The Kauai Coffee harvest is something we wait for all year long. We wait with anticipation for the fragrant blossoms to appear in early spring. We wait for the first bright green coffee cherries to burst onto the branches when the blossoms fade away. We wait for the deep reds and yellows of the ripe cherries to emerge under the late summer sun to let us know it is time for the harvest to begin.
It’s the same nervous excitement you feel before the beginning of a sports season or starting a new job,” said Kauai Coffee General Manager Fred Cowell. “We know that we have worked hard, prepared well and are ready to see what results we have achieved,” he continued. “Our fall harvest aligns pretty closely to football season. However, we don’t just play on weekends; we’ll be going at it around the clock for nearly three months straight.”
There may be a lot of anticipation but there is never a lack of work to keep us busy while we wait. From watering, pruning and caring for 4 million trees, to composting coffee berries, to serving over 800 visitors every day – the annual coffee harvest is the culmination of an entire season of hard work, dedication and hope. We put our trust in nature and our passion for producing outstanding coffee grown under the Hawaiian sun into our work. Everything we do and every question we ask along the way is there to ensure the best bean makes it into your favorite brew every time.
How is Coffee Harvested?
With more than four million trees just how do we get all of those beans off of their branches and on the way to your cup?
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,” said Jon Ching, Kauai Coffee Orchard Operations Manager.”
By hand, a good picker might get 300 pounds per day. Each of our 10 machines can harvest 35,000 pounds per day!
At Kauai Coffee we use a mechanical harvester to collect the mature coffee cherries from the branches of our trees. This machine may look like a beast but is more of a gentle giant. Our longtime operator, Alfred “Freddie” Medeiros has been working the Kauai Coffee harvest with these machines for more than 30 years. As Kauai Coffee’s mechanical operations supervisor, he calibrates the vibration and rotation of the arms of the harvester to knock ripe cherries off of the trees and into the collection bins.
With these adjustments harvest operators on each shift can minimize the amount of unripe cherries that are collected and maximize the yield of ripe cherries. We can also adjust the placement and number of rotating arms in the harvester if needed. For instance, coffee cherries at the top of the tree tend to get more sun and may ripen faster than cherries lower or deeper on the branches. 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 perfectly ripen.
Our window for harvesting coffee is short. This year, the harvest began on September 24th and will be complete by the middle of December. After the coffee cherries are harvested it’s time to remove the beans from the fruit and process the cherries quickly to avoid spoilage or waste. Living on an island we understand the importance of managing our resources and reducing waste. We repurpose our coffee fruit into compost to supercharge the micro-biology of the orchard soil.
Time. Passion. Patience.
Every year the harvest goes by in a blur. From the excitement in the air to the fresh, green scent the trees release as the harvesters whir by and pluck the cherries from their branches – there is nothing better than this time of year on the farm. Delivering the best coffee to you is what we wait for every year so you don’t have to wait to taste paradise in your cup.