Monday, May 4, 2015

Keeping Quality High

Dr. Andrew Hetzel explained the importance of reducing the defects of coffee going to market, from husks in green beans to chipped, dried out and unripened beans. He said coffee enthusiasts are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to taste specialty coffee. Photos by Julia Neal
Statewide Hawai'i Farm Bureau President and Ka'u Coffee Festival organizer Chris Manfredi along with coffee experts speaking at the 2015 Ka'u Coffee College, Sunday (May 3) morning, urged coffee farmers to keep the quality of Ka'u coffee high.

Dr. Andrew Hetzel talked about many defects that can degrade coffee beans. He talked about sour beans, withered beans, immature, broken and chipped beans all being detriments to holding onto a reputation for specialty coffee. Defects can come from farming, harvesting, processing, transportation and storage methods. All of these have to be handled with the utmost care to keep coffee reputation and prices high, he said. He encouraged farmers to frequently cup their own coffee and those of other farmers and coffees from around the world and to learn to detect defects and how to prevent them.

Andrea Kawabata encouraged farmers to methodically
manage CBB to save Ka'u's excellent reputation.
Andrea Kawabata, from University of Hawai'i, also encouraged high quality. “Once you have tarnished your reputation, it is hard to get it back,” she said. She urged farmers to look toward long-term rather than short-term profit. She said that coffee berry borer treatments have to be planned carefully. “If CBB subsidies (funding) [don’t] come in, spray anyway,” she urged. Farmers were told to save the receipts for possible reimbursement.

Andy Newbom, a coffee buyer from San Diego, talked about tough competition in pricing, with excellent coffee coming from countries where there is cheaper land and less expensive labor than in Hawai'i. He said this makes it all the more important for Ka'u to preserve the highest of standards and to share the farmers’ stories that connect with coffee drinkers and also to distinguish Ka'u from Kona coffee. He shared his saying, “Never give customers what they want. Only give them what you do best.” He said it is not reasonable to think that a coffee business can be sustained by riding on the fame of Hawai'i as a visitor destination. “You have had it easy,” he said.

Chris Manfredi (left) urged farmers to keep up quality. Andy
 Newbom (right) spoke of tough competition in coffee pricing. 
David Waldman of Rojo’s Roastery in Princeton and Lambertville, N.J. talked about increased sophistication of coffee buyers in the high end market. “There is no fooling people anymore about quality of coffee. They will pay high prices for high quality.” He said that ten years ago people didn’t want the citrus flavors of lighter roasts, but now they want to experience these specific qualities. He said that people are using less milk with coffee, showing they want to taste it. He said customers will pay $5 for a pour-over, but the coffee has to be excellent. He urged farmers to allow buyers to visit with them, see the farms, the soil, the trees and to sit with them to cup coffee and be open to suggestions. 

Chris encouraged farmers to keep up with treatments for Coffee Berry Boerer. “Don’t wait. The bugs don’t know that the grant is coming.” He suggested strip-picking at the end of the season and to spray early. He also talked high prices. “For us to sell Ka'u, we need the quality.”

Farmers were urged to become involved with the Hawai'i Coffee Association’s annual convention this summer. See

To learn more about the Ka'u Coffee Festival events visit our website at