We first fell in love with a sleepy little one-stop-light town called Kona on the Big Island in 1988. We couldn't stop talking about Kona so we came back in 1995. We couldn't resist checking out real estate and eventually talked ourselves into acquiring our own piece of paradise. Our land was originally just a pasture with a few mango

and guava trees
growing in volcanic "blue rock", the hardest and most dense form of lava. 

What to do with our land?

Our land is located at a balmy 1200-ft. elevation, nestled on the slopes of the Hualalai Volcano. The land, located in the famous Kona Coffee Belt, is considered one of the world's finest areas for growing fine

coffee. The combination of rich

volcanic soil, warm sunny

days, gentle afternoon showers,

and cool nights, creates ideal

conditions for growing coffee.

As we are active outdoor people,

we decided, in Silicon Valley entrepreneurial style, to start our own Kona Coffee farm. We decided to name our coffee farm, Kiele (key a lay) O Kona Coffee Company. Kiele is the Hawaiian word for Gardenia and Coffee (Coffea Arabica), is a member of the Gardenia Family.

When the trees are in full bloom, the small white blossoms create a marvelous sweet fragrance, much like their Gardenia cousin, which the tropical trade winds spread through the orchard. The wonderful fragrance attracts thousands of honey bees, so when our orchard is in full bloom, it sounds like Keahole International Airport.

First Harvest

We had our first harvest in 2001. Coffee ripens slowly over several months and is ready to be hand-picked only when the green fruit turns to a deep red color which is called cherry. We hand pulped (removed the outside skin and pulp) and fermented the seeds overnight to remove the mucilage covering of the seeds. We then sun dried the beans for about six days. At this stage, the coffee is called parchment for the white covering on the beans. After drying, the parchment is removed by hulling. After we had done all this, we roasted our first coffee!  It was so exciting to taste our first coffee crop!

Building Our Coffee Mill

Our first harvest was quite a learning experience. We learned that great coffee must be processed immediately after picking to maintain the freshest flavor. We also learned that hand processing coffee is a lot of hard work!

We also learned that contracting with a local processor to mill and roast our coffee was not a good idea because when we tasted the coffee, we knew,  we didn’t get our own coffee back!

We decided to build our own coffee mill.  The coffee mill consists of two main components:  a “wet” mill and a “dry” mill.  A “wet” mill is where we pulp the cherry, separating the seeds from the fruit, ferment the mucilage from the beans and then sundry the beans on drying beds. The “dry” mill is where we “hull” the yellow parchment skin from the dry beans and then roast the green coffee beans. 

Coffee Pulpier

Here is a photo of our coffee pulpier.  We can pulp about 300 pounds of coffee cherry per hour.  During our harvest season, we usually pulp about a thousand pounds of cherry per day. After pulping the beans are put into a large tub which is filled with water. Overnight, the natural occurring yeasts on the coffee
ferments the mucilage coating on the beans, making the beans clean and ready for drying in the sun.

Drying Tables

This is a photo of the coffee drying tables. After rinsing, the beans are spread over the screen fabric on the drying table. The drying tables are on wheels so the tables can be easily moved into the sun for drying and back under shelter when the rains come. With good sunny
conditions, the beans will dry to 10 to 12 % moisture content in about five days. Once the right moisture content is reached, the beans ( now called parchment due to the parchment skin still on the beans) are packed into large burlap bags for storage until roasting time.

Hulling The  Parchment

Prior to roasting, the yellow parchment skin on the beans must be removed by a huller. The huller rubs the beans together,
causing the parchment to break and fall off. The huller separates the green beans from the parchment.

Coffee Roasting

Once the beans are hulled, the green coffee should be roasted right away.  If the green beans are stored, they can become moldy which ruins the beans.

Our coffee roaster is called a fluid bed roaster because it has a strong heating element in which heats air blowing the air upward into the roasting chamber, similar to a hot air popcorn popper. The big advantage of a fluid bed roaster is that the beans are roasted evenly by the hot air which circulates around the beans.

As the hot air is blown under the beans, and a “fountain of beans” are formed. This circulates all of the beans to roast evenly. As the temperature increases to around 400° F, a loud crack is heard from the beans. This is known as the “first crack” and is an indicator that the beans are now at a medium roast point. Continuing the roasting process, a second smaller “crack” is heard when the temperature has reached 435° F. This is when the beans are at a medium dark roast level. Continuing the roasting, the beans become shiny when the oils in the beans exude from the beans. This is the dark roast level.
Further roasting takes the beans to the French and Italian roast levels and the beans become very dark in hue.

As soon as the desired level of roast is reached, the beans must be dumped into a cooling tray so the roasting doesn’t continue. As soon as the beans are cool, they are moved to a storage container for weighing and bagging.

We perform a thorough quality control tasting every morning.

We would love to share some of our coffee with you and show you our farm when you come to Kona. We offer farm tours by appointment.

We, at Kiele O Kona are proud to be part of Hawaii's rich coffee history. From our Ohana (family) to yours, we hope you enjoy our coffee as much as we enjoy growing it.

Aloha and Mahalo Nui Loa (thank you very much),
Barbara & Fred Housel


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Fine 100% Kona Coffee -- Simply the best!