There are approximately 700 independent estates in North and South Kona that grow Kona Coffee trees. About 20,000 to 40,000 pounds of Kona cherries are produced for every 3-5 acre Kona Coffee farm. After milling, each 10,000 pounds is reduced to 2,000 of viable beans.
Most Kona Coffee farms are about 2-7 acres in size. Today, many Kona Coffee farmers proudly claim to be 5th generation descendants of the original Kona Coffee farmers.
Kona Coffee Trees
The Coffee “trees” are actually classified botanically as bushes. The coffee-industry, however, refers to these bushes as Coffee Trees.
Coffee trees begin to bear fruit after 3 years.Each tree has dark green, glossy leaves and clusters of fragrant white flowers that bloom simultaneously. These clusters are affectionately known as “Kona Snow.” If allowed to, a coffee tree can grow to more than 30 feet tall. In Kona, however, they are pruned on a regular basis to encourage cherry production and make harvesting easier.
Kona Coffee Berries
Kona coffee trees bloom from January to May. The coffee cherries start showing up in April. A coffee cherry is the sweet, pulpy fruit that the coffee tree produces. The berry is oval, about 1.5 cm long. Ripening takes about 8 months – the berry starts a green color and, as it ripens, turns yellow, then crimson, and finally a dark red/black … indicating it’s ready for harvest. Harvest usually begins at the end of August. Each coffee tree produces about 25 pounds of cherries.
Handpicking the Kona Coffee Berries
In Kona, all coffee must be handpicked because the berries ripen at varying times. When some cherries are ready, others need to be left to ripen. In addition, the volcanic lava slopes where Kona coffee grows are difficult to navigate with machinery.