Who loves coffee? Well, I know we certainly do. So during our visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, we were ecstatic to learn that we could visit a working Kona coffee plantation. Even though we love coffee, we had never been to a working coffee plantation before, nor had we ever seen a coffee bean tree first hand! So while driving along the upper slopes of the mountain overlooking Kona and the sea, we popped into the fabulous Hula Daddy coffee plantation. After all, we could never pass up a visit to a place called “Hula Daddy!”
Sampling 100% Kona Coffee in Hula Daddy’s Tasting Room
When we entered the building, we taken aback by the view. The building is like a modern house perched on the hillside. The entry way leads directly into a comfortable sitting area, like a living room. This is actually the tasting room, and it has a magnificent view over Kona below, and the sea. While standing along a wall of windows wide open to let in the breeze, we were handed samples of coffee relaxed while gazing out over the countryside.
We had never been in a coffee tasting room before, although we’ve seen plenty of wine tasting rooms. We can honestly say that this is one of the best views from any tasting room that we’ve seen. After finishing our first samples, we walked over to the adjoining room, which was basically a large, open kitchen, so that we could get a demonstration and sip other varieties.
Taking a Kona Coffee Plantation Tour at Hula Daddy
While relaxing and getting our coffee fix, we learned all about Kona coffee and operations here at the Hula Daddy Kona coffee plantation. The company actually has two farms, the first is here, the second is actually up at a higher altitude. The higher altitude produces more acidic flavored and citric coffee. The lower elevation produces darker, rich, nuttier, and chocolate-like flavors.
After explaining the basics to us up in the house, we followed our guide, Jasmine, down to the orchards below the main house.
Once out in the orchards, we were able to get an up close look at the coffee bean trees. After all these years of drinking coffee, it was cool to finally see what a coffee bean tree looks like! Some of these coffee bean trees can live to be 100 years old, and they can grow to be upwards of 14 feet tall — but here, they trim them to make them easier for picking.
The coffee bean trees flower throughout the year, and they have 6 month picking periods. There are different kinds of trees out there, but at Hula Daddy they use aribica because it is higher in quality – but it does take more maintenance. The trees like shade, fertilizers, nitrogen and rain.
The company tries to avoid using pesticides…but they do have another pest to keep in mind – wild pigs!
Yeah, those buggers try to tear up roots of the trees!
It takes 6 months for the coffee to go from flower to cherry. The cherries are ready to pick when they are at a specific kind of red.
Our Chance to Pick the Coffee Tree Cherries in Hawaii
Picking the cherry at just the right color is tricky, because Hula Daddy is looking for a very specific shade — not too yellow and not too burgundy. They usually pick once a week, but on the day we visited, we got to participate in a bit of the picking — even putting on one of their waist baskets! Pickers typically use a stick to help pull down the branches so they can reach with their arm, and they work their way down from the top of the tree.
I got to experience what it’s like to pick the coffee cherries for myself, even putting on one of the baskets around my waste. Definitely not as easy as it looks!
We also learned that when they hire pickers, they are paid by the hour rather than by the pound in order to encourage proper picking. Then everything is hand sorted here…not by machine! This helps to ensure the quality of the cherries.
Finally, they test all the cherries by floating them in water. If any rise to the top, then that is an indication that the cherry’s quality has been compromised.
A machine actually does the pulping to get the beans out of the cherries. But on this day, we were able to squeeze open the cherry to check out the inside for ourselves. Usually, you can see 2 beans inside one cherry. Putting in in our mouths to taste, the beans actually had a sweet taste because of the natural sugar coating around them.
Hula Daddy’s Award-Winning Drying Process
At Hula Daddy they have a world-class master roaster who developed a unique drying process, which received a 97% out of 100 on a coffee rating system — tying others as the highest rating ever given!
During roasting, the sweet coating around the bean is typically removed. However, at Hula Daddy, they do have a unique process where they dry the bean with the coating on. This give the coffee more of a caramel-type of flavor. They also have a very special process where they dry the bean while still in the cherry! It takes a few weeks, but they say it can give the coffee more of an apple flavor!
After everything has been dried out, it goes to a mill to sort out what they call parchment, basically the outer shell. Then they sort the coffee by size and type.
Now for the Roasting of the Coffee Beans
At Hula Daddy, everything is roasted here onsite. They have different temperatures and roasting times for different varieties of coffee. Then their master roaster hand sorts all the final batches…and tastes every batch!
The taster slurps (similar to wine) to get the flavors all across her palette. She will taste it multiple times (maybe 5-6) because the taste of the coffee can change after it has cooled.
If everything is good to go, she will package it ASAP because coffee is like a sponge and it will soak up moisture and flavors from other things around it. The coffee should stay good for 6-12 months in the freezer (for a whole bean). The lifespan is shorter if it is already ground up — but most people won’t notice (unless you have sensitive taste).
A Visit to Hula Daddy is a Great Way to Spend the Day in Hawaii!
Hula Daddy is a boutique coffee business, and we had a great time exploring their Kona coffee plantation and learning all about one of our favorite beverages. The coffee was great, and the scenery was wonderful. We also made sure to get some coffee for a souvenir to take home – but they only sell their product onsite, or on the internet. So if you are interested in getting some of this great tasting coffee, be sure to check out the Hula Daddy website.