|Who Doesn't Like Free Samples?|
|Little Museum Inside|
Once you're finished sipping samples and milling around, take the walking tour. I never knew how coffee was produced (not that I ever really cared to think about it...). This tour was really informative, but perfectly short. They had about 8 or 9 stations set up with brief plaques explaining the different steps in the process of producing coffee beans.
So how do they produce and process the coffee? Did you really think I wouldn't explain it?
Coffee starts like many other fruits - it grows on a tree as a fragrant and delicate flower blossom. These blossoms eventually develop into the coffee cherry. The seeds of the cherry (usually two to a cherry) are what become the coffee bean familiar to most of us.
|See the Cherries?|
On Kauai, the blossoming begins in February or March, and by May, the cherry begins to form. The fruit ripens around late September, and harvesting begins. They employ harvesting technology very similar to many wine grape harvesters in regions like California's Napa Valley. The Kauai Coffee Company’s harvesting period runs from mid-October through early December. They harvest 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using 3 shifts. Due to the size of the estate, and the existence of varying island climates, daily scouting reports are used to select the fields with maximum ripeness. Twelve mechanical harvesters that were originally designed for blueberries perform the harvesting. On the tour they tell you that it would take literally every man, woman, and child on Kaua’i to harvest by hand. I guess that means they don’t have an influx of Mexican immigrants here.
After the coffee cherries are harvested, trucks deliver them from the fields to the “wet processing plant.” At the plant, the cherries are separated into three stages of maturity - ripe, natural and immature coffee. They put the cherries in water and the overripe float to the top and the under-ripe cherries sink to the bottom. by using inherent differences in density and hardness.
They take the ripe cherries and remove the skin and fleshy part of the fruit until just the seed (i.e. bean) is left.
The leftover beans are then washed to remove the sticky mucous and crap that coats them before the beans are sent to pre-dryers - a fluidized bed of air that is the start of the drying process. After this, the beans are puy in heated drying elevators for 18 to 36 hours.
The coffee rests in parchment for a while, and is then milled to remove more skin. Throughout the process, the producers still have quality control tests that monitor bean temperatures and preserve each bean's flavor and quality. Sizing screens and density tables further sort out the best beans.
The final sorting step in the dry mill is the color sorter, where an electronic eye scans each bean for color, selecting the finest colored beans and rejecting those that don't pass with a blast of air.
After the beans are sorted, each batch of coffee is then inspected by the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture, which gives each batch a different graded designation. The DOA inspector officially certifies each batch of coffee by grade quality and origin. Finally, they roast it and ship it.