Kona Coffee, Buying a Kona Coffee Farm

Here is a quick synopsis on the production of coffee.

On established plantations, the three or four year old branches need to be pruned. Each year you allow three or four new buds to grow into new branches and each year you cut off the 4 year old branches.  Pruning is not hard to learn but is strenuous. Most people hire it out. There are several companies that have imported workers from Mexico who do a good job. Also, there are several professional coffee farmers who manage coffee farms that can do as much of the work as you want. They can do everything if you want and pay you for the privilege. Sometimes everyone is so busy that you will have to do your own pruning.  The only way to make big money with coffee is to do as much of the work yourself as you can.

The plants must be fertilized three to six times a year depending on your preference.  Some people fertilize in December, April, May, June, July and August.

After the first rain of spring the plants flower. Two to four rains produce two to four flowerings which result in two to four ripenings. It’s actually possible to have as many as 7 flower sets. To make up for unpredictable drought conditions, a back-up irrigation system is indispensable.  You might as well add an in-line fertilizer feeder while you are setting up your irrigation system unless you want your coffee to be certified organic. Picking is pretty much a continuous process for six to 8 months depending on elevation. Picking usually starts in July and goes through January and is, again, very strenuous.

After picking the berries must have the juicy pulp and skin removed. This is done by putting the beans in a spinning device called a “pulper”. The pulp goes out one end and the beans another. The pulped beans are soaked overnight to remove the mucilage, then rinsed three to four times, then put on a deck to dry. The deck is a big flat floor with a clear plastic roof.  Some of the older drying decks have a roof that can roll away on rails to expose the beans to direct sun when it is not raining. Several times a day the beans must be raked to expose all the surfaces to drying. There are also gas or electric dryers to finish off the beans in wet weather.

Once the beans are dry, they should be stored for a couple of months to arrive at full flavor.  The best way to store dried beans is in an insulated storage room with an air conditioner and a dehumidifier to keep the temperature at 70 degrees and the humidity at 20%.  The dried beans have a thin, woody, paper-like covering called “parchment”.  It takes a special machine to remove the parchment.  These can cost around $25,000 so most people take their dried beans to a professional processing company to have the parchment removed.  Once the parchment is removed you have what is called “green bean” or just “green”.  The green can be stored in your storage room for up to two years.  Green bean is the last step before roasting.  Most people take their green beans to a processor for roasting, but commercial roasters are available for purchase should you desire to roast your own.  To roast to perfection takes practice, patience and experience.  If you decide to roast yourself you should start with small batches until you get the process down.

The last step is the packaging and shipping.  If you pack the roasted beans in the privacy of your temperature and humidity controlled room, you are breaking the law.  Legally you are supposed to have a certified kitchen for packaging. A commercial scale and bag sealing machine come in handy here.  Pack in your own custom Estate Coffee bags with your personalized logo, then box up and ship off your coffee.

The most important step is marketing; you can’t sell any coffee if you don’t have a market.  Orders are generated from ads in print media (which can be expensive) and from internet websites.  You can also try Craig’s List,  farmer’s markets and local grocery stores.  If you are especially ambitious you can try contacting coffee specialty stores in malls all across the country, or even in foreign countries.  All Kona coffee gets sold… it is just a matter of picking your market by what you are good at, what your budget is and how much you want to sell for. For example, is you are a good salesperson you can get your coffee into all the local stores and mini-chains of stores.  If you are an excellent salesperson you can get Costco to pick it up as a seasonal special.  If you are a good marketer, then a website is ideal if you can get on all the big search engines.  If you are not talented at either then you might try selling green bean to the major processors, or local roasters at wholesale rates.

Here is how to market your coffee, just like these guys: http://www.huladaddy.com  Here are examples of website of some of the other coffee farms I have sold: http://www.athenaofhawaii.com/  ,  http://www.konacomfort.com/  ,  http://www.pendragonhawaii.com/  ,  http://konamaukafarms.com/