On the Big Island of Hawaii, there are plantations all over in North and South Kona where most of the coffee on Hawaii is grown and processed. Everywhere you go in Hawaii, you will see mostly “100% Kona coffee”, which means it is grown in Kona, on the Big Island. Kona coffee, in Hawaii is used in almost everything you can think of from baking, brewing, food, condiments, desserts, etc. There are dozens, if not hundreds of small companies in Hawaii that use Kona grown coffee and put a spin on it through a certain method of roasting and/or adding it to a iced drink mix. It is also not uncommon that most people grow a few coffee plants in their yard because of how naturally they grow in Hawaii, buy there are few places where there is room and ideal locations year around to grow thousands of plants.
My wife and I visited one of the many coffee plantations in Kona. The one we visited is owned by UCC(Ueshima Coffee Company). They own about 15,000 coffee plants on the West slopes of Mt Hualalai. They are just one of many companies in Kona that contribute to the production of 2 million pounds of unroasted coffee beans. Most of what is grown in Kona is a subspecies of Arabica known as “Arabica Typica”. According to some very proud locals, Kona Coffee is one of the finest coffees to be had in the world due to the soil that it is grown in and the general environment that they are allowed to grow in.
I had the good fortunate to meet a local who had been harvesting, drying, and roasting his beans the old fashioned way for decades.
This particular man, seen in the picture, took an awful lot of pride in the way he ran his company. Everything is done the old fashioned way, even to this day. Lots of manual labor and hours of work put into making sure his product meets his own expectations and satisfies his customers. That is the kind of pride I like to see people put into the products they sell.
One of my goals on vacation was to see a coffee plantation and take a tour of it. Visiting the UCC plantation checked that box off easily, but also answered alot of questions like how coffee is harvested and when you know it is mature. To me, these are just cool facts that I never really knew about before.
But UCC is one of the only ones that let you roast your own coffee and learn how to gauge your roasting progress as part of the tour.
It was quite a terrific experience to roast my own green coffee beans to my liking after learning how it is grown and dried. It can give you a new perspective on Americas favorite beverage, and certainly my own.
After touring the plantation and learning more coffee in general, I gained a newfound respect for our domestic coffee growers and it makes me want to invest in the products they sell. I have seen it from plant to cup, and I can tell you that the coffee grown in Kona is top notch and 100% American made.