If you start or end your day with a comforting cup of coffee, you are not alone. In 2018/2019, more than 165 million 130 lb. bags of coffee were consumed worldwide.
The United States is a leader when it comes to coffee-consuming countries, with 83% of the population identifying as coffee drinkers and the average coffee-drinking American sipping 3.1 cups of coffee daily! That’s more than 400 million cups downed nationwide every day.
While most people consume coffee, few know how it is grown or what coffee farming entails. To help, we asked Kauai Coffee orchard managers and staff eight questions about working on the Estate and what takes place between the spring bloom and fall harvest.
How many people work in the Kauai Coffee orchard?
The Kauai Coffee Farm is 3,100 acres and contains approximately 4 million coffee trees. At this time, we have just under 60 employees on our orchard crew. Thankfully we have technology and tools to help, but we’re never bored.
When does the Kauai Coffee farm bloom?
This year, our two heaviest blooms occurred two weeks apart in March. Our farm usually blooms between late February and May, and it is a sight to see and smell. Coffee blossoms are very delicate and only stay on the branches of the trees for a day or two before wilting. They have a distinctly sweet scent similar to citrus and jasmine blossoms.
With this year’s peak bloom in March, what does that mean for the fall harvest?
With a March bloom, we can expect peak harvest to occur in October. Harvest season is always an exciting time on the farm because production and operations run at full capacity nearly 24 hours a day. We will harvest lots of high-quality ripe cherries during that time, and it is rewarding to see our hard work in the orchard payoff with a plentiful harvest.
What happens on the Estate between the bloom and harvest?
To maintain growth and development of the coffee cherries throughout the growing season, coffee trees must receive adequate water (irrigation and rainfall) and nutrition between the bloom and harvest. Our farm is the largest drip-irrigated coffee estate in the world, with more than 2,500 miles of drip tubing to maintain. This system delivers water and fertilizers directly to the roots of the trees, so we do not have to spray or dust fertilizer on our coffee farm.
Our team works year-round to ensure our irrigation systems remain functional, and our trees are healthy. Between bloom and harvest, we also prune our trees and keep up with field and equipment maintenance.
Another important part of coffee farming is maintaining equipment. When we are not harvesting, our processing team and equipment maintenance staff are hard at work tuning and testing our harvesters and machinery to make sure we are ready to run at full capacity when the harvest begins.
During peak harvest, our 10 mechanical harvesters can intake up to 350,000 pounds of coffee cherries per day and our wet processing plant has an average capacity of 650,000 pounds of cherries so keeping our equipment in tip-top shape is critical.
What is one thing an average coffee drinker might not know about coffee farming?
There is a lot of work that goes into producing a single cup of coffee. It is a true labor of love and a tough, hands-on job. One task our crew works on daily in the orchard is combating quick-growing vines that can choke our coffee trees. Vine removal is done mostly by hand, so our vine control team is essential and very skilled at what they do.
Are sustainable farming methods used on the Kauai Coffee farm?
Yes, sustainability isn’t a buzzword at Kauai Coffee. There is very critical stewardship we feel toward the land and our natural resources on Kauai. We are committed to growing and producing high-quality coffee in a way that cares for our soil, water, and community.
To that end, we are currently spreading compost in our fields to add nutrients back into the soil. We have also been planting more cover crops such as grasses and legumes, and have converted more of our fields to established groundcover, which decreases herbicide usage.
How does Kauai’s weather affect the coffee growing season?
This year Kauai had a wet and stormy winter with lots of rain. Rainy weather encourages flowering, so that is one benefit of the sometimes unpredictable winter weather. The only detriment was some water damage to field roads that required repair. Most of the time, Kauai’s weather and temperature on the southwest side of the island where our farm is located is sunny, mild, and predictable.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected businesses worldwide, how has it affected Kauai Coffee?
Kauai has been under a stay-at-home order for the last month. Farming is considered an essential industry, so we have been able to maintain operations while practicing social distancing. Our roast plant is also up and running along with factory operations and equipment maintenance. All staff working on site are wearing masks and increasing handwashing to stay healthy and safe.
Our online store remains open and orders are being packaged and shipped without delay, thanks to our incredible E-Commerce team. Our visitor center has temporarily closed and anyone who can work from home is doing so.
We miss our visitors and connecting with our Kauai Coffee ‘ohana. We look forward to the day we can safely return to regular visitor operations and have enjoyed staying connected online. From seed to cup, growing and producing Kauai Coffee is a labor of love we love to share with you. Shop for 100% Kauai Coffee online now.