America is not known for its quality coffee however the tropical island state of Hawaii is the exception that proves the rule. Quality high altitude coffee beans create a rich bean not dissimilar to South American coffee.
When a work trip to Hawaii came up I insisted that we stop at a coffee farm on our way to the usual mountain and volcano site seeing. The Greenwell Coffee Farms at Kona are open to the public and include free tours that are of great interest to the coffee fanatic and gardener alike.
They begin the tour with a discussion of the farming co-operative that makes up Greenwell farms and it's history starting with pre-colonial history to the modern operation of the growers in the area.
They then run through the life cycle of the coffee tree itself explaining the seasonal fruiting and seeding. Coffee is a time consuming crop to harvest since the fruits mature at different stages and only ripe cherries can be used for coffee beans. This means that mechanical methods of harvesting fruits used for other trees cannot be used for coffee and manual fruit picking is still the standard method today.
Numerous groves are on the main farm, though today these are kept for Private Reserve blends.
Most of the fruit processed at the farm is brought in by small growers in the Kona co-operative. The cherries are processed and roasted on site making a truly single origin coffee production facility.
Ripe fruit is sorted by quality and then the pulp of the coffee cherry is removed. Greenwell use a wet method to remove the pulp churning the fruit through a specially devised machine with plenty of water to remove the soft parts of the fruit and expose the coffee bean.
The green beans are left out in the warm Hawaiian sun and raked regularly to ensure all the moisture evaporates.
Several stages of the drying process can be seen on display, the beans darkening with each step. After the beans are entirely dry they are roasted and blended into the grindable drinkable roasted bean we love to obsess about.
The farm offers plenty of free coffee on hand for tasting.
Blonde through to dark roasts are on hand as well as decaf and flavoured coffee. If you're a fan of a brew they're bound to have something on hand that suits your fancy. The coffee itself is quite rich and oily, much approved by this coffee snob.
Of course one must exit through the gift shop but with plenty of beans, chocolate, nuts and local honey this is the perfect tourist stop for any foodie visiting Big Island.
81-6581 Mamalahoa Highway
Kealakekua, HI 96750
Phone: (808) 323-2275
Boutique coffee farm and gourmet souvenirs