KONA JOE COFFEE SELF-GUIDED TOUR
Watch the video at the coffee bar. Ask the barista to play the video for you. Once you are done, please make your way to the telescope.
#2 - THE VIEW BY THE TELESCOPE
Welcome to Kona! You are in the Kona Coffee Gold belt. It’s a 20 mile stretch of land where 90% of the U.S. grown coffee is produced. There are approximately 650 small coffee farms in this area. As you look toward the ocean, you can see our 20-acre coffee plantation. This area is the ideal location for coffee cultivation.
- Weather: we are in a very tropical climate and have just one season all year round - hot and humid. Coffee loves warm temperatures and lots of moisture. The temperature here varies from 75 to 90 degrees and we average 50 inches of rainfall per year.
- Altitude: we are at 1,400 feet above sea level. The perfect elevation for coffee. Below 800 feet it is too hot and dry and above 2,200 feet it is too cold and wet.
- Volcanic lava soil: the volcanic lava soil is rich in minerals. These minerals make the coffee cherries robust. The bigger the cherry, the better the coffee. Volcanic lava soil is also a great pest control. Lava is sterile, having come from a 2,000 degree Fahrenheit volcano.
- The Kona belt is commonly sunny in the morning and cloudy in the afternoon. This balance of sun and shade makes coffee trees thrive.
DID YOU KNOW…
Coffee drinking has been recorded since the 15th century. The first coffee tree was discovered in Ethiopia and it was found by goats. A herder noticed that the goats who ate from this tree became playful, which is not usual for goats. He was scared that the tree was poisonous and could harm his herd because they seemed crazy every time they ate from this tree, so he set the trees on fire. He inhaled the beautiful roast aroma, tasted the seeds from the fire, and stayed up all night. He began telling anyone who would listen about this magical experience. He talked day and night, eventually convincing his tribe to do the same. And so, the first coffee tree and the first coffee roast were discovered.
Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of coffee in the world, exporting about 6 billion pounds of coffee per year. This number continues to grow.
Coffee is the world’s most popular beverage. The U.S. consumes an average of 440 million cups of coffee a day. That’s about 1.8 cups per day per adult. Good job Americans!
Once you are done admiring the view please make your way to sign #3 next to the gift shop to take a closer look at the coffee trees.
#3 - THE COFFEE TREE
The first tree you see is what most of the coffee trees in the world look like: a vertical branch, between 8-12 feet tall, with 2-3 verticals and many horizontal small branches where the cherries grow. Coffee is a fruit. The seeds from the coffee cherry are ultimately roasted and brewed. They are not beans, they are fruit seeds. We are growing fruit but farming seeds. We call the ripe coffee fruit a red coffee cherry. Now walk to your left towards the trellised tree. Notice how many more vertical branches this tree has compared to the non-trellised tree.
THE TRELLISED COFFEE TREE
This is the reason why Kona Joe Coffee is famous and different from all other coffee plantations in Hawaii. We are the the first farm to trellis our coffee trees. When the tree is one year old, we hand train it to grow on wires. As the branches expand on the trellis, the roots of the tree expand as well, placing it in greater contact with the volcanic lava soil. The tree is stretched horizontally allowing it to receive more sunlight, water, and fresh air. All these elements make for a bigger cherry with more caffeine, flavor, and aroma. Kona Joe has a patent on the coffee trellis system. The idea has worked so well, coffee is now being grown this way in parts of Columbia, Brazil, and Nicaragua.
As you can see, from just one trunk we get from 5 to 8 vertical branches using the trellis. This increases coffee production by about 40%.
If you see a ripe coffee cherry, you may pick one. Squeeze it into your hand. The 2 seeds that pop out are the coffee seeds. The coffee pulp and nectar is sweet and edible.
Once the coffee is picked, (from August to November) they must be processed within 24 hours. The initial process includes pulping, washing, and drying. These steps take place in in our wet mill on the lower 1/2 of the farm. Here the seeds are squeezed from inside the fruit by our pulping machine. The skins and pulp are mulched and returned to the farm as natural fertilizer. The seeds are soaked in water for 24 hours to remove the mucinous coating. Now we have washed Arabica coffee. After washing, the wet seeds need to be dried. Once the seeds have dried they become coffee parchment and will now be processed in the dry mill.
Our coffee is all picked by hand. This is very labor intensive but critical to produce world class coffee.
DID YOU KNOW…
The most expensive coffee in the world is called Kopi Luak. It comes from Indonesia and is picked by cat-like animals called palm civets. The civets eat the cherries and the seeds. As the seeds pass thru the animal, the digestive acids create an organic fermentation. When the civet poops the seeds, the pickers start picking the coffee– from the “golden poop”, as it is known. This coffee sells for about $600 per pound. Kona coffee is ranked as the 3rd most expensive coffee in the world. Our Trellis Reserve coffee costs $99.00 per pound. One pound makes 60 cups of delicious Kona Joe Coffee so the actual cost is only about $1.50 per cup!
When you are finished observing the trees, please make your way to the dry mill located just behind the roasting room.
#4 – THE DRY MILL
The dried coffee seeds from the wet mill (the coffee parchment) are brought here to our dry mill. The coffee parchment must be hulled to remove the outer shell and then agitated to remove the silver skin. Finally, the seeds are sorted by size and density. Now the seeds are called green coffee beans. They really are seeds not beans (beans grow in a pod) but coffee traders in the 1600’s began calling them beans and the name has stuck.
The size grader has screens with different size holes from 21 mm down to 17 mm.
- Extra Fancy and Fancy are the largest beans produced on our farm. These are trellised grown beans, large and heavy, containing a high sugar and caffeine content.
- #1 and Prime are the second-best beans from our farm, also trellis grown.
- Kainaliu beans come from our neighboring farms. Not all farms in Kona have the infra-structure we have, so we buy their cherries, process and roast the coffee. It is still 100% Kona Coffee but not Trellis grown.
- Peaberry is a very interesting coffee. All coffee trees in the world produce 1-3% Peaberry beans. On rare occasion during fruit development one of the seeds aborts and now the cherry has a single seed inside. It is a round “pea” shaped seed and that is why it is called a Peaberry. This single seed is a dense bean because it did not have to share its sunshine, water, air and nutrients with a twin. The Peaberry bean has a lot of flavor and caffeine, but is low in acidity. It is the recommended coffee for people who have a sensitive stomach.
- Processing shrinks our crop! It takes 7 pounds of fruit to make 1 pound of roasted coffee. Since Peaberry has only 1 seed per cherry, it takes 14 pounds of fruit to make 1 pound of Peaberry coffee. Since only 3% of the crop is Peaberry this coffee is very very expensive to produce.
Once all the green beans have been sorted, they are placed in 100-pound burlap sacks and warehoused in our humidity and temperature-controlled storage room. The storage room is kept at 65 degrees and 50% humidity. From here the coffee is taken in small batches to the roasting room.
DID YOU KNOW…
The green coffee bean is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world. Crude oil is number one. As of 2020 the world consumes 1.6 billion cups of coffee a day, and this number keeps rising.
Now head to the windows outside the roasting room, where the coffee magic takes place!
5 - THE ROASTING ROOM
Here in the roasting room is where all coffee aficionado dreams come true. The aroma, the flavors, the coffee beans crackling and popping in the roasters… Ahhh…
Our first roaster is Big Joe. Big Joe can roast 100lbs. of coffee at a time. In 2019 Big Joe moved to our roasting facility in Las Vegas. Little Joe is still here and roasts 25 pounds of coffee per batch. We replaced big Joe with 10 mini-Joe roasters. Mini Joe can roast up to 2 pounds of coffee per batch. These are all Italian designed drum roasters. This roaster design allows for the most precise control of the roast cycle. Here at Kona Joe you can roast coffee yourself, package it, and take it home with you. We don’t know of an opportunity like this anywhere else in the world.
- A medium roast takes 15-17 minutes and roasts up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A dark roast takes 18-20 minutes and roasts up to 445 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The espresso roast takes over 20 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
So which of these three roasts has the most caffeine?
Is it the medium roast, the dark roast, or the espresso roast?
It is the medium roast. The caffeine is in the coffee oil. The longer the coffee is roasted the more the oils burn off, so the lightest roast has the most caffeine.
The last step in our process is to pack the coffee. We have machines that pack ground or beans, but most of it is hand packed. Our packages all have a zip lock seal and built in one way gas valves.
We are growing your coffee like wine, it should be stored and enjoyed like wine! Store just like your favorite red wine, in a dark, dry, cool location. Do not store in the refrigerator or freezer. Coffee is hyperosmotic. This means it absorbs moisture and aroma from everything around it. When placed in the fridge your onions, garlic and cheese can make there way into your coffee. Not a recommended combination.
Now you are ready to own a coffee farm or just enjoy coffee with a much bigger appreciation of the product in your mug and all the complex processes it went through to get there!
DID YOU KNOW…
The decaf process at Kona Joe is a chemical free process. The green beans are placed in a large pressure cooker. The beans are boiled in carbonated water for 3 hours. As the steam comes off, the caffeine is extracted. The green decaf coffee beans are then dried and roasted.
DID YOU KNOW…
If you take coffee beans from 100 different origins and you roast the coffee dark enough, eventually all these coffees will taste the same; kind of burnt. If you are a very large chain of coffee shops, you cannot source your coffee from just 1 origin. If you want to have a consistent flavor in the cup you are compelled to roast the coffee very dark. At Kona Joe Coffee we prefer to roast our coffee on the lighter side to preserve the delicate floral notes and nuttiness unique to Kona coffee.
DID YOU KNOW…
Coffee is a sterile product, which is good news for producers and consumers, because you will rarely (if ever) hear of anyone getting sick from coffee or having an allergy to coffee. The roasting process sterilizes the coffee so the risk of food borne illness is essentially zero.
DID YOU KNOW…
The world’s most popular beverage is…………………….Water; and coffee is number 2! For centuries tea was second to water. As the Asian cultures become more industrialized its populations are changing their tastes from tea to coffee. Coffee is now a significant crop in Vietnam and an emerging crop in China. Coffee has become the drink of business and more and more a social experience.
We hope you have enjoyed this self-guided tour. When you are done, please make your way to the lanai to enjoy a trellised French press or a latte or cappuccino, head to the gift shop for some coffee sampling and to taste our famous coffee “jammers” – a peaberry coffee bean covered with chocolate.
Don’t Miss Out!
You can sign up for our interactive roasting experience at the coffee bar or in the gift shop. It is an unforgettable experience. The next best thing to drinking coffee is roasting it. Now you can do both. Roast it, take it home, and drink your custom roast with friends.
Thank you for visiting us and please come back soon.
Happy coffee drinking!