Winter has arrived on the Kauai Coffee Company farm. While Kauai doesn’t get snow, there are a few tell-tale signs that a new year is almost here. The brightly colored coffee cherries have been plucked from their branches, our harvesters have paraded in for the season, and cooler, wetter weather frequently settles over the mountains and valleys of Kauai’s South Shore.
2021 was another year peppered with innovation and uncertainty, but if there is one thing it taught us, it is that nothing is impossible when you have ‘ohana on your side. We’re so grateful for another year of growing and sharing exceptional 100% Hawaiian coffee with all of you and can’t wait for what next year has in store. We sat down with Fred Cowell, General Manager to learn more about what’s ahead for Kauai Coffee Company and what we can look forward to in the new year.
Q: What are you most excited about for Kauai Coffee Company in the new year?
I’m very excited about the continued growth within our team. Our sustainability efforts are moving from our brains into our hearts. Our team is embracing that we’re not simply complying with criteria for Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade USA, and Non-GMO Project Verified, we’re moving towards what is truly best for our team members, our environment, and our community. I am so proud and could go on forever!
Q: The 2021 harvest ended in December. How did it go? What happens next?
By all measures, it was a fantastic harvest. The total fruit weight and yield per acre harvested were the highest since 2013. We were fortunate to have great weather up until the last two days of the season which was unprecedented. The hard work with annual field maintenance really paid off with a very efficient harvest rate. Our pulping, drying, and milling teams really stepped up their game as well. Both orchard and factory teams were significantly understaffed due to our tight labor economy, but they managed to innovate and cover all the bases. It truly was amazing teamwork!
Once the coffee is pulped and dried after harvest, the parchment will be milled into green coffee. This coffee will have already gone through two separate quality control cupping steps. After milling, it’s stored in 100-pound burlap bags. Every one of the bags is certified and stamped by the State Department of Agriculture as genuine Hawaiian origin coffee. It’s especially important to note that this entire process is fully documented and traceable from seed to cup. Every pound of 100% Kauai Coffee has a known history and pedigree.
Q: 100% Kauai Coffee has earned the unique distinction of being triple certified by leading sustainability advocates. What sustainability goals have you set for next year? What are you looking forward to achieving next?
We’re not only working to meet the various certification standards but exceed them. Many of the changes we’ve put in place as part of our sustainability journey seemed arbitrary at first. As we learn more and talk more about why we’re pushing into sustainability, attitudes are shifting. 2022 will be the first year that our team begins to distribute some of the sustainability premiums that have been earned with our packaging now displaying the badges. We look forward to seeing changes in employees’ lives, job satisfaction, and extended families and communities.
Q: Are there any national or global coffee trends you are excited to explore with Kauai Coffee in 2022?
As a result of COVID, I think people have begun to think differently about where, how, and why they drink their coffee. More people are buying directly and locally with online purchases. They’re more willing to experiment and try new origins and beans that they can grind and brew at home. It’s no longer about just getting a coffee drink but understanding where it’s from and who grew it. We firmly believe that coffee shouldn’t be a mystery but represent a specific community.
Q: In 2021, Kauai Coffee collaborated with Kauai Island Brewing on a Coffee Stout which earned a gold medal at the Hawaii Craft Beer Awards, can you tell us what small batches, experiments, or collaborations are in store in 2022?
The stout was indeed a cool collaboration and an excellent example of external innovation. The Rum Barrel Aged Coffee we produced in collaboration with Koloa Rum is another. It’s truly a limited edition (even numbered on the bag) because we can only produce a few hundred bags per barrel.
We love being able to work closely with other local entrepreneurs, create unique offerings and innovate our production process at the same time. Our custom pulping mill has had some improvements that allow us to produce amazing small batch coffees known as naturals. These are coffees that are not pulped, but instead sundried with the fruit on the seed to impart the fruity essence to the finished coffee. Additionally, because of our electronic optical sorter, we are now beginning to experiment with coffee fruit tea known as cascara. We’re still learning, and occasionally failing, but innovation requires the willingness to fail along the way. We have a few more things under wraps, but I think I’ll head over to Kauai Island Brewery now and contemplatively sample a pint of innovation
Q: The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt travel and the supply chain. What has been the most challenging thing about working in the coffee industry over the last two years, and what has been an opportunity or unexpected benefit?
We’re fortunate that our business is diversified into many sales channels. We were especially hard hit when visitors to Hawaii halted in 2020. The travel bans affected retail sales and our Visitors Center was forced to shut down for months. We saw so many of our local community affected as tourism jobs went away. We were able to keep most of our team employed in orchard, factory, administrative, and other sales functions. An unexpected benefit was a significant increase in online sales for our coffees. People across the nation were able to drink more coffee at home. Here in Hawaii, more people started buying local to help each other. I recognized a big shift in the tenacity and resiliency of our Kauai Coffee Company team. That shift remains with us to this day and is perhaps the thing that carried us through this year’s harvest.
Q: If you could tell someone who has never tried Kauai Coffee one thing about it, what would that be?
While I was away from Hawaii during my time in the military, I loved to get coffee from my parents’ farm. The memories of Hawaii would flood back with the first whiff of ground coffee and taste from the cup. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a friend or even family member send you their coffee from their farm on Kauai whenever you’d like? No mystery there, just a cup of pure traceable aloha.
Q: What else should our ‘ohana know or look forward to in 2022?
We’re so blessed to have such a loyal and supportive team. I mean that internally as well as externally. We couldn’t produce such a world-class product without the dedicated professionals on our team. From the top down they’re passionate about their craft. Our customer base is likewise fanatical about our products and our company. Which only causes us to become energized to improve. It’s a fantastic, symbiotic loop relationship. We’re living our mission statement to provide the ultimate coffee experience with passion, expertise, and Aloha.
We can’t wait to share a cup of aloha with you in the new year. Shop online for 100% Kauai Coffee today.