The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival 2018 and More

In early November we spent a beautiful Saturday morning at the Annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival’s Holualoa Village Coffee & Art Stroll. We found a parking spot above IMG_6241town and walked slowly down one side of the street for about three blocks and then back up the other side. This year 24 of the 800 Kona coffee growers had booths inviting us to taste their best coffee products and we voted for our favorite after tasting at almost every booth. We’ve learned it’s best not to drink too much coffee at home before the event or you can feel a little too caffeinated by the time lunch rolls around. Definitely it was a high energy day.

We are Kona coffee farmers so we couldn’t help comparing every cup to our own unique coffee. Interestingly, no two Kona coffees taste exactly alike. The soils, the micro-climates, the processing and roasting all guarantee that the resulting coffees have unique flavors.

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Coffee samples by growers include medium, medium-dark and dark-roast coffees and some growers offer cold-pressed coffee. Each booth is numbered so participants can vote at the end of the stroll for their favorite.

It reassured us that our coffee is as good or better than the best we tasted from the other farms. We liked some of the coffee samples very much but the best seemed similar to our coffee with a smooth hint of chocolate flavor and a slightly sweet finish.

Each year we talk about entering this event but it’s a lot of work to prepare for and execute. For now, we enjoy the stroll and tasting without having a booth of our own. Numerous art shops are open throughout the village, adding some cultural opportunities. The food concessions are unique and fun for a street food lunch. We did the veggie pizza this year but have had great BBQ in the past. Food stands included crepes, ahi poke, hot dogs, pizza and lots of baked goodies.

The festival lasts for two weeks, usually in the first part of November after much of the harvest is in, and includes a wide variety of events including hula performances, a coffee recipe competition, a quilt show, a showcase of local talent, and much more. We try to catch three or four of the dozen or more individual events that take you to half a dozen communities in South Kona (skipping the chance to visit a local farm and pick coffee for obvious reasons). Blending coffee and culture works and over the two week period, thousands of tourists and island residents participate in the various events.

 

This year, the festival ran from November 3 to 18 and most low elevation coffee farms had finished the harvest for the season. We chatted about the harvest with our fellow growers and all agreed that this season was totally weird with an overall lower yield of coffee. Most said they had 30 to 60% less coffee. Much of the cherry crop looked great, but the beans floated, a bad sign. Floating means either the Japanese coffee borer beetle larva has eaten the bean or the beans didn’t develop properly due to lack of water or some other natural phenomenon.

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The Kona Coffee Living History Farm offers some programming during the festival to show traditional ways coffee was roasted.

Since virtually all farmers in the area report much lower yields this year the volcanic eruption for four months may be the most likely culprit. The 800 plus coffee farms are at varied elevations and microclimates so rainfall variances alone cannot explain the widespread low yields. The eruption gave all Kona farms gray skies for extended periods, more acidic rain due to sulfur dioxide in the air, and fine ash over everything. It seemed to change all of the growing dynamics of the area. Some fruit trees did not bloom and bear fruit at all and Christmasberry was in bloom for eight months, not the usual three or four months. During the spring most of us had a little vog cough that went with breathing in dirty air all day and all night for four months. Thankfully, the eruption is over till next time, but we will remember the spring of 2018 and the impact of lava destroying so many homes and changing the landscape in Puna District.

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Most growers hire pickers to pick two to six times during the four month harvest season. Being a small farm, we pick daily and take only the bright to deep red cherry fro processing.

The good news is that Kona coffee is still Kona coffee. We grow, pick and process our estate grown coffee carefully and hand clean each batch to remove every single bean that is damaged in any way. The result is a very good cup of Kona coffee. This year’s crop for us tastes as great as last year’s crop. We had so improved our coffee farm with careful pruning and fertilization that we expected a larger coffee crop this year. We actually had about the same yield as last year so the eruption simply held us back from the expected growth in outcomes.

If you are having family over during the holiday season and want to give a gift of Kona coffee or simply serve it at a special meal, you can order now at heartfeltkonacoffee.com.

Happy holidays!

Tim and Lisa

 

A Little Kona Coffee History

The story of coffee’s origins are varied but most agree that drinking coffee as a beverage originated in Ethiopia and  Yemen. I like the story of Kaldi, a ninth-century Ethiopian goatherd who noticed that his goats would become very excited after eating cherries from a bush. Alas, Wikipedia reports it’s likely not true. By the 15th century coffee showed up in Mocha, Yemen in Sufi Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 8.58.54 AMmonasteries. By the sixteenth century coffee had spread through trade to Persia, Turkey, South India and North Africa. Soon it appeared in Italy and southern Europe.

In 1813 coffee was reportedly planted in the gardens of King Kamehameha I on Oʻahu by Spanish entrepreneur Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. Samuel Reverend Ruggles brought arabica coffee cuttings to Kona in 1828 from Brazil. Many Japanese-origin families grew the trees in the early years, but over time Filipinos, mainland Americans (like us) and some Europeans were also growing arabica coffee in North and South Kona, the two southwestern districts of the Big Island. Today about 800 farms raise Kona coffee. Small farms are the most common but a number of large growers process and ship coffee all over the world. The “Kona” name for coffee grown on this island is tradename protected but sadly coffee with as few as 10% Kona beans are often labeled as Kona coffee. Read the labels carefully. If it’s only 10% you are better off with whatever inexpensive coffee brand you like.

Greenwell Farms is one of the oldest large operations, dating back to Henry Nicholas Greenwell moving to Kona from England in 1850. Greenwell Farms today continue to grow, process and sell Kona coffee in Captain Cook and they process and/or roast coffee for many small growers. We use their dry mill and roasting services and they are great at it. They also offer coffee tours that give you a look at larger scale production and processing.

Our little coffee farm sits at 930 feet elevation in Captain Cook township. Our trees are mostly 50 to 100 years old judging from the diameter of the stumps. Since the productive limbs get cut off every three years, a coffee grove is really a collection of growing stumps with three toScreen Shot 2018-05-10 at 9.03.41 AM five branches on the side that produce the cherry. Some younger trees are scattered through the grove because beans fall, germinate and add trees, often where they are not wanted. It’s essential to leave space around the trees so that picking is easy in the fall.

Small farmers like us produce and sell estate coffee. That simply means  coffee sold under our label is only from this one estate. We don’t grade beans by size and color or separate out the peaberries (a cherry that has only one round bean instead of the more usual pair). But we meticulously remove bug-damaged beans, under-ripe beans and debris from the harvested beans, leaving only the best beans to be dry milled and roasted into wonderfully aromatic Kona coffee. We roast only to medium to preserve the natural flavor of the bean. Darker roasts add a charred flavor many coffee lovers are used to, but Kona coffee is best enjoyed as a medium roast in our view.

In 1873 Kona coffee earned a Recognition Diploma at the World’s Fair in Vienna, Austria. Over the decades Kona coffee has come to be prized as one of the most rich, flavorful coffees in the world and it brings a great price. Kona coffee commands the best

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 4.24.12 PMprice of any coffee on the planet with good reason. There’s a limited supply, it tastes great and the costs of land and coffee growing is more expensive here than almost anywhere else. Starbucks sells Kona coffee for $27 per half pound on the island. Most large growers ask $40 to $60 a pound for estate grown coffee. We sell ours for $35 a pound for the coffee which includes shipping by Priority Mail. We donate 10% of our sales to community-based programs on this island, which may be unique among Kona coffee growers.

If you get to the Big Island and wish to take a tour of a small coffee estate, let us know. We enjoy sharing the process and the history of this tiny Kona coffee farm on the slopes of an active volcano. We always have coffee available to taste and usually have packaged pounds to sell.

Tim Merriman

 

Brew HaHa!

As kids we made “cowboy coffee” in a speckled, enameled steel coffee pot in an open fire Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 9.23.31 AMon boy scout camping trips. Dump in some ground Folgers, fill with water,  and add egg shells to sink the grounds. I don’t remember thinking it was good, but it was hot and black and strong, just what was called for with our greasy bacon and eggs sprinkled with a little dirt and toast made in a greasy skillet. A few years ago I had some great cowboy coffee on a Xanterra Chuckwagon Dinner in Yellowstone National Park near the Theodore Roosevelt Lodge. They did it right – steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, apple cobbler and a huge enameled coffee pot with freshly brewed cowboy coffee. It was good given the setting  – a great meal in a magnificent landscape while a black bear hovered amongst the trees, trying to sneak up on us for a handout. Drama always makes the coffee tastier. Still, cowboy coffee is usually a 2 or 3 for me on a scale of 10. It ranks slightly above INSTANT, a 1 or 2 in my book, but better than no coffee at all.

The new technologies in coffee brewing are a bit baffling. We run into Keurig machines in hotel rooms and they are always fun. However, I just don’t like froo-froo coffee. Coffee should not have vanilla or other subverting flavors mixed in (except CHOCOLATE – mocha is OK).  I have never had a cup of Keurig coffee that caused the word “Wow!” to bubble up from deep in my CAC (coffee

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Xanterra’s Chuckwagon dinners in Yellowstone give you a real taste of western hospitality and cowboy coffee is on the fire nearby.

appreciation center – I don’t know this exists, but think it must). I would give the untainted cup of Keurig a 4 or 5, but it loses points for being environmentally unfriendly with its single serve plastic containers.

I feel like I have had every kind of Mr. Coffee ever made from the usual drip kind to their affordable approach to Espresso. Most drip coffee makers produce a reasonable cup of coffee. I give them a 5 or 6 on a 10 scale. Some hotels and motels have gone to drip machines for one cup. You pour a cup of cold water in the top, add the filter-packet of coffee to the flimsy plastic holder and hit the button. Voila – a really mediocre cup of drip coffee – maybe a 3.

Then there’s Starbucks, Seattle’s Best and a plethora of nouveau coffee houses. They have really expensive equipment and every additive you can imagine. That’s probably good because the coffee itself is good but not exceptional. Coffee houses are designed more for the total experience – comfortable seating, nice music, fresh coffee aromas, delicious super-calorific snacks. I would give their coffee only a 6 or 7 in most cases.

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French press coffee with ice cream at Forest Lodge in Gisakura, Rwanda – a real treat in every way.

When we were staying at Forest Lodge in Gisakura, Rwanda, near Nyungwe National Park, our friendly food manager, Jean-Marie, would bring coffee to the table in a French Press and we would let it steep three or four minutes and then pour and drink it, amazed at the fullness of the flavor. It’s not just a cup of coffee at breakfast to accompany eggs and bacon. It’s the reason to crawl out of bed, look up at the sunshine over the rainforest and savor that first cup of coffee, awash in the aroma of tea fields, steaming coffee and morning rain. We were converted. Our drip machine went to the storage closet.

According to Wikipedia, “A French press, also known as a cafetièrecafetière à pistonCafeteriapress potcoffee press, or coffee plunger, is a coffee brewing device patented by Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1929. . . Coffee is brewed by placing coarsely ground coffee in the empty beaker and adding hot—between 93–96 °C (199–205 °F)—water, in proportions of about 30 g (1.1 oz) of coffee grounds to 500 ml (17 US fl oz) of water, more or less to taste. The brewing time is about two to four minutes. Then the mesh plunger or piston is pressed, to separate the grounds and hold them at the bottom of the beaker.”

27540013_10212736826270358_1637706871554896684_nAt home we now have a stainless steel French Press and make coffee in it each morning first thing. We fill up an insulated Tiger thermos as we make coffee, so we can keep it hot all day and enjoy it over and over without that burnt flavor of over-warmed coffee. It’s still hot at 5 PM though it was brewed at 6 AM.

We take our freshly brewed Tiger thermos out on the lanai and relax with our morning coffee as we  watch the changing face of the Pacific Ocean sprawled out to the south and west. It’s late March and the rainy season has started. We might see a humpback whale blow or breach, waving goodbye as it heads back to Alaskan waters for the summer feeding season. Coffee trees are blooming and most limbs are already festooned with green coffee cherry at various stages of growth with occasional white flowers after a rain. Saffron finches and yellow-billed cardinals dive in and out for a drink or dip at our koi pond waterfall. When the sun rolls over Mauna Loa behind us and lights up the coffee groves, we are likely on our second cup of coffee. Life is good.

We grow Heartfelt Kona Coffee, our own estate brand. When we brew it and serve friends and guests, we want it to amaze them with the rich flavor, the magic of fresh-roasted Kona coffee, a medium roast too good to quit on after only one cup. For me it always scores a “10.” The French press makes the best of great coffee beans grown right here on our tiny farm and lovingly hand picked and processed by the two of us.

You can still enjoy our coffee wherever you are, even if you’re not sharing a cup with us on our lanai, but be warned – you may find yourself inexplicably thinking of ocean breezes gently reminding you to slow down and smell the coffee blossoms. Think about trying French press as the way to brew it. You’ll be glad you did.

Tim Merriman

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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)heartfeltassociates.com. 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