What sets Kona coffee apart from the various coffee growing regions and our Kona Coffee apart from other Kona coffees, comes down to a few important things:
1. Growing conditions - In certain spots of Kona, between 1,200 and 1,500 feet, the rainy season coincides with the active coffee bean developing period (spring and summer months). During this time, the mornings are usually sunny, with the afternoons being overcast and periodically rainy. Also, Kona coffee is grown on relatively new ground. The volcanic soil is fertile and has excellent drainage, compared to growing regions on the older Hawaiian Islands or elsewhere in the world. Coffee is also grown in the state of Hawaii on Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and Maui (known as Hawaiian coffees), but I have found that the taste of those coffees are not nearly as flavorful as Kona coffee. I believe the growing conditions found at the prime coffee growing region on Mt. Hualalai greatly contribute to the uniqueness of Kona's coffee.
2. Processing - This area separates Hualalai Estate Kona Coffee from much of our competition. I have used the knowledge of a well-respected local miller and coffee expert, to make my coffee one of the best in the world.
- Picking - I make sure that the farms I use pick their coffee red to give it its greatest full-bodied quality.
- Pulping - I ensure that farms I use immediately pulp the coffee after picking. That "immediacy" factor eliminates any sour aftertaste. If coffee cherry (what coffee is called before the red pulp is removed) is allowed to ferment in the burlap bag, the taste of the coffee will be negatively affected, even if it sits for only a day.
- Drying - After pulping, the coffee beans are rinsed with fresh water and dried as quickly as possible. We have found some farms do not adequately dry their coffee before the coffee starts to mold. This coffee is rarely dumped, and you can taste the mold even after it has been roasted.
- Storing - After the coffee is dried, it is bagged in clean burlap bags and stored in my dehumidified rooms. Coffee at this stage is called "parchment" because of the paper-like membrane covering the coffee bean. The coffee can be kept for years in this state without molding as long as the storage rooms are dehumidified and cooled. We periodically roast batches of "aged" coffee that have been stored for 2 or more years, where the aging has eliminated the "bite", causing the coffee to be smoother and very full-bodied, much like a quality vintage wine.
- Roasting - Lastly, when I need coffee for roasting, my mill removes the parchment membrane (called dry milling) and runs the coffee through the Gravity Table. A Gravity Table is a large metal table that separates the milled coffee (called green coffee) into the various grades (Extra Fancy, Fancy, No. 1, Prime, and below - anything below Prime, I immediately toss or use as mulch in flower beds). I sell the Prime, No. 1 and Fancy in stores and restaurants. The Extra Fancy is reserved solely for these internet orders; if you have enjoyed our coffee which was purchased in a store, you will really love the Extra Fancy coffee purchased on this site.
3. Roasting Techniques - This is another major factor that separates Hualalai Estate Kona Coffee from the other Kona Coffees. We have experimented with many, many temperatures to find the one "Best" roasting temperature for each coffee bean based on professionally-trained palettes to bring out the nuances of each bean.
Also, because I use the Gravity Table to ensure the coffee beans will be the same size (density), all of the coffee will roast at about the same rate. If I didn't, smaller beans would roast faster than larger beans which would give the coffee a burnt taste. If all beans are the same size, the roast will be uniform with no bitter, burnt aftertaste. We pride ourselves on that aspect of our coffee. A lot of farms that market their own coffee do not produce enough coffee to make it worthwhile to separate the bean sizes so the crop is combined together, sometimes creating a burnt taste when roasted.
Once your coffee is roasted, we package and seal the coffee in bags with one-way valves that let oxygen out but does not let it in. The coffee in the bags, still warm from roasting, releases carbon dioxide into the bag, pushing any oxygen in the bag out through the one-way valve (a natural preservative). When your coffee is then shipped to you through the air, the atmospheric pressure difference sucks any carbon dioxide in the bag, out of it.