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.

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.

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.

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

Happy holidays!

Tim and Lisa


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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 9.23.00 AM
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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 9.33.20 AM
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





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

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