The per­fect brew

Tour of fa­cil­i­ties re­veal that cof­fee is a com­pli­cated, aro­matic busi­ness

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front page - BY JOSH HEALEY & JES­SICA JOSENHANS SPE­CIAL TO THE BEA­CON Josh & Jess are two salty east-coast­ers tak­ing a year off to travel, write and ex­plore. Cur­rently in Motueka, New Zealand. Find us at Salt & Brine / Twit­ter: joshrjhealey / In­sta­gram: jayjosen­hans

World trav­ellers learn all about our favourite morn­ing drink

Be­ing cof­fee fa­nat­ics, we are al­ways on the hunt for our next cup of caf­feinated joy.

Thank­fully, Hawai’i’s Big Is­land boasts splen­did cof­fee and it was no time at all be­fore we were im­mersed in the sci­ence (and perks) of a roast­ing mill.

We vis­ited the Ka’u Cof­fee Mill and took a tour of the fa­cil­i­ties, be­ing led through the vast plan­ta­tion by sales ex­ec­u­tive Louis Daniele.

Ka’u Cof­fee is lo­cated on the Big Is­land’s south-east side, for­merly known for its sugar plan­ta­tions. Now, the strik­ing hills have be­come home to a new crop, one that is help­ing to keep the re­gion afloat.

“This is a hor­ri­bly de­pressed area,” ex­plained Daniele. “Folks around here, all they knew about was sugar.”

The tour be­gan with a walk through the bud­ding cof­fee plants all lined up in neat rows be­fore div­ing into the nu­ances of pre­par­ing the beans for roast­ing.

Daniele reached out, deftly pick­ing the bright red “cher­ries” from amongst the leafy branches of the trees. They look more like what is left be­hind from a flower bud than any­thing re­lated to what we know as the fi­nal brown and aro­matic cof­fee bean.

Once picked, the beans are moved to a wet house and pre­pared for one of three meth­ods.

Ka’u Cof­fee has be­come known for its nat­u­ral method, which means leav­ing the pulp and mu­cilage lay­ers on the bean. The beans are then dried on a con­crete floor and in­dus­trial dry­ing sta­tion, the ex­tra lay­ers re­sult­ing in a more com­plex cof­fee taste.

The fa­cil­ity also of­fers semi­washed and fully-stripped down brews but Daniele notes that peo­ple like the taste of the nat­u­ral method.

“It’s a much dif­fer­ent cup of cof­fee than peo­ple have come to ex­pect,” he said.

From the wet house and dry­ing fa­cil­i­ties, the beans are moved into huge 1,000-pound bags, pillars of cof­fee lin­ing the ware­house.

Given per­mis­sion, we ap­proached one of the open bags and buried our hands into the beans. Some­how it felt like an act of supreme lux­ury.

The bags usu­ally spend a few months in the ware­house be­fore be­ing moved to the roast­ery, the heart of the oper­a­tion.

The aroma of roast­ing cof­fee is un­mis­tak­able; a rich per­fume that draws us in. The air be­comes heavy with the scent and taste of beans carameliz­ing.

And it has drawn many oth­ers, as well. Daniele high­lighted that Ka’u Cof­fee has cus­tomers across the world, in­clud­ing places like Ko­rea, Ja­pan and China.

The tour ends with a tast­ing and we both had a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion of our cof­fees as we sipped their many blends, rang­ing from the caf­feine-rich light roast where you can still taste the fresh­ness of the beans to more heav­ily scented dark roasts, to an in­cred­i­bly flavour­ful blend called co­conut caramel crunch.

The Ka’u Cof­fee Mill has two more fans.


Louis Daniele, sales ex­ec­u­tive and our guide for the day, be­gins the cof­fee tour amongst the trees.


The beans have been through the pulper to re­move the shells, and the wet mill to re­move the pulp and mu­cilage en­cap­su­lat­ing the beans, which dry for 24 hours be­fore mov­ing ahead to one of three me­chan­i­cal dri­ers.


Bags tucked away and ready to be shipped, dis­play­ing the Ka’u logo which boasts its 100 per cent Hawai­ian cred­i­bil­ity.


A worker pro­cesses the dry­ing beans.


Daniele dis­plays the dried bean, now ready to be roasted. They roast in house, and also send away sev­eral va­ri­eties of dried beans to whole­sale buy­ers.


Jess points at one of the “cher­ries,” the red berry nearly ready to be har­vested.


Bags of dried, un­roasted beans pack­aged and ready to be shipped. This va­ri­ety is the “clean cup of cof­fee,” where all outer lay­ers are re­moved. They also pro­duce semi-wash beans, where the mu­cilage layer is left in­tact to give a fruitier sweeter...


Josh leans in to get a whiff of the aroma pro­duced by the nat­u­ral method, more com­monly known as the Ethiopian method. This style takes longer to dry and there­fore cre­ates a more com­plex, lay­ered cof­fee taste. The Ka’u Cof­fee Mill has be­come known for...


One of the 10 em­ploy­ees at Ka’u Cof­fee Mill mea­sures the next batch of dried beans for roast­ing.


The roaster has to be at a min­i­mum of 460 de­grees be­fore the beans are added. From there, the op­er­a­tor has to en­sure cer­tain tem­per­a­ture mile­stones are met to hit the bean pro­file.

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