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

 

 

 

 

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.

Mahalo,

Tim and Lisa