I recently went on a coffee origin trip in Kona, Hawaii, accompanying –and following the adventures of- London Canada’s Fire Roasted Coffee, owner David Cook and manager Patrick Dunham. The trip was to learn from David and Patrick’s process of meeting with coffee farmers, and forming long-term relationships with them. On a side note, we were also on a fact-finding mission regarding the malicious borer beetle that has been eating half of Kona’s vaunted coffee crops.
One of our first stops was to Greenwell Farms in Kona. The Greenwells have been growing coffee in Kona since moving there from England in 1850. It is now a third-generation family-owned business, today in the heart of the Kona growing region. The family’s farming practices have been modernized, but on the same farmland that was first cultivated in the 1800s. Their scale also allows them to buy coffee cherry from other farmers in the area, which they pulp, dry, store, and roast, all on-site.
The three of us went on a tour of the farming and processing. The images above show the progression of coffee growing from initial stumps to trees carrying the coffee cherry. At the time of our tour, the cherries were nowhere near being ready for picking, obvious by their bright green color in the far right image above.
Coffee cherries ripen to a dark red before they are ready to be picked. The coffee beans that we know are the seeds of this coffee cherry, and there are two such beans per cherry. I had learned much of this growing process on my last trip to Kona, and it is fascinating to see in person. It tends to change your whole appreciation for the coffee in your cup.
In the above image, Lola is the “groundskeeper” dog. The Greenwells are hunters, and their companion dogs have a great “retirement home” full of space and friendly people like us to play with them. In this image, he is rooting around in the coffee trees, possibly looking for borer beetles!
Further in the process is where the coffee beans are dried. The beans have been separated from the cherry, and from the mucilage that encases them. From there, they are evenly spread out as you see above to dry in the sun, before they are warehoused.
Accompanying Fire Roasted Coffee on this trip was a great experience, not just for myself but for the tour guide and other patrons. In this image, the tour has turned to David Cook to walk us through the roasting process with the beans after they’ve been shipped from the farm to roasteries all over the world. Having followed the growing process through, it was very cool for David to explain this last step that local roasters carry out in their communities with beans from farms like these.
Finally, David and Patrick wanted to learn more about Greenwell’s own roasting practices for the retail and wholesale coffee that they sell locally. We were given access to the roasting operation where David and Patrick could compare notes with Greenwell’s roasters, both on properly roasting their specific beans and on the equipment that they use.
Like a kid in a candy store, I could have bought every coffee they sold. They had samples of nine varieties of their coffee, including roasted to different degree, in one case flavored, and as you can see by the one I selected, the peaberry variety of coffee bean that I love so much. It didn’t survive the trip home – David, Patrick, and I made short work of it in our remaining time in Hawaii.
I strongly recommend that you try Greenwell’s coffee. You can order it by visiting their website. While locals tend to prefer their coffee roasted dark, my personal preference and the rest of us off the island, it seems, is a medium roast. If you’re looking for suggestions of what coffee to buy from their site, I suggest either the medium roast or peaberry coffee, both excellent. You will be very happy with either one.