Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Making of Kona Coffee

The roses are sleeping, so I thought I would stray from my favorite topic and tell you about our visit to a coffee plantation this past December when we were in Hawaii.

A butterfly on a coffee tree blossom

I have never seen coffee grown commercially before, so to see a plantation of one of the most expensive coffees in the world was fascinating.

My first impression on walking into the farm was that coffee trees don't really look like trees. At least, not the graceful statuesque trees that a more northern gardener is used to. They do have a single trunk, but branching starts very low and the plants are barely 6' tall.

Trees bloom in late winter and early spring.

But we did see some trees in full bloom in December

Blossoms are wonderfully fragrant, not unlike orange blossoms, and butterflies seem to love them.

Coffee berries (called cherries) ripen all year long, a few berries at a time, so that each tree has some ripe and unripe berries on it. Cherries are harvested three times a year from the same tree (I wish I could do that with my plums and peaches).

Coffee trees are delicate, and although they need heat, they are easily scorched by the sun. On Hawaii, plantations get reliable cloud cover every afternoon shading the trees from the hottest sun. The trees are not long lived either, so new ones are grown from cuttings for replacement. It must be quite a challenge to grow coffee trees well.

A nursery for replacement trees
Quite a few steps need to be taken to turn a cherry on a coffee tree into an aromatic and richly colored roast in a cup.

My boys get a closer look
Right after picking, cherries are shelled in a pulper which extracts two sticky beans from each cherry.

After a brief period in a fermentation tank, the beans are then spread to dry on a drying rack called hoshidana.

Once they are dry, the "green" beans can be stored in their skin (called parchment) until they are roasted.

A dried green bean with part of the skin taken off. A "skinless" bean is ready for roasting.

 A lot of the work on a coffee farm, from picking to drying, is done by hand. I have come to appreciate my morning cup of coffee a bit more now that I know how much effort goes into its making.


  1. Hi Masha, great post about the coffee plantation with lots of information about coffee making that I didn't know about. Great photos, too! By the way I love, love, love your new header!

  2. Really does make you appreciate that flavorful cup of coffee! This was so interesting, loved the information about the size of the trees, and the fact that they are harvested up to 3 times a year. Very pretty plantation.

  3. Mmm, I love a good cup of kona coffee. My first job in college was as a coffee barista. Thanks for sharing your visit to the coffee plantation with us.

    1. Your photos always make me feel like I've taken a trip with you. Thanks for all of the mini-vacations. I'm awarding you the Versatile Blogger Award. Cheers!

  4. Lovely post ! I saw for the first time the flowers of a cofee tree. Beautiful !!! A lot of work on such a plantation, indeed ...

  5. Ein sehr interessanter Bericht über die Kaffeeplantage, das werde ich wohl niemals live sehen.. ;-) Dein Bild mit dem Vogel ist wunderschön!
    Viele Grüße Annette

  6. Coffee... my favorite food group. Crockett talked about growing Coffee trees as indoor plants and they sound delightful but plants hate the inside of my house. They sound finicky to grow but oh so worth it!! Thank you for the tour.

  7. I am not a coffee drinker, but visiting where it grows is a treat. Thanks for the tour.

  8. Hi Masha, Beautiful images as always! This is the perfect post to go along with my morning cup of coffee.

  9. What a lovely post..and beautiful pictures. I love coffee..too much :)

  10. Hallo Masha,
    I love coffee but never seen the plant before. She's gorgeous. The story about the coffeebeans is very welcome.
    gr. Marijke

  11. I just wanted to let you know that I've nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award. You've got a great blog, and I love all the pictures and the helpful information. I don't grow roses, but I've wanted to for a while. Your blog has nearly pushed me over the edge into doing it several times.

  12. Very interesting post!
    a lot of nice pictures!
    Thanks for sharing

  13. I love coffee but have never had kona. I never knew growing coffee was so intensive. The plantation is really pretty. :o)

  14. Mmmmm...brings back great memories of Hawaii and Kona coffee! I really think it's my favorite. Thanks for the tour and the stunning photos! Your new header is fantastic!

  15. Hello Masha, after such detailed information on the coffee tree I think I will give up my tea for a while. I am not an envious man, but oh how you manage to take such amazing photographs.

  16. Masha, your photos are more beautiful than ever!
    I am delighted.

  17. Hi! Love your photos! What kind of camera do you use?

  18. Przepiękne i ciekawe zdjęcia !!! Miło było popatrzeć!!!Miłego dnia życzę!

  19. Ciekawie to opisałeś i przyznam, nie wiedziałam, że aż tyle pracy potrzeba, żebym mogła wypić rano filiżankę kawy.Kwiaty drzewa kawowego są bardzo ładne. Twoje zdjęcia zresztą też. Pozdrawiam. *** Interesting that you described, and I admit I did not know that much work needed, I could drink a morning cup of coffee. Flowers of the coffee trees are very nice. Your photos, moreover, too. Yours.

  20. The new hummingbird picture at the top of your blog is breathtaking, you can see every feather!

    Love the coffee article, too; fascinating!


  21. Really beautiful photos! I have a coffee plant in a pot which I keep indoors as a house plant, but it's only 6" tall - nowhere near the stature of those mature trees on the Hawaiian plantation!

  22. Thank you so much for the wonderful comments. Apparently, those of us not blessed with Hawaiian climate can still grow coffee trees indoors, and they even bear! Maybe if I ever get more time I will try it, although I don't think I will go as far as making a cup of coffee :).


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