Growing and Processing
As mentioned earlier, the arabica varieties growing on this estate were selected based upon cup quality and their ability to produce at various elevations. The entire estate is planted in a hedgerow style with the tree spacing 36 inches apart in the rows and 12 feet separating the rows. The entire farm is drip irrigated, with the water coming from the West Maui Mountain streams feeding the 100-year-old ditch system formerly used by the sugar plantation.
This system allows for easy infield maintenance and efficient application of fertilizers through the drip system directly to the root zone. The over riding reason to plant the trees in hedgerows is to facilitate mechanized harvesting. Harvest is normally in the fall months extending into January. Picking can also be done by hand allowing for best selection of coffee cherries. Harvest can theoretically be done almost year round, but flowering begins usually in February where concentration on the next crop begins to be a priority. Harvesting during flowering will negatively affect the next harvest.
Mechanized harvesting requires additional equipment at the processing plant to insure the highest quality. The machine has shaker heads that knock the coffee cherry from the branches, but coffee does not ripen uniformly, therefore what is delivered to be processed includes all forms of cherry ripeness which, if processed as a whole, will result in off tastes and an inconsistent cup. The processing plant, besides its’ normal role of pulping and drying the parchment coffee, also separates ripe from overripe, and immature coffee cherry. All are considered drinkable coffees, but the ability to separate them ultimately gives the customer more choices based on their needs.
Normal pulped ripe cherry is also called “washed” coffee in green coffee terms. Overripe or “raisin” coffee is known as “natural,” or that the coffee cherry ripened on the tree and dried on the tree with the pulp on. Most third world country origins offer natural coffees because of their lack of access to a pulping facility. Immature coffee is that which is picked unripened and normally finds its way back into the field as compost or as off-grade coffee used in the flavoring business.
Coffee leaving the wet mill is pulped and dried in what is known as parchment form. This is a bean that still has a papery layer around it that has separated from the wet, pulped coffee. The coffee can be stored or at this point will be sent through the dry mill for hulling, polishing and grading by size. What comes out of the dry mill is the result of 12 months of growing and bean maturation after flowering with all sizes and grades available out the door in 100-pound burlap bags. This finished products’ next stop is the roasters around the world wanting certified Maui Grown Coffee.