Blair Estate Kauai Organic Coffee Farm

where the heavens meet the earth

by Les Drent

Waterfalls cascading down the lush green slopes above Blair Estate

Heavenly may be the best way to describe our experience of raising organic coffee in Kauai.

I'll try to paint a picture of our Kauai organic coffee farm. Sitting on our lanai and looking west to the majestic 2600 foot Mt. Wekiu, we view numerous waterfalls cascading down the lush green slopes. Enclosed within the fencing, five snowy white hair sheep work to keep the grass between the coffee trees under control. During the heat of the day, they can be found sleeping in the shade of the huge dense lychee trees that dot the sloping terrain. Sometimes they can be found chewing on the leaves of the banana trees that separate the north orchard from the south orchard. To the north beyond the coffee orchard are the jagged Anahola Mountains. Sudden showers from the east occasionally interrupt the sun-filled days and the starry nights. They announce their arrival with a hissing sound and the raindrops patter melodicly on the metal roof. Rainbows frequently make their magical appearance arching high above the forest canopy and over our lusterous coffee groves. During the harvest season, coffee pickers can be seen moving down the rows of trees in search of only the best red-ripe coffee cherry, leaving the green berries to ripen in their own time. Often you can enjoy the sweet fragrance of fermenting coffee beans or the unmistakable scent of roasting coffee beans, a sure lure for anyone passing by the farm. The smoke from the roaster is carried along across the countryside by the much-appreciated trade winds.

Left: Jay who helped with the picking, pruning and pulping this year. Right: Sun-drying coffee 

Left: Yours truly pulping coffee cherry at the end of a picking day Right: Fermenting coffee beans 

Not only the physical attributes of this farm, but the life style it affords, contribute to the heavenly nature of our life here. Working at home, having the ability to care for our new daughter, sharing the farm responsibilities with my wife, and meeting coffee lovers from around the world add to the allure.

While our life here is mostly heavenly, the truth of the matter is, and probably always will be, farming is anything but an easy task. Now picture this: picking 100 pounds of coffee cherry in a day, wet hulling it, removing the floaters (useless beans) from each batch, and setting the beans out to ferment. The beans have fermented while we sleep, and we rise at daybreak to wash them and set them out on the drying racks. The picking, wet hulling, etc. begins once again and will continue for about 3 months until most of the cherry is harvested. Oh, and every day the drying beans should be raked about every 3 hours to ensure evenly dried beans. After about a week if the weather cooperates the beans will reach a moisure content of about 11.5 percent and can be moved into the aging room to await dry hulling. Grading the beans and removing defective beans is next. In the end of the 100 pounds of picked cherry, 18 pounds of roasted coffee is left. (sounds a bit like the maple sap/syrup story) Meanwhile, there are still orders to fill, supplies to be restocked, fertilizing to continue (organically and a challenge), mowing to be done, and bills to be paid. And now that the harvest is complete, the trees need to be pruned! The north orchard is now nothing but trunks without branches and leaves; all the cuttings needed to be chipped and carried away to mulch the remaining stumps. The shimmering beauty of these trees should begin to return in a few weeks, but some find it painful to look out at what presently remains of the north orchard.

We are proud of our first harvest and gratified by the smiles and lavish praises of customers who have cupped our organically grown 100% Kauai coffee. Yes. being a farmer is a lot of hard work, but it is well worth it.

Myren who picked the most coffee of any of the pickers on the farm in 2004. Bright red ripe coffee cherry. Friends and fellow teachers Joyce and Brian were wrangled for an afternoon of picking.

A birds nest sits in a coffee tree. The aging room 

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Story appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and appears online for archival purposes only. Any use or reprinting of these stories without the expressed written consent of the author is prohibited.