What I love most about visiting Jonathan’s family in Hawaii is his father’s backyard garden. His dad grows everything from Hawaiian papaya, apple bananas, to turmeric and purple sweet potatoes! It’s always a treat to wake up to fresh fruit and vegetables on the table.
One of his newer editions to his garden was a Kona Coffee Tree. Jonathan, being the coffee connoisseur (or snob) he is, wanted to harvest and roast his own beans for the first time. And of course, I was going to tag along for that adventure.
We went to the backyard and picked a handful of ripe berries. I attempted to eat one raw… and boy, was that a bad decision. It was super bitter and clearly not what I expected from a pretty berry.
Once we were done with our harvest, we went back inside to give them a quick rinse, and then the real work began.
Unbeknownst to me, coffee beans are actually the seeds inside the berries. Besides the flesh of the berry, another filmy layer (the scientific term known as “mucilage”) protects the seed, and both need to be removed prior to roasting. Once we had exposed all the seeds, we soaked them in water for a day to loosen the filmy layer.
And then they went out to dry for a few days.
The drying process further separated the husk/parchment layer from the bean, which finally prepared it for roasting!
Roasting required lots of patience. You had to make sure the beans didn’t burn, so every few minutes, we would have to swirl the pan. This process went on for a little under an hour, but even then, the beans were barely roasted (we had lost patience). After grinding and doing a proper pour over, it only produced a tea-like consistency versus a deep coffee hue we were expecting. It was sort of gross so I didn’t even bother taking a picture, haha.
Although our coffee wasn’t as gratifying as we hoped considering all the work we went through, it definitely helped me appreciate the process and respect quality sourcing. Every cup and every brew has its own story and attempting to roast our own beans brought that to life for me. I don’t know if I would do this again (Jonathan is already planning to retry it), but I had a lot of fun and learned a lot.
Side note: must give mad props to whoever figured out how to do all these steps just for a cup of coffee. Who would have thought this process dated back to the 15th century. The Ethiopians, Arabians, or whoever it was must have been pretty bored…