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History of the Estate
The Kaanapali Estate is approximately 4 miles north of Lahaina directly above the Kaanapali resort. The farm is originally a part of the Pioneer Mill sugar plantation, which diversified the land out of sugar cane into coffee in 1988. Pioneer Mill had been farming the land since 1860.
Pioneer Mill, in researching the feasibility of raising coffee on different elevations and differing environmental conditions, a number of arabica varieties were put out in field trials to determine if there would be a significant difference in cup quality grown under West Maui conditions. The outcome of this trial resulted in the planting of four varieties that produced superior coffee quality specific for this region.
This finding allowed the founding of Kaanapali Estate Coffee, Inc. The only recognized Maui coffee farm that eventually grew to 500 acres planted to those four varieties: Red Catuai, Yellow Caturra, Typica and the soon to be renowned Moka variety. The customer base grew over the years as the trees matured being the only Maui origin coffee available. Roasters and Coffee houses were embracing the Hawaiian coffee story, choosing to create Hawaiian blends along side the more traditionally recognized Kona origin coffees.
As a corporate agricultural operation, whose original business intent was to replace sugar cane dollar for dollar, it became evident that the market could not support such a large cost infrastructure supported by a large administrative staff. The costs to break even were well above what the general market would accept. In October of 2001, Kaanapali Estate Coffee closed choosing to keep the trees alive by continued irrigation but without any general maintenance.
In an agreement with landowner, a lease of the land was secured in an attempt to resurrect these mature coffee trees to full productive status with proper attention being paid to the stewardship of the land. This effort resulted in the forming of MauiGrown Coffee, Inc. and the new birth of Maui Coffee as an origin.
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.
The Varieties and Their History
The scientific name Coffea arabica is native to Ethiopia. Records show cultivation taking place as far back as 800 A.D. Although some other species of coffee are grown commercially, selections from C. arabica are the most economically important.
The University of Hawaii field trials done in the late 1980’s tested arabica varieties that had been collected from plantings done in Kona in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. Those varieties were the result of seed collected worldwide. The original UH field trial planting at the Kaanapali Estate is still in existence. Some of the varieties tested were Caturra, Catuai, Progeny 502 (Typica), Guadeloupe, Bourbon, Kents, Margo Gipe, Mundo Novo, Guatemalan, San Ramon, 6661 (Typica), and Moka.
Pioneer Mill selected four of these varieties to grow commercially. All four of these varieties will continue to be farmed by MauiGrown Coffee Inc. These varieties are as follows:
It is called “Yellow” because the cherry ripens yellow instead of the conventionally recognized red color. There is a Red Caturra as well, this as similar to other varieties that are named by their colors like Red Catuai and Pink Bourbon. Caturra is a mutant of C. arabica found in Brazil in 1950 and sent to Kona from El Salvador via quarantine in1954. This variety performs well in hot, drier conditions and is known for its’ short internodes, semi-dwarf quality and high yields. The cup is clean and mild with spicy overtones.
2. Red Catuai
This variety which also has a Yellow sister variety, is a result of a breeding program in Brazil in the 1960’s. It is a cross between Caturra and Mundo Novo. It is a semi-dwarf with excellent agronomic traits. This was the main Variety grown in Costa Rica and Brazil during the 1990’s. This variety carries strong consistency in the cup for brightness and body. Once described by a coffee writer as the “cabernet of coffees.” It is suitable to all growing conditions at the Kaanapali Estate.
3. Progeny 502 and 6661 (Both selections of Guatemalan Typica)
Progeny 502 is the most similar to the Guatemalan grown in Kona. It was a selection of Typica thought to be a superior mutant in the late 1940’s. It was brought to the Kona trial from the Turrialba Research Station in Costa Rica in 1955. While difficult to harvest mechanically this selection consistently produces well and late in the season after all the others have finished. It is grown in the higher elevations at the estate and produces a fine cup with mild acid.
Variety 6661 also known as Pioneer Selection was brought to Kona from Ethiopia. It is very similar to Progeny 502 in cup quality but with a much larger quality coffee bean.
Both Typica varieties are grown in an area of the farm that has been free of chemicals for several years. It is our hope to put this portion if the farm into organic production.
4. Moka (a.k.a. Mokka, Mocha, Maui Moka)
This by far was the most intriguing variety in the trials. Based on the outcome of the cupping results, Pioneer Mill eventually planted a third of their acreage to this variety. It is contrary to the belief that large beans mean a better cup. In the case of Moka, size does matter! It is hard to find a bean larger than a screen 14. The bean is round and is often mistaken for a peaberry. Upon closer examination one can notice the classic dicotyledonous flat side signifying two whole beans per cherry. The cup is smooth and wonderfully fused with different chocolate flavors and often times with good acidity.
Many names are associated with it; a location (the port of Al Mokha in Yemen, a product (coffee shipped from the port of Mocha), a blend of coffee and chocolate called mocha java, a coffee from Ethiopia (Moca), and a specific variety of coffee having small leaves and fruits. The variety has been referred to by all of the above names.
This variety is said to be over 1,000 years old due to its’ origination in Ethiopia grown in what is now Yemen. It has been reported that Moka trees are growing at 10,000 ft. elevation in Yemen. It grows best for us at MauiGrown Coffee at 500 feet. It was put in the Kona plantings in 1955 via Turrialba and quarantine.
Not all is rosy about this variety though, it is hard to harvest by hand and has a habit of alternate bearing. Yields are also typically light. All in all this variety put gave coffee grown on Maui its’ notoriety.
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