Coffee farmers and processors remain at odds over proposed legislation that would get rid of mandatory coffee inspections and grading.
The Kona Coffee Farmers Association, which has roughly 300 members, has vociferously opposed House Bill 280, questioning whether the bill will eliminate the problems it purports to address, such as transporting coffee cherry from one district to another, to sell as pricier Kona coffee. But many of the remaining coffee organizations, including the Hawaii Coffee Association, the Kona Coffee Council, the Maui Coffee Association and the Hawaii Coffee Growers Association, have submitted significant amounts of testimony supporting the measure.
The Department of Agriculture supports the measure’s intent, spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi said.
David Case, a member of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association’s legislative committee, said the proposed changes will affect the Kona coffee brand. But, he said, he’s fairly certain the measure will pass. He said he’s hoping Gov. Neil Abercrombie will veto the bill if the Legislature approves it. To that end, the association presented the governor with a petition with 320 signatures opposing the bill.
KAILUA-KONA >> A proposed bill that would eliminate inspection and certification requirements for green coffee beans shipped from Hawaii is pitting farmers against blenders.
West Hawaii Today reports the bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday. It would remove provisions put in place after a scandal in the 1990s where coffee grown in other regions outside of Hawaii were labeled and sold as Kona coffee.
Blender Hawaii Coffee Co. President Jim Wayman says there are concerns about delays from waiting for a state inspector to grade and certify the coffee.
Farmer Bruce Corker says the Department of Agriculture should hire more inspectors and that buyers on the mainland and overseas won’t have assurances they are getting genuine Hawaii-grown coffee.
HONOLULU – Hawaii farmer Paul Uster was on vacation in California when he saw a package of Kona coffee blend in a supermarket that he knew would upset fellow growers back home on the Big Island.
The Safeway brand of Kona blend medium roast coffee didn’t specify what percentage was made from the world-famous bean or whether it was grown in Hawaii – information a law in the Aloha State requires for labels on Hawaii-grown coffee. That law is meant to inform consumers but also protect the integrity of Hawaii’s premier coffee grown on slopes of volcanic rock.
“It degrades the reputation and the quality of Kona coffee. When consumers are not informed it makes it harder for me to make a living,” said Uster, who owns Mokulele Farms and is on the board of directors of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. “Kona and other Hawaiian coffees are a great treasure to the state.”
Hawaii is the only place in the United States where coffee is grown. Beans grown in the Kau district of the Big Island are also gaining popularity among discerning coffee aficionados.
Safeway’s blend was priced at $8.99 a pound, Uster said, while 8 ounces of pure Kona coffee can sell for $25.
Hawaii’s no different from any other place in the country when it comes to coffee lovers: Step into any Starbucks and you’ll see — we’ve got lots of ’em. And yet, we’re not like everywhere else because we’re the only state in the nation that grows coffee.
Viewed from that perspective, those long lines at chain coffee bars with their non-Hawaii coffees seem nonsensical. Shouldn’t Hawaii people be drinking Hawaii coffee?
Thankfully, a host of venues in Hawaii do offer locally grown coffees.
But there’s a new shop, just 4 months old, that is taking Hawaii coffee to a whole new level on Oahu.
Beach Bum Café, run by owner Dennis McQuoid out of a storefront in the Executive Centre on Bishop Street, is cutting-edge in what it offers: a selection of 100 percent Hawaii coffees and a choice of five brewing methods.
He calls his place a “microbrew” coffee house, meaning he grinds beans upon order and brews one cup at a time. This ensures the freshest cup possible.
McQuoid offers eight single-estate coffees at any given time, and he keeps just a two-week supply to ensure freshness.
McQuoid also offers a generous helping of customer service. He starts by helping patrons make selections based on their preferences.
The first infestation of the coffee berry borer in the Kau district of the Big Island has been detected at a farm in Pahala, state agricultural officials announced today.
Infestations of the beetle, which threaten Hawaii’s $27 million coffee-growing industry, have been concentrated in West Hawaii.
The coffee berry borer, a small beetle native to Central Africa, bores into coffee beans and lays its eggs, its larvae feeding inside the bean.
State officials said they’re still assessing the extent of the infestation in Pahala and that farmers in the region are asked to inspect their fields and report any suspected coffee berry borers.
The state in February approved the use of the fungus Beauveria bassiana to control the spread of the coffee berry borer.
KAILUA-KONA – A beetle smaller than a sesame seed is boring its way into Kona coffee beans and threatening the nation’s only coffee-growing region’s premier crop.
More than 600 farmers in North Kona and South Kona, on the west side of the Big Island, are preparing to coat their fields with a suffocating fungus and are taking other measures to save their livelihoods and protect the world famous Kona coffee brand. While they’re confident they can limit the damage, they acknowledge they face a long fight against a beetle that will almost certainly reduce harvests and force costly chemical treatments and other work.
”It definitely has made growing Kona coffee more challenging,” said Tommy Greenwell, owner of Greenwell Farms. ”Once the beetle bores into the coffee cherry, it digs out a home and lays its eggs. That bean is no longer useable in coffee products. ”
The beetle, a bug known as Hypothenemus hampei that is native to Africa, was formally identified in Hawaii in September, but farmers have reported spotting it for two years. No one knows how it arrived in Hawaii, but growers said they’re not surprised because it’s seen in other coffee-growing regions throughout the world.
”There are 101 theories about how it got here. All we know is it got here from another country and it’s a very, very good hitchhiker
TIMBÍO, Colombia — Like most of the small landowners in Colombia’s lush mountainous Cauca region, Luis Garzón, 80, and his family have thrived for decades by supplying shade-grown, rainforest-friendly Arabica coffee for top foreign brands like Nespresso and Green Mountain. A sign in the center of a nearby town proclaims, “The coffee of Cauca is No. 1!”
But in the last few years, coffee yields have plummeted here and in many of Latin America’s other premier coffee regions as a result of rising temperatures and more intense and unpredictable rains, phenomena that many scientists link partly to global warming.
Coffee plants require the right mix of temperature, rainfall and spells of dryness for beans to ripen properly and maintain their taste. Coffee pests thrive in the warmer, wetter weather.
Bean production at the Garzóns’ farm is therefore down 70 percent from five years ago, leaving the family little money for clothing for toddlers and “thinking twice” about sending older children to college, said Mr. Garzon’s 44-year-old son, Albeiro, interviewed in a yellow stucco house decorated with coffee posters and madonnas.
The shortage of high-end Arabica coffee beans is also being felt in New York supermarkets and Paris cafes, as customers blink at escalating prices. Purveyors fear that the Arabica coffee supply from Colombia may never rebound — that the world might, in effect, hit “peak coffee.”
Derek Lanter clearly remembers his first date with the “dark side.” In 2001 he was living in Berkeley, Calif., when Scharffen Berger, the company that reputedly makes America’s finest dark chocolate, was setting up its operation there. He and a friend decided to visit Scharffen Berger’s factory for a tour and tasting.
“Having worked with coffee as a buyer and roaster for Uncommon Grounds Coffee Co., I had experience processing coffee beans and evaluating the brew made from them, but that was the first time I saw cacao beans being roasted, ground and manufactured into chocolate,” Lanter recalled.
“Scharffen Berger was using beans from Colombia, Madagascar, Ecuador, Ghana and Indonesia. We learned about the equipment and process, and tasted chocolate at different stages and in different forms, from the roasted nib to pure cacao liquor; sweet milk chocolate; and semisweet, 62 percent; bittersweet, 70 percent; and extra-dark, 85 percent chocolate. It was such a mind-opening experience!”
Today, Lanter tastes chocolate nearly every day as the sales and marketing manager for Waialua Estate, a subsidiary of Dole Food Co. that grows 20 acres of cacao and 155 acres of coffee on Oahu’s North Shore. According to Lanter, chocolate made from locally grown cacao is being favorably compared with world-renowned brands such as Amano, Amedei, Guittard and Michel Cluizel.
KAILUA-KONA (AP) – Coffee plants and unroasted beans from Hawaii’s Big Island are being quarantined in hopes of preventing the spread of a crop-destroying pest from Kona farms to other islands.
The Hawaii Board of Agriculture unanimously approved the emergency quarantine Tuesday due to the coffee berry borer, which has been found in 21 West Hawaii farms but hasn’t been seen on other islands.
The quarantine restricts the movement of coffee plants, plant parts, green beans and bags unless the items are treated with pesticides or heating methods to kill the beetle and its larvae, according to the Department of Agriculture.
”Movement of green beans is restricted unless it’s fumigated,” said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi.
The beetle was first detected in West Hawaii-grown coffee beans in mid-September. Agriculture officials haven’t yet determined how it arrived on the Big Island.
The quarantine could last up to a year. It doesn’t apply to farmers who are sending green beans out of state.