It’s that time of year once again – the cherries are ripe, and the 2021 harvest has begun at Kauai Coffee. With more than four million coffee trees growing on 3,100 acres, the annual coffee harvest is the culmination of an entire year of hard work. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun and exciting too! Here are nine fascinating facts you may not know about harvesting Hawaiian Coffee.
How Many Pounds?
Coffee is an annual crop harvested just once per year in most growing regions worldwide, including Hawaii. At Kauai Coffee, our orchard is home to approximately four million coffee trees. Each one of our trees can produce one pound of coffee every year. That may sound like a lot of coffee, but did you know that the average American coffee drinker consumes just over three cups of coffee every day? Using the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Golden Ratio of coffee preparation, you need about 10 grams of ground coffee for each cup of water. Consequently, if there are 450 grams to a pound, a single coffee tree can produce about 45 cups every year. Therefore, the average American coffee drinker will consume the annual harvest of nearly 25 trees in a single year!
Kauai Harvest Season Duration
The Kauai Coffee harvest season is relatively short and lasts just a few months between September and December. One interesting thing about coffee cherries is that they can ripen at different times, even on a single branch. During the early days of the harvest, the team may make a preliminary pass and collect coffee cherries from the top of the trees and then a second pass later in the season to give the remaining cherries that are lower on the tree a little more time to ripen perfectly.
Harvest Tools and Technology
When people picture coffee harvesting, the image of handpicking ripe red cherries often comes to mind. While that is one method, the tools, and technology we have at Kauai Coffee today allow us to harvest more quickly and accurately than ever before. We use a mechanical harvester to collect the mature coffee cherries from the branches of our trees. These machines may look like beasts but are more like gentle giants. Our mechanical operations supervisor can calibrate the vibration and rotation of the arms of the harvesters to knock ripe cherries from the trees and into the collection bins. With these adjustments, harvest operators on each shift can minimize the number of unripe cherries collected and maximize the yield of ripe cherries.
Speaking of harvesting methods an experienced hand picker might be able to collect 300 pounds of cherries per day. Each of our mechanical harvesters can harvest up to 35,000 pounds per day! In 2020 we harvested an average of 180,000 pounds of cherry daily!
Harvesting Triple Certified Coffee
Kauai Coffee Company has earned the unique distinction of producing triple-certified Hawaiian coffee. 100% Kauai Coffee® is Fair Trade Certified™, Rainforest Alliance Certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified. When it comes to growing and harvesting coffee, The Rainforest Alliance seal means that Kauai Coffee has demonstrated the ability to follow more sustainable farming practices that protect forests, improve livelihoods, promote the human rights of farmworkers, and help mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.
Goods that are Fair Trade Certified ™ by Fair Trade USA help provide safe working conditions and environmental protections, while empowering farmers to create sustainable livelihoods and improve their communities. They do so by utilizing their “Community Development Funds,” additional money workers earn on top of wages that workers can use for improvements of their choosing. In 2022, Kauai Coffee Company will begin dispersing its Community Development Funds toward unique needs within our community.
Every year we produce nearly 4 million pounds of cherry pulp and mulch from pruning the coffee trees. This compost is put back into the land as a soil nutrient. In addition to adding nutrients to the soil, compost and our cover crops retain moisture and reduce watering, weeds, and herbicide use. To conserve water during the harvest, we also divert water from the drip irrigation system to the processing plant, where it is used to clean and remove the coffee bean from the cherry. Because we only use our water in processing, it is filtered and then reapplied to the coffee fields.
Blessing the Harvest
Blessings are a sacred Hawaiian tradition. Most years, we begin the harvest season with a pule (prayer or blessing) led by a Kumu (teacher/source of knowledge). The purpose of the annual harvest blessing is to acknowledge our role as stewards of the land, continue the traditions of the Hawaiian culture, and honor those who came before us to make our work possible. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to gather for our harvest blessing since 2019, but on that day, as a light rain fell over the orchard, Kumu Hula Troy Allen Hinano Lazaro said, “To have water is to have life. It is to be rich and to have sustainability.” We are proud to honor this Hawaiian tradition and look forward to the day we can gather and celebrate the start of harvest season together once again.
Kauai and the ocean that surrounds it are home to a lot of interesting and endangered wildlife. During the harvest season, our shift crews work 24 hours a day. However, three days prior and three days after the new moon, we do not harvest between sunset and midnight because 90% of the population of endangered Newell’s Shearwater birds nest on Kauai and fledglings take their first flight during that time. This is an important precaution because Shearwater fledglings are attracted to light and could get distracted and disoriented by the large pole lights we use to illuminate the fields.
How Much Time Passes Between Harvest and Brewing a Cup of Kauai Coffee?
It depends. It typically takes around four months from harvested seed to cup. However, coffee isn’t like other fruit or vegetable crops because we discard the fruit and process the seeds. Green coffee beans that have been cleaned, dried, and are ready for roasting can be stored for a long time before the flavor is compromised. So, we can make sure our previous crop is exhausted before roasting the new crop. However, if we are low in stock of specific varietals, we can be flexible and shift schedules, so they become available sooner. In short, there isn’t always a set time frame; it depends on our inventory.
The harvest season always goes by in a blur, and we can’t wait to share the next batch of delicious 100% Kauai Coffee with you and your ‘ohana. When you choose Kauai Coffee, you can always expect rich, Hawaiian coffee nurtured and harvested with aloha. Browse our complete selection of Estate Reserve and 100% Kauai Coffee options now.