


Tim and Lisa