It’s National Coffee Day on September 29. Celebrate by traveling with us to a coffee plantation in Kona, Hawaii!
True coffee aficionados know a lot about coffee. They know the raw, unpicked beans are called “cherries” because of the sweet coating and red skin that protects them and builds their sweetness. They know that acidity in coffee is a good thing. And they know that dark roast really applies to the roasting—not to the depth or flavor of the bean itself.
But, they may not know about a fairly new system of growing coffee beans that is based on how a vintner lays out his vineyard: with a trellis system.
When you think about it, it makes ultimate sense—but it took “Kona Joe”—actually Joe Alban, an orthopedic surgeon and vintner from California—to patent the process and begin winning awards for his Kona coffee.
Kona is actually named for a region and elevation in Hawaii, where the distinct flavor is grown thanks to mornings of sunlight, afternoons of rain, and mineral-rich volcanic soil. What sets Kona Joe’s apart is the trellis system—it’s the only coffee plantation in world which grows its coffee beans with this method.
Our guide, Fabio, demonstrated how the coffee tree branches are tied and nurtured so that the resulting structure opens the tree up to light. “When you plant them too close together,” he said, “they end up shading each other.” And, since it’s the sunlight that increases the sugar content in the coffee cherries, it stands to reason that more sunlight, more eventual flavor.
At Kona Joe’s, the cherries are all hand-picked—something required for the best results, since not all cherries on a branch ripen at the same time. “The first step of high quality coffee is picking only the ripe cherries,” said Fabio. “The others are bitter and effect the taste of the coffee.”
The method speaks for itself—in 2001 it was named best new coffee in the world by the Specialty Coffee Association, the first time an American coffee was awarded that designation.
Kona Joe’s also offers gourmet chocolate confections with macadamia nuts and coffee beans, and a coffee-spice blend to use as a rub on meats.
Click here for the “How It Works” and see how coffee beans go from seedlings to your cup.
For more about coffee, see our “Did You Know” link, here.
Photos by Paul K. Logsdon