As you may or may not remember (or read/didn’t read), the Big Island has approximately 790 coffee plantations/farms. Narrowing it down to only one was a rather daunting task, but I did a bit of research and history, looked at only those in the Kona region, and further narrowed it down to those who offered tours. After learning about Captain Cook’s fate, I decided the best thing to do was not show up unannounced any where there weren’t tours, especially given we were only a couple of miles from where he landed!
In the end, I picked Greenwell Farms, located on the Mamalahoa Highway in Kealakekua. It was not a far trip from Kailua-Kona and is conveniently located on the highway we chose to take to Hilo, filled with lots of fun things to do along the way!
As we drove up the driveway, I could barely contain my excitement and I’m sure that I was out of the car before it was even in park! Greenwell offers tours everyday from 8am to 4pm–you don’t need a reservation, just show up and wait for the next tour they offer (I think we waited about 4.5 minutes). The tour itself was about 30 minutes with a coffee tasting following.
Greenwell Farm was founded in 1850 by Henry and Elizabeth Greenwell, who left England and relocated in Kona.
Before we even started the tour, we saw several other fruit bearing trees/plants–all of which I had never seen before (the tree/plant that is, I am well acquainted with the fruit), like avocado, banana, and pineapple.
The first stop on our walking tour (don’t panic–it’s an easy walk, you’re not scaling the mountain!) was an up-close look at a few trees with cherries on them. I think I made EVERYONE take my picture with The Trees.
I was dragged away from we left the coffee trees, we then headed over to the building where all the magic happens: what happens to the cherries after they are picked. Aka, they are soaked in water, depulped, and then dried.
After the beans are dried, they are graded, sorted and then packaged in 100lb burlap sacks to store until it is time to be roasted and packaged.
As our tour guide colorfully walked us through the process, she had on had various coffee cherries/beans at different stages of the process.
The tour concluded with questions and then we headed back for my second favorite part (aside from The Trees): tasting!
Alas, there were no pictures of the tasting because well, WE WERE TASTING! Greenwell Farms has a very impressive line-up of coffees, in various roasts. Wahoooo! I was so excited and it was another reason I chose to visit Greenwell–because I noticed that they have medium roasts in their collection. I think we all know how I feel about dark roasts. If you don’t, I’ll just keep my rant to a minimum and just say that I liken dark roasts to licking the bottom of an ashtray. Not that I have ever actually licked the bottom of an ashtray, but in my mind it’s the closest descriptor I can get.
I WILL HAVE TO ADMIT that I did have a few decent dark roasts while in Hawaii because they weren’t too darkly roasted–only a step or two up from a medium roast–so you still got a lot of flavors other than “bottom of the ashtray”.
After we had tasted nearly everything, it was hard not to buy it all! I did manage to narrow it down to my two favorites–the Peaberry and the Onouli–and then debated/lamented for a good 20 minutes about which one to get. I mean, in addition to the gifts I was purchasing (I wasn’t going to be totally selfish, even though I reeeeeeeeeeally wanted to be!).
In the end, I went with the Onouli because it is sourced from 100 year old trees and if you’re making a pilgrimage to a coffee mecca, you should definitely splurge and get the really delicious and rare stuff.
I was a bit sad when it was time to head out, but I knew that we still had a lot of places to see on the Big Island–and besides, I was taking a bit of Greenwell home with me.