Winter Newsletter 2002 – 2003
A Year of Transition and Fantastic Growth
It’s difficult to find the words to describe how exciting this last year has been for LBD Coffee. While Coffee Times fresh roasted 100% Kona coffee continues to roll out the door briskly, Sleeping Giant Coffee is opening new doors in Asia and the organic coffee trees at Blair Estate on the island of Kauai bask in the Hawaiian sun.
My recent trip to Asia led me to the discovery that the love affair for specialty coffee, especially 100% Kona, is one that extends far beyond the reaches of America. Most of my time was spent in Shanghai and Taiwan with brief stops in Japan and Hong Kong. While mainland China is undergoing a rapid change both socially and economically a market exists for entrepreneurs looking to sell western products. China’s recent inclusion in the WTO will open doors of trade like never before. Starbucks, the NBA and many other western businesses have already started to tap into the roots of this change. I’m excited about future trips to both China and Taiwan as I saw potential and felt the excitement of local coffee roasters for purchasing 100% Kona coffee. LBD Coffee has now gone Asian!
Back in Hawaii the Kona coffee industry continues to strengthen as more and more coffee lovers around the globe discover the truly amazing taste of 100% Kona coffee. With coffee acreage growing, milling operations increasing capacity and overall quality of 100% Kona coffee on the rise; the future is very bright for our local industry. Perhaps the most wonderful part of this discovery is the joy I have been able to bring to many of you and your own personal coffee times! Delivering fresh roasted beans has been the guiding force behind my search for new frontiers in the coffee world. This search ultimately led me to the island of Kauai nearly 5 years ago... an island that saw its first planting of coffee 30 years before it ever reached the shores of Kona. Deep within the valleys and fertile soils of the Garden Island I discovered a taste so unique that it did not rival Kona coffee but complemented it with a completely different taste. My discovery proved that variety certainly is the spice of life!
With an interest in everything organic I was encouraged to try my hand at farming, and nearly one year into my first planting tree heights at Blair Estate range from 3-6 feet and the trees should bear their first coffee fruit in the fall of 2003. At the time I will be harvesting and milling my first coffee beans, transition into the new visitor center/roasting facility/coffee mill should be complete. This moment in time will end a nearly 2 year push of both vision and hard work. Sipping the first cup of my organic coffee from the farm’s front lanai (porch) will be a sweet moment indeed... and also a moment that you, the customer, will be able to share with me during your next visit to the islands!
Guaranteed 2-3 Day Shipping!
Since 9/11 I have unfortunately experienced many delays and shipping problems with the United States Postal Service. Missing packages, as well as some very late arrivals, have mostly been the result of third party carriers now used by the USPS to handle mail. Mail from Hawaii in the past was always carried on the reliable passenger airlines moving from the islands but with new security restrictions, that is obviously not possible anymore. I do think the service is bound to improve and I can honestly say that over the 10 years of shipping with the USPS, their track record was near perfect up until this last year. The recent rise in USPS shipping rates is also a reason I am introducing Federal Express as my new shipping handler. With nearly comparable rates, customers can now call for a tracking number, and every package is guaranteed 2 days west of the Rockies and 3 days east of the Rockies.
Coffee Times Magazine Welcomes Rod Weigel
In keeping with this year’s theme of “change” I would like to introduce Coffee Times Magazine new sales representative, Rod Weigel. Rod comes to us with over 16 years of advertising/sales experience with US West, Dex in Portland, Oregon. Rod has been coming to the Hawaiian Islands for the past 10 years and is well aquainted with the coffee industry. He brings a new enthusiasm for our magazine and is looking forward to contacting businesses wishing to advertise in our alternative guide highlighting the best of the islands. You can contact Rod at 1-800-698-7717 or through email at email@example.com
100% Kona Extra Fancy is Back!
Several years ago I discontinued selling the Extra Fancy grade of 100% Kona coffee because lack of availability. While I always felt that the grade of Fancy and even in some cases a very clean grade of Prime measured up in every way to Kona’s leading grade, Extra Fancy; I’m delighted that I’ve been able to add it back to my mail order list of products. And... with the burgeoning industry in Kona, several new mills and nearly one thousand new acres of coffee coming online, I have confidence that I will be able to obtain a regular supply of Kona Extra Fancy coffee. It’s funny to note that I’m still a committed Peaberry drinker though, as I still find the high density and pungent taste of this coffee to be so unique in taste that it continues to capture my attention at my own coffee time.
Age is Everything! Kauai and Molokai Coffees Mature
Farming in the first world is no easy task. Simply ask any commercial farmer no matter where you are in the United States. But in time... the rich social life-style that the farm does provide starts to weave a deep enough thread in the lives of those working the farm that sooner or later... the farm becomes a mainstay as well as a way of life for those in the local community. Molokai and Kauai coffee farms are the perfect examples.
When I received my first bag of Extra Fancy grade coffee from Molokai this year I honestly was not expecting to be all that impressed... especially when I roast and sell Kona for a living. When I broke the threaded seal on the bag and took a first peek at the beans, I knew the future was becoming brighter for Molokai coffee. When the first batch of beans hopped in the hot air roaster and the aroma filled the air, I was impressed by not only the smell but the consistency of these beans. Usually... coffees of lesser origins and grade have a tendency to be milled and dried erratically, thus causing some beans to roast more or less than others; and this greatly contributes to poor quality in the cup. Growing, handpicking, sun drying, and strict grading standards has always held Kona above the rest of the world in coffee quality.
Not the case though with the new Molokai. Clean and brisk... the taste measured up to everything the appearance indicated in the opening moments of viewing Molokai’s new season’s beans. The future is bright; hang in there Molokai; you’re on the right track!
Watching the Kauai coffee industry evolve has been inspiring. While I will be the first to admit how cut throat the 150 year old “gold plated” Kona coffee industry can be, most coffee critics in Kona didn’t give Kauai a chance of surviving the rigors of growing and marketing another coffee other than Kona in Hawaii. Many simply thumbed their noses at Kauai’s efforts. To make matters worse Alexander Baldwin owned Kauai Coffee Company crashed the industry over ten years ago with nearly four thousand acres of planted coffee on Kauai’s southwest shore. A daunting amount of planted acreage when at the time Kona’s production was down to less than 2,000 acres. While Kauai’s struggles for making the grade have been well documented over the years their perseverance to right the wrongs has been remarkable. In the face of criticism Kauai forged ahead and one by one corrected and eliminated any shortcomings of their coffee production processes: creating better soil conditions, timing mechanized harvesting, using better milling techniques, implementing grading standards, and making the giant leap away from having the majority of their coffee toll roasted on mainland United States, thus becoming stale on its journey back to Hawaii. Kauai coffee has made a 180 degree turn in their coffee practices. Now targeting on perfection, Kauai coffee has proven more than anyone that staying the course pays big dividends in business and farming. The future is not only bright for Kauai coffee; but the future is now, and their exceptional coffee speaks of this truth! I can honestly say that every year the quality improves and who knows where this will lead Kauai in the coffee world.
A Farewell Maui...
Some of you may be wondering why your favorite Maui coffees are disappearing from my mail order list. I’m sad to report that last year Kaanapali Estate on Maui’s west side of the island closed their doors. While little notice was given to anyone throughout the coffee world of their closing, I suppose the economics simply did not justify the continued struggle. While the trees are now gone I still do have several hundred pounds of green coffee in supply and I will continue to offer this coffee to the public for as long as the supply lasts. Farewell Maui; you will be missed.
Sleeping Giant Coffee Company
While the dirt continues to fly on the farm and the building continues, I have also been working on marketing Sleeping Giant Coffee in Asia as well. Recognizing the lack of gourmet specialty coffee on the store shelves in Asia I think the market will welcome a new label with a new and better taste! Too often it has become the standard practice of large commercial coffee operations to peddle coffee produced at the expense of third world farmers who struggle in an industry that all too often denies them the independence to get ahead. To further tarnish the reputation of gourmet specialty coffee many of these roasters, whether they are aware of it or not, over-roast their beans to hide the imperfections and low grades of what they are buying from green coffee brokers. Coupled with the fact that much of this coffee is chocolate, cream and sugar whipped into dark roasted espresso drinks the average person has no idea what they are missing in a real fresh roasted, high grade, pure cup of coffee. As has been the case in the mainland United States, once a person is introduced to the taste of 100% Kona Coffee, 100% Hawaiian coffee, or any high grade of 100% international coffee it is a taste for which they will return. And for me... anytime I can see a person appreciate a great cup of fresh roasted coffee, I know my effort was well worth it!