We didn’t actually load up on our Kona-to-go coffee until the last day of our trip. A night flight out of Kona’s completely open-air airport enabled us to have a full final day of dreaming and drooling. We drove through Waimea one last time, photographed the Waipio Overlook, and picked up souvenirs and gifts. Finally, with our borrowed copy of The Big Island Revealed guidebook open on my lap, we put ourselves on Highway 11 and set off in search of coffee. We agreed with author Andrew Doughty — who hadn’t steered us wrong our entire time on the Big Island — that fifty-dollars a pound for Kona Joe coffee might be a bit steep for our vacation-thinned wallets. I know Kona Joe uses cutting edge (for the world of coffee) vineyard techniques by “trellising” their beans, but we decided to give them a pass this time. Instead we took Doughty up on his preference for Greenwell Farms.
Greenwell Farms’ history goes all the way back to 1850 when Henry Nicholas Greenwell left the cold drizzle of England for the warm mists of Hawaii and started perfecting his Kona coffee. Critical payoff came when Greenwell’s coffee was given a “Recognition Diploma” for his Kona coffee at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna, Austria.
Upholding the traditions and standards set over a century ago by their British founder, the current owners of Greenwell Farms — actual descendants of Henry Nicholas Greenwell — now grow the coffee on “150 acres of the most productive land in the Kona District adjacent to Henry Nicholas Greenwell’s ancestral home and purchase coffee cherry from over 200 selected farmers within the Kona region.”
In that relaxed “island time” and decidedly uncaffeinated way, Greenwell Farms’ tour leader and tasting expert invited us to sample every single coffee they had warming in carafes. We tried about ten — including mac nut and chocolate mac nut-flavored coffee, which was like drinking dessert — and finally stocked the Medium Roast and the Private Reserve. The tasting expert smiled when we “oohed” and “ahhed” over the Medium Roast because it happens to be the blend he warms his mug with all day. He also revealed that San Franciscans always seemed to favor that particular coffee.
Once we got our treasured beans home, we ground them, measured them, and brewed them. The resulting coffee was so smooth, so pure, so clean that I didn’t need my usual load of sugar or milk. Here was a coffee I could actually drink black. For me, this was an amazing thing. It wasn’t that long ago that Blue Bottle weaned me off of highly flavored coffeehouse drinks, but I was still blanching* my coffee with fair amounts of milk. In those months that celebrated our first reign of Greenwell Farms Coffee, milk actually spoiled in our fridge for lack of use.
We ran through our treasured Kona in too short a span, but Santa fragranced my stocking with a few more pounds of the Greenwell Estate Private Reserve, ensuring that every morning I return to Hawaii.
*I don’t use the term “blanching” here in its popular culinary definition, but in and older definition which means to whiten or to pale. As in, “When Lady Arabella realized the extent of Count Dooku’s perfidy and how she had compromised her reputation for all of Rotten Row to behold, she blanched and fainted dead away.”
Hwy 11 at 112 and 111 mi
Kealakekua, HI 96750