Basic Kona Bean Plant Etymology
The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the European languages generally appear to have gotten the name from Turkish kahveh, about 1600, perhaps through Italian caffè. Arab qahwah, in Turkish pronounced kahveh, the name of the infusion or beverage; said by Arab lexicographers to have originally meant “wine” or some type of wine, and to be a derivative of a verb-root qahiya “to have no appetite.” Another common theory is that the name derives from Kaffa Province, Ethiopia, where the species may have originated.
The tree averages from 5–10 m (16–33 ft) in height. As the tree gets older, it branches less and less and bears more leaves and seeds. Plants are grown in rows several feet apart. Some farmers plant fruit trees around them while Islanders plant on the sides of hills, because Kona coffee beans need specific conditions to flourish. Ideally, Arabica coffees are grown at temperatures between 15 and 24 °C (59 and 75 °F) and Robusta at 24–30 °C (75–86 °F) and receive between 15 and 30 cm (5.9 and 11.8 in) of rainfall per year. Heavy rain is needed in the beginning of the season when developing and later less in the season as they ripen.
Processing of Kona Coffee Beans
When the fruit is ripe, it is almost always handpicked, using either “selective picking”, where only the ripe fruit is gathered, or “strip-picking”, where all of the fruit is removed from a limb all at once. This selective picking gives the growers reason to give their hand picking a certain specification called “operation red cherry” (ORC).
Two methods are primarily used to process berries. The first, “wet” or “washed” process has historically usually been carried out in Central America and areas of Africa. The flesh of the cherries is separated from the seeds and then the seeds are fermented – soaked in water for about two days. This softens the mucilage which is a sticky pulp residue that is still attached to the seeds. Then this mucilage is washed off with water.
The “dry processing” method, cheaper and simpler, was historically used for lower-quality seeds in Brazil and much of Africa, but now brings a premium when done well. Twigs and other foreign objects are separated from the berries and the fruit is then spread out in the sun on concrete, bricks or raise beds for 2–3 weeks, turned regularly for even drying.
The Green Kona Coffee Bean
The term “green coffee bean” refers to un-roasted mature or immature Kona beans. These have been processed by wet or dry methods for removing the outer pulp and mucilage and have an intact wax layer on the outer surface. When immature, they are green. When ready to hand pick, they have a reddish color and typically weigh 300 to 330 mg per dried bean. Nonvolatile and volatile compounds in green coffee, such as caffeine, deter many insects and animals from eating them. Further, both nonvolatile and volatile compounds contribute to the flavor of the bean when it is roasted. Nonvolatile nitrogenous compounds (including alkaloids, trigonelline, proteins, and free amino acids) and carbohydrates are of major importance in producing the full aroma of roasting and for its biological action. Since the mid 2000s, green 100% Kona Coffee seed extract has been sold as a nutritional supplement and has been clinically studied for its chlorogenic acid content and for its lipolytic and weight-loss properties.