100% Kona Coffee
Three Long Time Processors
Lead the Way
by Patti Stratton
Coffee in Kona has had a long history since the original
plant was brought to the area by missionary Samuel Ruggles
in 1828 and replaced by a Guatemalan variety introduced
in 1892. It's the soil and climate that determines the
taste of any coffee, and this plant has thrived in the
acidic soil on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa volcano
drenched by daily showers during the wet Summer season.
When savoring a cup of Kona coffee, you might not realize
what it takes to process coffee cherry to a bean ready
for roasting. Coffee processing has come a long way
from the early days as related by Baron Gato in an interview
with G. Machado describing coffee processed by the Hawaiians
in the late 1800's:
"Cherry coffee was usually spread thinly on a
poi board. By jerking a round smooth stone about the
size of an ordinary coconut over them from one end of
the board to the other, the pulp was removed without
much difficulty. The pulped coffee was dried without
being washed or fermented. To remove the parchment skin,
the dried parchment was subject to pounding in a wooden
or stone container using a long cylindrical stone 14
inches long and three inches across at the base with
a slightly narrowed end where it was held by two hands."
Today, the red cherry skin is removed by a mechanical
pulper and the layer of natural sugar mucilage is allowed
to ferment for several hours. After washing, the coffee
is called parchment and allowed to sun dry for three
to five days depending on weather conditions. Then the
parchment and silverskin layers are removed in the dry
milling process. The green bean is sized, graded and
certified by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
At this point, the bean is ready for roasting, and
those of us who enjoy the unique smooth Kona flavor
can get involved by making a cuppa!
There are three major coffee processors on the Big
Island who use this time-tested process to offer a truly
tasty cuppa of Kona coffee: Captain Cook Coffee Company,
Greenwell Farms and Bay View Farm.
The Captain Cook Coffee Company was the oldest and
largest coffee company in Kona for many years. The original
Captain Cook Coffee Company, related to the current
company in name only, got its start in the 1880's when
British immigrant Robert Robson Hind acquired land in
Kona for cultivating coffee. The first Robert Hind had
large sugar cane holdings in the Kohala District near
Field Inspector John
DeAnzo of the State of Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture
finds time to shaka.
Palea, Captain Cook Coffee Company.
Mark Berield, Captain
Cook Coffee Company.
Sharon DelaCruz, Captain
Cook Coffee Company.
When Robert retired, the management of the business
went to his son John Hind who, in 1905 bought an old
pineapple cannery and converted it into a coffee mill.
By 1910, the company controlled 1,200 acres of coffee
in the Kona district, much of this leased by Captain
Cook Coffee Company from land owners and then subleased
to predominantly Japanese farmers who each maintained
about five acres of coffee farmed exclusively for Captain
Cook Coffee Company. The company, also known as '4C',
had three coffee mills and shipped 23,500 bags of 'clean'
green coffee beans.
John's son, Robert Retson Hind bought out other members
of the family in 1927 to gain full control of the Captain
Cook Coffee Company, which he managed from his office
When land leases expired in the 1950's, land owners
allowed tenant farmers to take over their leases directly.
As a result of this, Hind Honomalino Ranch land was
cleared and planted in coffee by 1953, and parcels of
land were offered on lease to prospective coffee farmers.
The Hind family eventually gave up on coffee and their
Napoopoo mill became the Kona Coffee Cooperative, which
bought cherry from coffee growers in Kona.
In 1984, south Kona resident Jeff Citron, in partnership
with a group of Honolulu doctors, revived the dormant
Captain Cook Coffee Company in name only. Their Kainaliu
dry mill operation bought cherry, subcontracting the
wet milling process out. A California coffee importer,
Cal Trading started selling the coffee produced by Captain
Cook Coffee Company in 1987.
In 1991, the doctors divested their shares to three
companies in the coffee business; these included two
California operations, Cal Trading in Burlingame and
Mountanos Inc. of San Francisco, and Canterbury Coffee
Company in Vancouver, Canada. Over the years, a wet
milling facility was constructed in Honaunau and in
1997, the dry mill in Kainaliu was completely modernized.
Steve McLaughlin of Cal Trading became the sole owner
of the Captain Cook Coffee Company in June of 2000.
Steve first entered the coffee business in 1970 working
for one of the largest coffee importing firms, E.A.
Johnson & Company in San Francisco. During his extensive
travels to Central and South America and Asia, Steve
became a coffee expert and started his own coffee importing
business, Cal Trading Company, in 1994. Steve has served
on the board of directors of the National Coffee Association
and the Pacific Coast Coffee Association.
In 1998 the two McLaughlin sons joined their father
in the coffee trade. Steve Jr. is president of Cal Trading
Company responsible for importing gourmet specialty
coffees and Chris is president of Captain Cook Coffee
Company dealing in only Kona green bean sales.
Currently, Captain Cook Coffee Company buys cherry
from approximately 450 Kona coffee farmers and is one
of the leading exporters of 100% pure Kona Coffee.
What does Steve McLaughlin think of the future of Kona
coffee? "The industry is making a come back after
the Kona Kai scandal; and now that all green coffee
is certified by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture,
the consumer knows that they are receiving 100% Kona.
I am optimistic about the future of Kona coffee and
our goal as a processor and exporter is to continue
to find new markets for this unique coffee."
Henry Nicholis Greenwell left England as a young man
and sailed to Hawaii in 1850. He became known as the
most prominent coffee shipper of Kona Coffee and, in
1873, received recognition at the Kaiser's Exposition
during the World's Fair in Vienna for coffee excellence.
According to Thrum's Annual of 1876, the Greenwell trade
mark was sufficient to guarantee quality coffee as he
took 'great pains in his selection for the market.'
The Greenwell Farms family,
Clockwise from top left: Cici, Tom, Steve, Michele
Hand picked Kona coffee
cherry arriving at Greenwell Farms.
Tom Greenwell overseeing
coffee coming off his mill's gravity table. Density....
and yes.... smell are all important factors in producing
quality 100% Kona coffee.
Sun drying coffee on
the farm's hoshidana (sliding roof system).
Elizabeth Caroline Greenwell, Henry's wife, motivated
the first planting of coffee trees on Greenwell land
in 1903 and their oldest son, rancher William Henry,
was the first generation to lease land to coffee farmers.
Grandson, Norman Greenwell, who was also a cattle rancher
and dairy man, began planting coffee for future production
in 1985. In 1987, the first coffee from the estate was
In 1992, Henry Nicholis's great grandson, Tom Greenwell
took over as farm manager and their dry milling operation
was installed. Greenwell Farms started processing coffee
cherry for other farmers including wet milling, sun
drying, and dry milling to green bean.
When visitors arrived at the farm in 1993, they were
offered a tour of coffee production. In response to
visitor interest, an outside tasting facility and retail
coffee sales operation were added in 1995. Greenwell
Farms began roasting coffee in 1997 and last year increased
roasting capacity by 400% to become one of the largest
roasters of Kona Coffee in Kona.
Currently, Greenwell Farms is a hands-on, family run,
full service coffee operation. Members of the family
are involved in every aspect of the business from growing
coffee and purchasing cherry from approximately 250
farms in the Kona area, to quality processing of cherry,
dry milling, and roasting. In addition to selling green
bean all over the world, Greenwell Farms operations
include custom roasting and packaging as well as retail
sales, mail order business and daily visitor tour business
managed by Jennifer Greenwell.
As Tom Greenwell puts it, "Kona is becoming the
Napa Valley of the coffee world. The average coffee
drinker often has no idea how coffee s grown and what
it takes to process it. This district is one of the
only places in the world where visitors can see a coffee
tree and, depending on the time of the year, view actual
coffee processing as well as taste the unique flavor
of pure Kona coffee."
The 100% Kona coffee offered at Greenwell Farms features
their Private Reserve which consists of the 'cream of
the Greenwell Farms estate crop' plus select Kona coffee
grown by other farmers in the area in a dark, medium-dark,
and medium roast, as well as macadamia nut and chocolate
macadamia nut flavors. They also offer peaberry coffee
and chocolate covered roasted peaberry, and macadamia
Tom's goal is to grow the estate coffee cultivation
from the current level of forty acres up to a hundred
acres in the next five years. He's in it for the long
haul and believes that for the industry to stay alive,
Kona coffee must be marketed as a quality product. This
requires the cooperation of the entire industry including
the growers, processors, roasters and brokers to maintain
a high level of quality.
The people at Greenwell Farms appreciate it when visitors
take the time to come to the farm, located between mile
markers 111 and 112 on Mamalahoa Highway to see their
coffee trees which are approaching one hundred years
of age, and to try a cup of their fine pure Kona coffee!
Roz and Andy Roy bought the lease on a thirty acre
papaya farm in 1984 and began developing Bay View Farm
Estate in Honaunau. Four years later Andy started processing
coffee cherry and in 1989, their fine coffee product
placed third in the Coffee Festival Cupping Competition.
At that time, it was unheard of that a low altitude
coffee be rated this highly.
Rosalyn Roy standing
at the foot of a large mango tree at Bay View Farm.
Robin Gray (left) and
Karen Swisher at Bay View's new venture in coffee
"Coffees N' Epicurea.
Eva Maghanoy runs the
mill tour operations at the company's Honaunau farm.
Andy Roy explaining the
sizing and grading of Kona coffee beans.
From jeans and tees in
Kona to blazers and collars in Europe. Andy and
Rosalyn Roy sharing time with the head of the Kenyan
Coffee Board, Simon Ochinere, during a recent trip
to Vienna to attend an international coffee conference.
According to Andy the success of Kona coffee hinges
on the effort to find new markets for this prized
Because of Andy's expertise he was asked by the government
of Thailand in 1993 to consult on their coffee producing
areas. It was through his travels that Andy developed
an interest in coffee produced in Burma and opened a
processing plant there.
Andy was president of the Kona Coffee Council in the
early 90's and worked towards trademarking the Kona
Coffee name so that the consumer might easily recognize
which coffee was a blend of not less than 10% Kona and
which coffee was 100% pure Kona.
A memorable time at Bay View Farms was during the 1995/6
season when the price of cherry escalated. The roasters
who were buying coffee from Kona Kai had to pull this
coffee off the market when it was revealed that Kona
Kai was selling Central American coffee as Kona. To
meet the demand of the replacement coffee, cherry prices
reached a record high of $1.65 per pound. By the start
of the next coffee picking season, cherry prices dropped
very low and Bay View was still able to support their
In 1994, Roz opened the Bay View Farm tasting room,
the first of its kind in the Kona region. At their gazebo
on Painted Church Road they specialize in personal service
estate tours where a visitor can see first hand how
coffee is farmed and milled in Kona, and then sample
their medium or dark roasted Extra Fancy, Peaberry and
Fancy grade 100% Kona Coffee. Bay View offers a variety
of flavored coffees including coconut cream, vanilla,
hazelnut, macadamia nut and chocolate macadamia nut.
They also feature two estate coffees from the Kona area
which took first place in the Kona Coffee Festival cupping:
Kona Kolana in 1992 and 1995, and Fitzgerald Estate,
first in 1997. These coffees are also available through
Last year, a second retail store and tasting room,
'Coffees 'n Epicurea' opened its door to visitors traveling
along the Mamalahoa Highway. Roz, who has a marketing
background, would in the future like to create more
of a bistro atmosphere here. At the moment their complete
line of fine Kona estate coffees are sold here; plus,
as the name implies, many items that the coffee lover
might 'need', as well as fruit preserves and macadamia
nuts, both plain and chocolate covered. Don't miss tasting
their chocolate covered peaberry bean. Most of these
products are available at the Bay View Farm store as
Andy, who hales from New Hampshire, is known in the
coffee trade as primarily a coffee processor and he
takes it seriously, managing the operation from pulping
the cherry, dry milling the parchment, and personally
manning the gravity table to check that the most dense
beans are selected for sale under the Bay View Farm
Currently, Bay View has consistent contracts for their
quality green bean and sell out each season to Superior
Coffee and Foods, a Chicago based roasting company.
Bay View purchases coffee cherry from approximately
150 local farmers.
When asked about the future of Kona Coffee, Andy said,
"As more acreage in Kona is planted in coffee,
marketing of Kona coffee has to improve drastically.
New markets for this excellent coffee need to be opened
up. Right now, all Kona Coffee processors are competing
for the same dollar in the green bean market. Increased
marketing efforts would best serve our local farmers
to ensure that the coffee cherry price remains stable
so that farming can continue to be viable."
Thanks go to Steve McLaughlin of Cal Trading, Jeff
Citron formerly of Captain Cook Coffee Company, Jean
and Tom Greenwell, Roz and Andy Roy of Bay View Farms,
the Kona Historical Society, and Kona Coffee Council
for taking time to help with this article during the
busy coffee season!
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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