The Kona Tradition- by C. B.Smith

The Kona Tradition by C. B. Smith-
(written originally in 1999 and last edited in 2002, —everything remains the same 18 years later in 2020—Copyright of Cecelia Burns Smith)

Another day begins for the Kona coffee farmer. While cardinals start their song and morning breezes flow down from Mauna Loa (elevation 13,333 feet), the farmer grabs a cup of his best brew and walks out the door into history.

Kona coffee refers to coffee that is grown only in the North and South Districts of Kona on Hawaii island . These Kona Districts cover an area of about 20 miles long and 2 miles wide, on the west coast of the island. The North Kona area is on the slopes of Mt. Hualalai, while South Kona is on the slopes of Mauna Loa.

At last count, there were fewer than 600 farms growing coffee in the Kona Districts. While there are several farms over 65 acres each, the majority are much smaller and average about 5 acres. Only these farms produce Kona coffee. Coffee that is grown on other parts of the island or on other islands within the Hawaiian Chain may not call their product Kona coffee.

Kona Coffee, a Coffea arabica -var. typica, is generally acknowledged as one of the two most highly valued coffees in the world and it was brought, in 1829, to Hawaii island by missionary and teacher Samuel Ruggles.

According to “Cup of Aloha” by well respected Kona Coffee authority, Gerald Kinro- published by University of Hawai’i Press in 2003-, Chapter 1, page 8… “Don Francisco de Paula Marin—- Chilean Counsel and provisioner of ships, Kamehameha I’s interpreter and physician and distiller—- planted the first coffee seeds in Hawai’i in 1817…and coffee did not become established. “

On an about to be fateful voyage in 1823..” Kamehameha II (Liholiho)and his wife Kamamalu, departed for England…with Chief Boki. governor of O’ahu.” Liholiho and wife died…..and “Boki enjoyed coffee houses and ‘seeing the potential for coffee to grow in Hawai’i’ , Boki stopped in Brazil and bought coffee seedlings.”

“Wilkinson (Boki’s English agriculturist) efforts were more fruitful than Marin’s and he successfully established a coffee orchard..in Manoa.

Coffee immediately thrived in the optimum weather pattern of mauka Kona, where sunny mornings and an afternoon cloud cover continue to be the norm. Kona’s wet summer and dry winter is the exact climate the Coffea arabica plant prefers.

Initially, coffee was simply consumed locally or sold to passing whaling ships. In 1845 the first exports to California began an industry! The early years of the Kona Coffee market were exciting. Farmers were encouraged by landowners to begin coffee farms, although some early land leases to the farmers, demanded as much as half the crop in payment.

In 1900 however, the final tariff for sugar cane shipped from Hawaii to the United States was removed, and the development of new sugar cane lands was enthusiastically encouraged by Territory of Hawaii administrators. Coffee was quickly relegated to a secondary position and some acreage was even plowed under.

Although the original farmers in 1893 were Japanese contract coffee laborers brought directly from Japan to work coffee, no coffee plantation begun in the late 1890s was financially successful.

Surviving the mercurial nature of the marketplace was and continues to be difficult for Kona coffee. – In 1999 (and in 2002), for example, the price for a pound of green coffee is about $11/lb. – In 1898, the price for a pound of green was $0.158 /lb.

A 1918 frost in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, caused the price of green Kona to rise to $0.28/lb., but the 1929 US Depression caused the prices to fall again. By 1940, the price of a pound of green Kona was down to only $0.08/lb. Insect pests and other organisms were also problems.

A US Department of Agriculture report published in 1974, cautioned that only 11 percent of the full-time Kona coffee farmers were under 55 years old and the report also suggested that the coffee industry was in jeopardy of dying out. It was simply impossible to be full-time farmers of Kona coffee and make ends meet because of unstable prices, and it was the older, more settled group who could afford full time farming.

Over twenty years later, thanks to farmer determination, a loyal following and the natural tenacity of the plant, Kona coffee cultivation has a more varied mix of farmers and the crop is in demand. Many people seeking alternate lifestyles during the 1970s, discovered the pleasures of Kona and the farming life, eventually purchasing land leases and this mix of real individuals now thrive as Kona coffee farmers.

Some current farmers are former university agriculture graduates who worked for large agribusinesses and found there was too much politics and not enough agriculture in what they were doing. Many more recent farmers wanted a simpler life. There are also continuing multi-generational families of Japanese, Filipinos, Portuguese, Hawaiians and Caucasians, who continue to enjoy the family farm life as a Kona coffee farmer.

According to the Hawaiian Experiment Station- Bulletin #66, published in 1932, “with the exception of land rental and fertilizer, the entire cost of coffee as it is sold to the mill…is represented in hand labor.” Nothing has changed and that formidable amount of “hand labor” contributes to the high value and excellent quality placed on the taste of Kona Coffee.

Once picked, coffee is off to the mill. The assortment of farm vehicles found at the pulping mill is indeed colorful with WWII Jeeps, trusty and rusty 4 X 4’s with non-functioning odometers/license plates and the occasional newer pickup truck. Sometimes only a single bag emerges from the trunk of the family car.

At the pulping mill, the skin of the coffee bean is pulped off and the beans are soaked in water to remove the sugary pulp or mucilage still adhering to the coffee bean. The processing, known as wet fermentation takes from 12-36 hours to accomplish.

The coffee beans are then washed clear with pure volcanic aquifer water- some of the purest water in the world and now the beans will be dried to the parchment stage. For best results, the beans are laid out on the hoshidana *( above- ground drying platforms) so that Kona’s warm sun and gentle breezes will dry the precious beans to the correct moisture level.

The drying beans are watched closely and raked often for uniform drying. The hoshidana is cleverly constructed so that at the first sign of a rain shower, a roof can be quickly drawn over the entire platform, protecting the beans. Some processors elect to use forced hot air in large containers to speed up the drying beans, and many purists claim they can actually taste the difference between sun-dried and kiln-dried. The connoisseur avers that the sun dried beans maintain more of the delicate mellow flavor associated with Kona’s coffee. This is the *parchment* stage which had followed follows the *cherry* stage.

Most coffee is kept stored at the parchment level. When a farmer needs green coffee, he takes his parchment bags to the green or dry miller and the coffee beans then have their outer skin or parchment removed. Next the beans can be graded according to size and defects, or kept in an “Estate Grade”, and they can also be State of Hawaii Certified as to Origin and Grade by Hawaii Agriculture Inspectors. Green coffee may be stored in a climate controlled atmosphere for up to a year. Some experts claim the flavor is enhanced by storage while others say fresh is best.

When a farmer wants a roast, he takes his green coffee to the roaster and gets it roasted and …..twenty-five pounds of green results in about 20 pounds of dark roasted whole beans.

Work continues on the coffee farm during the non-harvest season as well. From March through September, the Kona coffee farmer carefully cultivates his crop. Pruning off the older, less productive branches in the spring, allows the new shoots to begin their growth cycle. The farmer must also fertilize his many hundreds of coffee trees.

Three other very important jobs happen during this period. The farmer must visually anticipate and carefully select the most promising shoots from each coffee tree for the next few year’s production. This is quite a science and can make the difference in crop production. The new growth of early summer needs to be pared down to produce future efficient yields. Rats need to be actively discouraged from eating the sweet mature beans. Weed control in the lush and fertile summer fields needs to be constantly managed. Simply said, a well-cultivated coffee tree has a far greater yield than a wild one.

Much of the mauka  (mountain side of land) Kona coffee acreage has been continuously cultivated since the Hawaiians first farmed the lands in prehistoric Hawaii (pre -1778). Stone walls built by the agricultural Hawaiians to farm their own food crops, still remain on much on the land. In many cases a bulldozer or tractor has never touched or compacted the coffee land and the volcanic and organic soil remains porous which is what Kona coffee enjoys most.

Despite the year round labor, Kona coffee farmers love what they do and feel privileged to be able to work outdoors in the extremely pleasant subtropical Kona climate cultivating a product that is famous among coffee drinking societies through out the world. The entire Districts of North and South Kona remain beautiful in no small part because of the lush green slopes covered in old growth coffee- some farms made up of trees over 100 years old.

NO REPRODUCTION OF THIS WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR

Smithfarms Coffee Prices

COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE
Crop 2020

graphic bean

100% Pure Kona “Estate Grade” Roasted Coffee * Whole Beans
$29/LB +
$8.65 S&H via USPS
$15/Half LB +
$8.65 S&H via USPS
 $140/FIVE LB bag +
$14.70 S&H via
USPS

100% Pure Kona “Estate Grade” Roasted Coffee *Ground Beans
$30/LB + $8.65 S&H via USPS
$16/HALF LB + $8.65 S&H via USPS
$145/ FIVE LB bag + 14.70 S&H via USPS

tidrulee

100% Pure Kona Peaberry Roasted Coffee * Whole Beans
$21/Half LB Peaberry+ $8.65 S&H via USPS
$40/LB + $8.65 S&H via USPS
$195 FIVE LB bag
+ 14.70 S&H via
USPS
Peaberry is 5% of our total crop and because of its flavor and rarity, is more valuable BUT we do run out very quickly!
 



green unroasted Estate Grade 100% Kona Coffee beans
$23.50/LB + $8.65 S&H via USPS
no bulk quantity discount-we’re a very small farm


Ordering and Shipping

To order please go here: https://www.smithfarms.com/order/

Shipping Information below.
All USPS mail will be handled by Stamps.com,
their sub-contractor
Please look for an email from stamps.com which will let you know your order has shipped. Thanks.

attention#1) USPS Tracking is not totally exact. I hand in the package here in Honaunau on Hawaii island about 8 am. The package then goes to Honolulu on Oahu island. It then leaves Honolulu close to midnight of the same day. But the Tracking often does not reflect the movement afterward so it appears the package has only left Honolulu. (Must be hanging out in cyberspace for the next 3 or 4 days!) And some packages get delivered and the Tracking never shows that result. egads.
#2) Despite the term “3 Day Priority”, it is really is 4 or 5 days from Hawaii.
#3) 99.9% of our packages arrive within 4-5 days some without any indication of movement on the USPS site, so apologies to you, but don’t lose hope.


attention  effective now

USPS Priority Flat Rate Envelope- Shipping + Handling
holds from a half pound of roasted up to 3 pounds of green
US-$8.45
Canada/Mexico $24.95
other International -$34.25

USPS Priority Flat Rate Medium Box -Shipping + Handling
holds from 3 pounds of roasted to a Bulk (5#) Bag and up to 10 pounds of green
US– $14.35
Canada/Mexico – $49.25
other International$76.05

USPS Priority Flat Rate Large Box Shipping +Handling
more than 5 pounds of roasted coffee, 2 Bulk (5#) bags
US– $19.15
Canada/Mexico-$63.85
other International – $99.25 (about)

Warning: We have found that International packages sometimes take longer than the 6-10 days. We process your order as quickly as we can but once your package is in the hands of the International postal carriers, we have absolutely no control. Feel free to ask in the Comments box, for USPS Express International (more expensive, naturally), if you want to get it asap. I will give you a quote.


You are buying premium, gourmet and valuable Fresh Roasted 100% Kona Coffee. We roast the day before we send it. We are always happy to send it via the method YOU want! 

Your choices for shipping will have to be ONE of these Two Services: 

#1-USPS Priority via stamps.com- cheapest

USPS Priority means it takes 4-5 days within the US.(see caution note above)
Two roasted pounds or 3 green pounds and less will go via USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope for $8.45

More than 2 roasted pounds and more than 3 pounds of green beans, up to 5 lbs of roasted coffee and up to 10 pounds of green go in USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Medium box for $14.35

more than 5 lbs of roasted coffee will go in a USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate LARGE box for $19.15

#2 OR – FedEx-usually fastest

about 22+$  for 5 Pounds
about 21+$ for 2 or 3 pounds

You can see the choices and change your mind on the Order Form


We do love International orders but the postage is higher.

international

If you are ordering for an International address, please fill out my order form as well as you can AND in the “COMMENTS” section- please write out the complete address. I will use that complete address in mailing your package. Please include your telephone number because International mail asks for it. If there is trouble delivering your package, I assume:) they will call you or me if they have your telephone number.


 

What can fit in a USPS Priority Flat Rate envelope no matter where it goes?

  • 1 or 2 pound bags of our roasted coffee or up to 3 pounds of green
  • We believe in shipping green/unroasted coffee via USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate system.We can fit 3 pounds of green/unroasted beans shipped within the US for that same $8.45
  • We can fit 3 pounds of green/unroasted beans in an USPS International Flat Rate Envelope to Canada and Mexico,etc.

What doesn’t fit in a USPS Priority Flat Rate envelope?

More than 2 pounds of our roasted coffee, no more green/unroasted than I write above.

Hope that helps!


Grand daughter Maile depositing boxes into our FedEx drop off. No trucks can come up to our farm so we drive 2.5 miles to this FedEx drop-off. (FYI- the US Post Office is about 4 miles away in the other direction)
FedEx small

 FedEx
Not available for Canada/International due to high “tariffs” that FedEx seemingly charges which are almost equal to the value of the contents.


Some up close begonia flowers that bloom in September. Their leaves in the back ground, look painted with silver paint.

Do you encourage visitors?

No and for a couple of reasons. We do not have a store front- this is our house. It is just Bob and me, so we are not set-up for visitors. We live 2 miles up a semi-paved, one lane private, 4 Wheel drive road.

But don’t be discouraged, there are many farms that want visitors. Go here http://www.konacoffeefarmers.org/farmTours.asp and you’ll find over 40 farms that would love to have you. (I am a KCFA member and the volunteer web person for the KCFA’s site )

Are You Organic?

Here’s an article and we share the feelings.
read here: http://tinyurl.com/h6699s2

No. There is no organic source of fertiliser in Hawaii. All fertiliser organic or otherwise, needs to be shipped in. This of course increases prices dramatically and we could not afford to apply the adequate amounts of organic nutrition to our coffee trees that they need to remain vigorous, without pricing our coffee to the extreme and frankly, we could not make a living at all. Bob does weed whack the whole 5 acres and we try to be as organic as possible although again, we do use inorganic fertiliser.

We want our plants to be totally healthy and fully nurtured and we want to remain in farming so we have made an educated decision to judiciously use the inorganic fertiliser we use. Our plants are HAPPY! We are careful and sustainable farmers. Our land was farmed by Hawaiians, pre-contact, and we respect the farming that occurred before us and respect the right to farm healthily after us.

1955 Lava Flow and we were there:)

Our dad Frank Burns (CES Burns Jr.) took most of this video. He was manager and had to prove to the insurance company that the fire destroyed the cane acreage and before the approaching lava. The sugar plantation has insurance for fire- not lava and lots of acreage was burned. All we Burns kids are in the video, mom and dad, even our grandmother Puna Walker and our parents good friends David and Beppy Young.

long version (2 Hours+) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN9pdJyGhuo

short version (2 minutes) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERZ3BInV4CY

Sea Grapes

excerpt taken from Marie C. Neal’s IN GARDENS OF HAWAII– 1965

Coccoloba uvifera: (the entire section below)

At home in thickets along sandy shores in warm parts of America is the sea grape,which in Hawaii is planted as a windbreak near beaches. It is a twisting tree, to 20 feet or more high; the trunk rarely attains a diameter of 3 feet. The branches zig zag and form a dense canopy; the bark is thin, smooth and brown. The tree is ornamental and bears attractive, broad,rounded, glossy, thick red veined leaves, the largest to a diameter of 8 inches. Early Christians in Mexico are said to have used the leaves for writing paper. When the leaves are fresh, scratches made with a sharp point show white on the green surface. Flowers of the sea grape are fragrant and grow in spikes about 6 inches long. Each has 5 sepals, 8 stamens and 3 styles. The pear shaped,reddish, sweetish-acid, astringent fruits hang in clusters, each fruit containing a large globose nut. In the West Indies an alcoholic drink is prepared from the fruits and jelly can be made of them. The roots also astringent, are used to cure dysentery. The wood is hard, polishes well and is valued, especially in Jamaica, for cabinet work. It also supplies fuel and, when boiled, yields a red dye. A gum from the bark is used for tanning and, medicinally for throat ailments. The tree grows from cuttings or seeds.

Final Sea grape note: In the latest edition of the COSTCO magazine (July 2015) -it lists the foreign COSTCOs and under Japan’s entry- the “Unique item not found in US: sea grapes”– such a coincidence