- Hi, Robert. We suspect that the farm is more than just about the business of coffee but it’s also a lifestyle and a passion of yours. How would you describe living in Hawaii and on the farm?
Yes, it is true the farm is about much more than just coffee. Ultimately, our passion is people. It is in our nature to please people – customers and visitors alike. The many complimentary comments we receive about the farm and our coffee are energizing and gratifying. We live “off the grid” on the mountain, and every day we get to enjoy the green trees, the land, the vistas and blessings we are surrounded by with this unique and giving landscape.
- If you were to tell a fun story about life on the farm, what would it be?
What an interesting journey this farm life has been. Often, it feels like a research laboratory here. We are visited by scientists and researchers from various universities. Even The Department of Agriculture has spent time with us. We support a type of “sub-business” where we learn about and promote healthy fertilizer and plant nutrition techniques. This knowledge should be made universal, and we share with anyone or any farmer who would listen about the huge benefits of maintaining an organic environment.
- Kona RainForest Farms is your name – is it really a Rainforest?
No, it’s not. We gladly inherited the name from the previous owner, but a true rainforest receives much more rain than we do, and there are parts of the island that qualify. A typical day here is sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons – perfect for our trees. We generally receive 60 to 70 inches of rain per year which is quite a bit, but a rainforest may get 250 inches or more in a year. We do not irrigate, so rain is critical to the farm.
- If you take all of the technical processes and percolate them down to just a couple of reasons why a discerning coffee drinker should consider your beans the best – what are they?
We win awards for our coffee and receive praise for its flavor, but it all comes down to a unique blend of water, soil and environment. The specialized processes we use to produce coffee are important but the “new” soil created by the volcano, the gift of rain and ideal sunshine offered in the mornings coupled with the protective cloud cover in the afternoons, make for an ideal growing environment.
You must think creatively to excel with organic activity. For example, we help to keep weeds under control not with chemicals but with a plant we call, “perennial peanut”. This flowering ground cover not only reduces weeds, it fixes all important nitrogen into the soil fertilizing the trees.
This is a fabulous cultivating region. I once measured the growth of a two-year-old tree planted in one of our newly cultivated areas and it added four feet to its height in just seven months! We now have apples and grapes growing on the big island. A natural sweetness is added to the fruit due to the vitality and richness built into the soil. And remember: a little natural sweetness adds to the smoothness of the coffee.
- The word “organic” is used all the time with lots of products. What does it really mean to you?
We work with nature, not against her. As an example, the industry has been wrestling with a destructive beetle infestation that has infected some farms by 80% or more while only 1% of our trees have been affected. We learned the organic way of controlling this pest is with a naturally occurring fungus that kills the beetle. We encourage the fungus growth thus reducing the problem and restoring the balance nature intended. “Organic” can be described as a lifetime of discovery and the implementation of nature’s tool box. We are not introducing anything new to the environment but simply discovering what is already there.
- The environment is an ever-increasing concern for us stewards of the earth. I understand that your coffee is organic, but does your farm somehow help the planet?
We call it “our farm” but it actually belongs to the planet. We are loaded with plants, flowers, jungle and critters of all sorts. We absorb carbon while we produce a product that people enjoy. We see this as a perfect partnership between the earth and its human caretakers.
- We have heard that coffee has a short shelf-life and its quality can quickly deteriorate. Do you have a solution to this problem?
You must start with fresh coffee. When you walk down your grocery aisle and see coffee that appears to be contained in a vacuum packed bag … beware. Fresh coffee gives off a gas, and when this process stops the coffee has lost much of its quality. Look for a bag full of air. Buy whole beans and grind it yourself. Fresh coffee made with our preferred method of a French press will have a foamy head on it, because it is giving off CO2 – a good thing! Water temperature is critical for a good brew. Shoot for 195 to 200 degrees. The easiest way to achieve that temperature is to boil water and then let it cool for 30 to 40 seconds. There are other variables you may want to experiment with such as grind size and brew time. You can store coffee beans in the freezer for a few weeks, but never let your entire stored amount thaw, just the portion you need for the moment. This can be a fun process to identify your personal, consistent and ideal cup of coffee.
- It certainly looks beautiful there, and who wouldn’t want to go to Hawaii. Do you offer tours like vineyards do? Could I even stay on the farm for a few days?
Absolutely! We would love to have you visit. Please note: tours are by appointment only (they are free); and if possible, bring a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get up the hill to our farm. We also have overnight guest accommodations. Look for the tab “Guesthouse” for additional information.
- What does the future hold?
The future is bright, sunshiny mornings and cloudy afternoons just like it has been for eons. We will continue to learn from our generous but somewhat secretive teacher – Mother Nature. Our principles will always remain intact, and we guarantee to provide to your cup the freshest, 100% organic coffee possible.