Healani Farm: Third Place Winner in Kona Coffee Competition

Until 2006, Gary Williams combined all of the coffee harvested from his scattered Kona farms—regardless of quality—and sold it in bulk to a mill. Then, through an enlightening conversation with Paul Thornton, Coffee Bean International’s Master Roaster, he realized that farms surrounding his Healani Farm were winning awards, and by blending coffee of exceptional quality with that of average quality, he might be missing out on an opportunity to offer some even better qualities and receive payment at the upper end of the market price range, for this improved quality. Healani Farm is blessed by an ideal elevation at 1200 feet and deep, rich soil protected by lava flows and tall silver oaks, not to mention amazing panoramic views. On a clear day, one can see the curvature of the earth in three directions!

Paul committed to purchase from Gary’s crop if he changed his philosophy from amassing volume and driving down price to improving quality. In 2007 and 2008, Paul and his team cupped the coffee, shared their impressions with Gary, and gave tips for improvement, including sending pickers through twice as often and only harvesting ripe cherries. (Careful picking weeds out the unripe and overly ripe cherries from the mix.) While this practice costs twice as much, it dramatically improves the quality and increases the chances of fetching a higher price per pound. Paul spent time with Gary sample roasting properly and cupping his coffee to help him better understand the potential of his crops.

Gary took a chance by making an investment in quality, but his risks were rewarded this year when he won third place in the very competitive Kona Coffee Competition. Gary is thrilled because this award puts him on the international coffee radar. He says, "I could never been successful in the coffee competition without your suggestions throughout the year. I appreciate your continued input and encouragement. You have put the focus on the cupping and the final taste. Other buyers have been more focused on low price." With the additional funds that Gary has earned from the higher-quality coffee, he is building a new dry mill for next year’s harvest. This investment will continue to improve quality year-over-year.

And, Paul is thrilled because Coffee Bean International’s customers directly benefit from the process improvements. By establishing a long-term partnership between roaster and grower, jointly we can influence the cup quality. This year, Coffee Bean International purchased 10 bags from Gary’s 80-bag lot.

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