Visit to Kona Earth Coffee Farm

Kona Earth Coffee beans ready to be picked

While in Kona, we visited the “Kona Earth” coffee farm. Gary Strawn, a former co-worker of Dave’s from Netiverse and Cisco, left the silicon valley life and moved to Kona to manage a coffee farm. Gary, his wife, and two young daughters have been there two full seasons now and are becomming more popular and well known.

Kona coffee is “the hot thing” on the islands of Hawaii. The kona beans only grow in the climates of the Hawaiian volcanos – up on the hillsides where it is not too hot and very wet. Gary keeps the coffee trees trimmed to about 10 feet high, so that ladders are not required when picking the beans. He hires plenty of help to pick only the reddest “cherries,” as he calls them. The skins are then pulled off, the slimy green beans underneath are dried, roasted, then packaged for sale. Harvest begins yearly in late August, early September. (We expect Kyle to move to Kona in August, help Gary with the harvest and train for the Hawaii Ironman at the same time! 🙂

In addition to coffee, Gary manages several plots of macademia nut trees. In contrast to coffee, they wait until the nuts fall from the trees to the ground, they take the outer shell off, then the tough husk. I ate a few raw macademia nuts while roaming the farm. They were good! (Although, not as good as chocolate covered roasted ones!) Macademia nuts are harvested the same time of year as coffee beans.

Gary’s farm has plenty of animals. Wild pigs and chickens roam the land. Electric fences attempt to keep the wild pigs from eating the fallen “mac nuts”. He has a few goats, hoping to keep the grass mowed for free. Hens lay 7-8 eggs a day for the family’s consumption. Random, wild peacocks visit every so often. And the girls have pet rabbits. The Strawn family lives only a few miles from Kona, but it is a different world. A small, windy narrow road in the jungle takes you there. There are no street signs, so the directions include statements like, “Turn left at the ol’ blue pickup truck.” The climate is cool and humid, compared to the dryer, hotter areas of the coast. The mac nuts and coffee trees love the lava rock and get plenty of rain to keep them going. Gary is too high up on the hill to get city water, so they collect rain water runoff from the roofs of their buildings and collect it in huge water storage units. This water is used for consumption as well as irrigation.

We all had samples of Medium Roast Kona Earth coffee (100% Kona beans) – everyone liked it so much that we all bought bags to bring home!

Other coffee facts you may not know:

– coffee beans get stale within just a few months of being dried and roasted

– ground coffee gets stale within just a few hours, unless packaged immediately

– the worst thing for coffee beans and coffee grounds is humidity (keep things well sealed; if you don’t plan to drink it in the next month or so, put the sealed bag in the freezer)

– crappy quality coffee beans come from “Robusta” trees; low-priced coffee such as Folgers has a lot of Robusta filler, in addition to some higher quality beans

Gary says the supply of kona coffee on the islands outweighs demand. So, he’s looking to expand business online to the rest of the US. To order some of Gary’s coffee online, visit http://www.konaearth.com/. We promise you’ll enjoy it!

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