for a high quality Kona
by Les Drent
Yours truly standing
in front of a huge “Liberica” coffee tree.
With nearly 100 different varieties of coffee trees
existing in the world today there is only one that has
contributed to the famous reputation of Kona. Known
today as Kona Typica this coffee variety
was first called Guatemalan when it was
introduced back in 1892 by an Oahu grower named Hermann
Widemann. After this variety was grown for several years
in a Hamakua orchard on the Big Island growers were
convinced that this coffee was far superior to the Brazilian
variety which was first brought to Kona back in 1828
by Reverand Samuel Ruggles. This Guatemalan
variety or Kona Typica continues to flourish
for over 100 years now.
For experimental purposes growers have begun to introduce
several different varieties of coffee to Kona. Seeking
new tastes and more disease resistance the results have
varied but the majority of Kona coffee grown continues
to be from the Typica strain.
Immature coffee cherry
of the “Ethiopian” variety of coffee. Photos were
taken at the University of Hawaii Kona Argricultural
Research Station in Kainaliu-Kona.
Other varieties of coffee have quite a range in tree
sizes. Heights range from a six foot dwarf known as
the Paca variety to the giant 30 foot tall
variety known as Liberica. Bean sizes vary
greatly also from the size of a small bb shot to the
large margogipe bean size which can be about
twice the size of a Kona Typica coffee bean.
The coffee tastes of these different varietals can
also vary as well, including their resistance to disease,
yields, bean quality, leaf shape and color.
In Kona and other coffee farm regions known for their
production of high quality gourmet coffees, it is important
to begin an orchard with a high quality, high yielding
seed stock. Even amongst the Kona Typica
stock and especially in the more recent plantings variations
have occurred because of cross pollination. The result
has been the introduction of new varieties. There does
however seem to be minimal cross pollination occurring
with varieties such as Jamaica Blue and
also with a variety known as Sumatran Mocha.
right: Two trays of seedlings such as those pictured
in the box can contain up to two thousand coffee
trees. Enough to plant nearly three acres of coffee!
After determining that each seedling has the proper
root structure they are raised for a year in bags
before being planted in an orchard. The result after
two years from planting in the field are twelve
foot tall, high yielding Kona Typica
According to George Yasuda of Tiare Lani Coffee more
controlled research needs to be done on grafted varieties
and especially in taste testing these beans before widespread
Tiare Lani Orchard.
Selection of the best and purest Kona Typica
coffee stock is very important when planting a new orchard.
Of utmost importance is bean quality, taste, and production.
Improper selection will result in an orchard having
a shorter life span, reduction in yield, a less than
optimal taste and greater problems with pests. It is
worth the extra time selecting the best beans for germination
because well cared for coffee trees have the potential
to produce coffee for over a century. So remember...
choosing the best seeds now will pay off in the end.
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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