Interview Series : Fred Cowell, Kauai Coffee Company
Updated: Apr 29, 2022
Flavor Waves had the pleasure of sitting down via Zoom to interview Fred Cowell, General Manager of Kauai Coffee Company, and learn more about their gorgeous estate, how they are incorporating technology into coffee, and all that they are bringing to the State of Hawaii and beyond.
Kauai Coffee may be the second stop for the Flavor Waves interview series, but when you travel to Kauai, Hawai'i, it should be the very first stop on your trip!
Kauai Coffee Company has over 4 million coffee trees grown on 3,100 acres, making it the largest coffee grower in the U.S.
Kauai Coffee Company is a true Hawaiian coffee estate. From growing the coffee to roasting and packaging, they employ sustainable, environmentally sound practices throughout every step of the process. Above all, they focus on assuring the highest quality and delivering their customers and visitors with excellence and the familiar taste of the Hawaiian islands.
History of Kauai Coffee
Kauai Coffee began in the early 1800s as McBryde Sugar Company, one of the first sugar farmers in Hawaii. In 1987, the transformation from McBryde Sugar Company to Kauai Coffee diversified the Kauai farming industry and coffee planting begun.The vast and beautiful property was up to 5,000 acres at its largest. Today, it sits at a sprawling 3,100 acres with 2,800 of those acres being coffee trees.
Kauai Coffee now provides specialty coffees throughout the islands of Hawai'i, the mainland United States, and globally.
Farm and Harvesting
From first blossom to the finished product, Kauai Coffee has optimized every step of their process. On Kauai, the blossoming begins in February or March, and by May, the young fruit begins to form. The fruit ripens around late September and harvesting begins. Once harvesting is completed, the beans undergo a rigorous quality control process to ensure that every cup you enjoy is of the highest quality, worthy of the Kauai Coffee name. Wet processing, pulping, drying, milling, grading and shipping is all done on site at the Kauai farm.
They have eight different coffee varieties on property including Yellow Catuai, Red Catuai, 280 acres of Typica and the popular Blue Mountain. Kauai Coffee also has 40+ additional varieties on their testing lots.
In Hawaiian, the word for family is Ohana. Kauai Coffee views themselves and their employees as an Ohana. They have multi-generations of families working on their farm. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the farm would employ 145-150 full time workers. During harvest season, that number would jump to 185 employees needed on round the clock shifts 24/7 for three months straight. Due to the pandemic, Kauai Coffee has been running on less employees and working to build back up to pre-Covid staffing.
Use of Technology
Kauai Coffee has used technology to help them grow their farm and sustain growing demand for their superior coffee. Their entire 2,800 active growing areas of the farm are fully irrigated. This helps farm workers be able to track irrigation and other essential farm tools via an iphone app.
Drones are also a big part in Kauai Coffees production operations. The company uses drones to capture data from above using infrared sensor technology. In addition, you can view the gorgeous landscape of the scenic property via drone footage on their YouTube channel.
E-Commerce, Green Coffee & Visitor Center
Kauai Coffee has expanded to many different markets including retail sales, hotel and restaurant sales locally in Hawai'i and E-commerce sales on their website. During the pandemic online sales increased substantially for the coffee e-commerce space. Kauai Coffee saw first hand the fruits of this trend and doubled their online business over the last three years.
With 3,100 acres of land many coffee roasters may wonder where they can get their hands on some green coffee from the Kauai Coffee farm. These days 90% of growth is sold as Kauai Coffee and only 10% of sales is sold as green coffee.
The Kauai Coffee Visitor Center is a hugely popular attraction for visitors to the island. Each guest is greeted with a freshly brewed cup of Kauai Coffee. Visitors can enjoy a stroll through the coffee orchard, talk to their friendly guides, shop for gifts to take home and of course sample the exclusive line of estate-grown Hawaiian coffees. The visitor center is seeing record sales post Covid with March 2022 being the best month to date. Each day they can expect up to 900 guests and approximately 300,000 visitors annually!
"It's like the Disneyland of Coffee"
Popular Coffees & Flavors
Kauai Coffee offers a variety of coffees for any palate. The exceptional coffees range from the soft, fruity Kauai Blue Mountain to the intense, chocolaty, dark-roasted Peaberry. They also offer flavored coffees, including Coconut Caramel, Vanilla and Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Hazelnut and Toasty Banana Nut Cream. Tasting our coffee varieties is free on site and deliciously satisfying. Kauai Coffee prides themselves in offering only all natural flavors.
At Flavor Waves we are so grateful to have had the opportunity throughout our 25 years to make personal connections with many people in the coffee and tea industries. We look forward to introducing you to more exceptional people as we move through our educational interview series.
Looking to connect with Kauai Coffee? Here is where you can find them!
Product Inquiries, Green Coffee Sales, Visitor Center:
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