KAILUA-KONA — Coffee tours are a staple of the industry but on Saturday, Hawaii Island growers are bringing the farm to the community.
The Kona Coffee Farmers Association (KCFA) is offering free admission to the 12th annual Kona Coffee and Small Farm Expo, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Old Airport Pavilion. The event is sponsored by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Hawaii County and Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union.
While coffee is the headliner, the day is about more than beans and cherry.
“It’s really for anyone who has a small farm, whether it’s coffee or avocados or mac nuts,” said Suzanne Shriner, KCFA president. “We have all the services a farmer would need for their fields.”
For connoisseurs the expo will offer tastings, sampling and authentic Kona coffee for sale, as well as products from other farm-centric vendors. Held this year on a Saturday with more of a family-focused theme, there will also be activities for the keiki.
“We’ll have a bouncy castle if people just want to come down and tire out their kids over the weekend,” Shriner said.
In hopes of inspiring a few green thumbs among the youth in attendance, children will also be invited to plant coffee trees of their own.
“They get to plant the seed and then they get to take it home with them in a little pot,” said event coordinator Aesha Shapiro, of Aesha Rose Event and Design.
Also on the agenda are breakout sessions focused on little fire ant management, coffee cupping and small business development.
Attendees can enter raffle giveaways for a chance to win a variety of prizes, Kiawe Smokehouse will offer concessions and Mauka Soul will add a musical touch to the expo’s ambiance, Shapiro said.
Always in demand, there’s less Kona coffee to be had now than in years past. Shriner said that’s because last crop season inexplicably ended for most farmers in late October or early November rather than December, depleting some of the harvest.
“We’re not quite sure why that was,” she said. “Because of that we’re super short on coffee this year. Most farmers who sell direct are going to be cutting off our customers soon because we just don’t have enough to meet market demand.”
Any coffee purchasers planning to attend the expo and buy a bean or two can be assured of authenticity, which is not always the case.
Three Kona coffee farmers recently filed a lawsuit against several large retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Costco and Safeway alleging they’ve been selling counterfeit Kona coffee. The lawsuit contends less than 3 million pounds of Kona green beans are produced annually, yet more than 20 million pounds are sold under the Kona label.
“I think it is a long time coming,” Shriner said. “We’ve known for several decades that counterfeiting was going on. We’ve been frustrated there hasn’t been response from the state who owns the trademark on 100 percent Kona coffee to protect that trademark.”
She added Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, the primary Kona competitor, is able to fetch double the price on the market because no blends are sold and the Jamaican government tests and stamps each bag to guarantee authentication.
More regulation on the part of the state, Shriner said, would mean a healthier industry for purveyors of what is arguably Kona’s most famous export.