This article was written by Shannon Marks, a Snowy Elk Blog Contributor.
Kona, located along the west coast of Hawaii Island, has produced coffee continuously since the early 1800’s. Kona Coffee is a world-renowned coffee grown exclusively on the slopes of two volcanoes on the Hawaiian Big Island. Kona Coffee grown here is incredibly special because the beans are produced in such ideal growing conditions. The porous and mineral rich volcanic soil combined with sunny mornings and cloudy or rainy afternoons, little wind, and mild nights give coffee from the Big Island a unique taste. We recently acquired a small batch of these unique green coffee beans are so excited to be roasting it them locally, here in Wyoming.
Image: UCC Hawaii, 2017
A Little Farm in Honaunau
We recently bought raw green Kona coffee beans from a beautiful little farm in Hawaii. Captain’s Ohana Farm is a family owned and operated business, run by Tina and Jack Turner. Since moving to Hawaii and becoming farmers, Jack and Tina say they, “have never worked so hard, but have never felt such passion and pride for what they do.”  Their small farm is located on the Big Island in Honaunau, a small town in the Kona-belt. The owners explain that Kona beans only satisfy their name if they are grown at a 800 to 3000-foot elevation. This elevation plays a crucial role in the flavor of the beans. Captain’s Ohana Farm is at approximately 1000 feet in elevation on the southern side of the Kona Coffee District or "Kona Belt".
Why Kona Coffee is Special
The Kona Belt is known for being a region with ideal conditions for growing coffee beans. It is only a small portion of the Hawaiian Big Island, but a lot of work is going into the production of these very special beans. “Kona coffee is produced by over 600 mostly small farms for a total of about 2 million pounds of green Kona coffee beans annually.”  Hawaii is known to include all six of the most important elements for the ideal conditions in which to grow the coffee beans, especially in the Kona region.
It has a rich, volcanic, and fertile soil in which all essential nutrients needed for coffee trees to prosper are provided. It is at the specified altitude, which allows for cooler nights. The cooler nights, “produce a coffee cherry that will ripen slower. Slower ripening coffee cherries translates to a larger bean of greater water density all of which has a dramatic effect on taste.”  In the Kona region, periods of direct sun and warm temperatures are followed by afternoon cloud cover that form over the higher elevations. The cloud cover acts as shade and naturally protects the coffee trees from the “harsh tropical sun and brings the temperatures down to a more moderate level. In addition, the afternoon clouds bring much needed rain after the morning sun bath.”  The rainfall sufficient and regular, and provides plenty of moisture for the plants. The gentle slopes of Kona offer the ideal angle for drainage, preventing puddles from forming. If the ground was not sloped enough, the roots would get drenched, and there wouldn’t be enough healthy runoff throughout the soil.
What is most special about the Kona beans we are roasting from Jack and Tin'a farm, is they come from a warmer and more arid part of the Kona Coffee Belt in Hawaii. Since the trees on their side of the belt are not as “environmentally comfortable” as those which are in the higher farms of the belt, the beans are slightly smaller.
Jack and Tina explain that, "the smaller bean size helps to contribute to a more intense flavor, and a bit more caffeine.”
Photos: (Left) A worker at Captain's Ohana Farm picking fresh coffee cherries; (Right) Harvested and ready to be pitted!
At Captain’s Ohana Farm, they take very good care in growing their beans. They only sell beans from their farm, single origin. They plant, grow, maintain, pick all of their own coffee, and see it through to sun drying and proper storage. Coffee picking is a very labor-intensive process, which contributes to the uniqueness and fine quality of the coffee produced, as great care is taken during the process.  At Captain’s Ohana Farm, they know exactly when to pick the beans so they are at the peak of ripeness, ensuring excellent quality for when they are roasted.
Often times Kona coffee is found blended with other cheaper coffee beans, but it's still claimed to be "Kona Coffee". We will be offering only Jack and Tina's pure, organic, single-origin Kona, NOT blended with anything!
Photo: The raw coffee beans have been separated from the cherry-fruit, and are now being sun-dried.
The flavor profile of the beans will be a “wonderful fruity and floral bouquet."  This unique combination comes from the diverse history of the farm. They grow 85 types of exotic fruits and vegetables, adding up to over 200 fruit trees, with the coffee trees nestled right in the middle. Their variety is vast, stretching from the well-known “avocado, mango, papaya, grapefruit and lime to the exotic lychee, sour sop, abiu, rambutan and many more.” 
Photo: A variety of unique Hawaiian fruit also grown at the farm.
Their farm is also known for housing approximately 2,000 honeybee hives, contributing to the excellent pollination of the entire coffee crop
Photo: The honey bee hives located on the farm work hard to pollinate all the crops, including the coffee plants!
The owners of Captain’s Ohana Farm strive to preserve the diverse atmosphere. To do so, they are very environmentally friendly. They “fertilize organically and use no herbicides or pesticides on or around anything we grow.”  Furthermore, they are extremely aware of the importance of their surroundings. Since they are located directly above one of the world’s most valuable coral reefs, they take that obligation very seriously with all of their farming practices.
“Kona coffee is carefully processed to create a deliciously rich, aromatic cup of medium body.”  Though coffee farms are found throughout the Hawaiian Islands, it is Kona coffee, from the large island of Hawaii, that is best known and always in high demand. These young trees that are planted in the volcanic soil prosper greatly where nature has provided a miraculously balanced environment.
The Turner’s express that they, “feel so blessed to live and work in such a beautiful place,” as they contribute to producing some of the best beans in the world for the best coffee.
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Captain's Ohana Farm Website
Captain's Ohana Farm Facebook Page
1. Captain's Ohana Farm Overview Document
2. "The Kona Coffee Belt - Ideal Coffee Country"
3. Love Big Island Travel Guide - "The Kona Coffee Guide"
Blog Cover Background Photo Credit: E. Weintraub, 2018
Snowy Elk Blog
Part of the Snowy Elk Experience is exploring the story of coffee and the unique processes applied to create a "craft" roast. It is here where we share our knowledge and perspective of Wyoming-roasted coffee, inspired by adventure, balance and natural conservation.