Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet. According to Daily Coffee News, 62% of Americans drink it daily and the number of people who drink coffee regularly has risen 5% since 2015. Even though most of the population partakes in a morning ritual of coffee consumption, it’s not often we stop and consider what it takes to grow coffee and how many people make it possible.
Kauai Coffee is the largest coffee grower in the USA and our ‘ohana cares for your coffee from seed to cup. Find out what it takes and meet some of the people responsible for growing our delicious 100% Kauai Coffee.
Where does coffee grow?
Nearly all of the coffee raised for consumption grows within an area of the planet known as the Bean Belt. The Bean Belt is the tropical region of Earth located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. It includes significant coffee producing countries such as Guatemala, Colombia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Hawaii is the only US state within this region with weather, soil, and ecosystems suitable for growing coffee. Hawaii is home to several coffee growing regions, also known as origins. Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii is the most well known, but Kauai was the first Hawaiian Island to host a commercial coffee growing operation.
How does coffee grow?
Coffee grows on a leafy, woody shrub that produces brightly colored coffee cherries. Coffee beans that we grind and brew for a morning cuppa are the roasted seeds of the coffee cherry. When well-cared for coffee trees can produce fruit for 30-40 years and, in some cases, even longer!
Like any tropical plant, growing coffee requires a good deal of water and sunshine to thrive. Places like Hawaii with distinct dry and rainy seasons are ideal growing locations because seedlings can take hold during the rainy season when the soil retains more moisture and grow a sturdy root system for support. Beyond sunshine and rain, elevation, soil make-up, and temperature can affect the terroir or distinct flavors you experience in coffees grown in different regions of the bean belt. Fertile volcanic soil like Kauai’s famous red dirt is excellent for growing coffee because it contains lots of nutrients and has a porous texture ideal for retaining water.
On top of environmental and soil conditions, proper pruning and tree care is an essential part of growing coffee. Coffee trees on the Kauai Coffee farm are pruned annually after the harvest season and kept at a manageable height so that our harvesters can easily remove the fruit when in season. Pruning after the harvest and just before the rainy season helps promote new growth by ensuring proper air circulation and sunlight can reach the plant and energy isn’t spent on damaged, unhealthy or unproductive branches.
Another critical task our orchard crew works on daily during the coffee growing season is vine removal. Quick-growing tropical vines can choke our coffee trees and starve them of sunlight and vital nutrients if not kept under control. Vine removal is done mostly by hand, so our vine control team is essential and very skilled at what they do.
From Bloom to Bean
To maintain the coffee cherries’ growth and development, 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 trees’ roots, 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.
Processing and Roasting Coffee
The work it takes to grow coffee doesn’t stop once the coffee leaves the field. Processing, removing the coffee fruit from the seed, is an essential step in growing coffee because different methods impart flavors and affect the resulting cup in various ways. There are a few methods for removing the coffee fruit and other protective layers from the seed, including natural, wet, and a combination of the two that require specialized equipment or hands-on work.
Once coffee beans are removed from the fruit and protective out layers and dried they are ready for roasting, cupping, and quality control.
Coffee Farm Maintenance
Did you know that Kauai Coffee has an entire team of mechanics and welders who dismantle, refurbish, and reassemble our equipment after every harvest? While the coffee trees are blooming and growing the next crop of coffee, our maintenance crew is working hard to ensure sure we’ll be ready for harvest in the fall. Harvest operations run 24 hours a day between September and the end of December, and it takes nearly every minute of the growing season to rebuild and refurbish equipment.
When you are growing more than four million coffee trees, the key to a great harvest is great people and reliable equipment. We are very fortunate to have both here on the Garden Island of Kauai caring for your coffee from seed to cup. Try 100% Kauai Coffee. From Estate Reserve to flavored favorites and decadent decaf, there is a Kauai Coffee for everyone.