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





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Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman are married and serve as Principals of Heartfelt Associates. They write fiction and non-fiction, raise miniature horses and consult with parks, zoos, museums, historic sites, nature centers and aquariums on heritage interpretation and visitor experiences.They live on the Big Island of Hawaii on a small Kona coffee farm overlooking Kealakekua Bay.

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