Coffee talk over Kona beans - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Coffee talk over Kona beans

Virginia Easton-Smith Virginia Easton-Smith

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

KONA, Big Island (KHNL) - You may wake up with it every day, but many people don't know a lot of about Kona coffee.

But a festival taking place on the Big Island is educating people about this special island brew while celebrating our premier coffee.

The fingers fly on the Big Island, as the Kona coffee picking contest gets underway.

Pickers quickly fill up their buckets with the prized coffee beans.

"They have a three minute time limit to pick as much as possible. Its weighed and so the winner is the one with the most red berries or cherries," said Millie Farris with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.

Pickers have always played a vital role in this Kona crop, ever since coffee was introduced to the islands 180 years ago. The mountain slopes on the leeward side of the Big Island are great for growing coffee but make it difficult for machinery to harvest the beans.

"We need plenty people to pick the coffee so the pickers are very important to us," said Tom Sato, with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.

"It is very labor intensive because it is all hand picked. And its not picked in one round there are 4-8 rounds depending on the season and amount of rainfall," added Virginia Easton-Smith, with the University of Hawaii Agricultural Extension.

But the pickers aren't the only ones wanting to get their hands on Kona coffee.

Increase in demand, has doubled the number of acreage planted in the past 16 years.

That is not the only change this industry is seeing, your favorite Kona coffee could be coming to your computer as well.

"What's happening in recent years, especially with the internet, people are marketing their own coffee online," said Easton-Smith.

There are about 700 coffee farmers in Kona. But why are they attracted to the picturesque slopes on Mauna Loa?

"The weather in Kona is unique in the Hawaiian Islands because we get our rains in the summer, when the beans are enlarging and filling. We are getting our summer rains when the coffee needs the most water," said Easton-Smith.

While the finished product is enjoyed around the world, there are problems with its popularity. Some use the Kona name without the Kona beans.

But in order to be real, the coffee must have been grown in North or South Kona and be of a certain grade, while Kona blends must have at least 10 percent Kona coffee.

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