Gods Gift to the Coffee Bean - For the coffee drinker,100% Kona is like the finest wine. Take a drive any time of year through the verdant uplands on the West Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii and you can’t help but notice a distinctive aroma wafting through the fresh tropical air—the smell of roasting coffee. - Spirit of Aloha • October, 2005
God’s Gift to the Coffee Bean
For the coffee drinker, 100% Kona is like the finest wine
|John Langenstein and coffee berries|
Take a drive any time of year through the verdant uplands on the West Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii and you can’t help but notice a distinctive aroma wafting through the fresh tropical air—the smell of roasting coffee. That aroma simply means you’re in the heart of a region famous for a signature gourmet product that brings sighs of delight to connoisseurs around the world: Kona coffee. It’s only here, concentrated in a narrow corridor stretching about 30 miles between the mountain communities of Holualoa and Honaunau on the flanks of Mauna Loa, that this highly-prized coffee is produced. This is the Kona coffee “belt,” as it’s known, where a combination of factors makes for superb coffee growing conditions: rich volcanic soil, an ideal elevation of about 1,100 feet and a gentle climate—the coffee plants are kissed by morning sun and caressed by afternoon rain showers.
Everything about this mountainside area on the Kona coast seems so coincidentally perfect for growing fine coffee that one grower calls it “God’s gift to the coffee bean.” The grower is John Langenstein, owner of Langenstein Farm in the fertile Honaunau area overlooking Kealakekua Bay in South Kona. Coffee—the word comes from the Turkish kavhe- has been grown on this coast for more than 150 years, originally transplanted from Guatemalan stock. The plant itself is actually a member of the gardenia family and when the trees, which resemble large bushes with whip-like branches bloom, they are covered with small fragrant white flowers. This happens eight or 10 times a year, resulting in mountainsides of brilliant white blossoms which the locals call “Kona snow.”
Hawaii produces the only American coffee and some is grown on all the Islands except Lanai. But Kona is the king, grown on farms called “estates.” Langenstein’s Kona coffee farm is one of about 40 or so estates found in the coffee belt, most of which are on the small side, from two to eight acres. The coffee grown on Langenstein’s estate farm is comparable in many ways to fine wine grapes grown on small estates in California and elsewhere. It is a labor intensive crop, requiring hand picking (no mechanization here!) and a traditional meticulous and time-consuming processing to bring out the complex taste. Indeed, the words used to describe the best Kona coffee sound exactly those used for the finest wines: ultrasmooth, low acidity, creamy head, multi-dimensional, silky, full-bodied, rich aroma, even “winy.”
The Kona coffee produced by Mr. Langenstein is like a fine wine, and he has worked hard to make it exceptional in every way. You might call him an accidental grower, because when he arrived on this coast from the San Francisco Bay area in 1975 and bought his overgrown property, he didn’t know it once was a coffee plantation. But he discovered 90- year old coffee trees and, knowing that old vines make better wine, he thought the beans from these vintage trees might make good coffee. They didn’t—they made great coffee. From that moment on, he became a man with a passion, to make the best Kona coffee on this coast and share it with the rest of the world.
With an extensive background in the food and wine industry and a former owner of a successful catering business, Langenstein knows what culinary quality is all about. In the case of Kona coffee, this first means selling a product that is 100% Kona coffee. Langenstein explains that most of the “Kona Coffee” you can buy in the Islands or elsewhere is actually a blend: usually just 10% Kona coffee mixed with 90% vastly cheaper and inferior foreign coffees. These blends, unfortunately, can still call themselves “Kona” coffee; so when the typical consumer purchases this product, it tastes nothing at all like the real thing.
Like all great food products of the world, there is no substitute for the authentic, 100% genuine article. But even between the 100% Kona coffee produced by the various estates here, the quality can vary substantially, depending on the grade of beans, the care used in the processing and many other factors. Mr. Langenstein has invested so much of his blood, sweat and tears into his farm in the last three decades, that he treats each crop, practically every bean like precious children. He oversees the many steps of the arduous processing to ensure that quality is there from the first red bean on the tree to the final dark, rich product. Just so you know, these steps include picking, pulping (removing the bean from the red outer covering), drying the beans on a special outdoor platform, grinding the parchment off the beans, sorting and grading and finally, roasting. Langenstein actually ages most of his beans in the parchment stage for two months; he believes this mellows the coffee and brings out flavors the same as storage in oak barrels helps mature wine.
Mr. Langenstein’s diligence in producing a superior coffee has come to the attention of food and wine publications, even the New York Times. You’ll find his 100% Kona coffee served in some of the Islands’ five-star restaurants and hotels, including Alan Wong’s, the Halekulani, Manele Bay and the Fairmont Orchid. Some people visit his farm, where he’s happy to take visitors on a tour. But the way most folks get to enjoy his Kona coffee is by simply ordering from his internet website, whose name is, well just what you’d expect it to be for someone so passionate about a coffee from Paradise—www.kona-coffee.com.
To assure clients that his coffee is 100% Kona coffee, he personally signs each fresh-roasted bag of coffee beans he ships out. He says it shows that all the beans are true Kona, hand-picked at optimum ripeness and processed and roasted to the individual order. He offers three roasts, by the way: a lighter medium roast, a full-body Vienna roast and a darker French Roast. He urges you to drink his coffee straight—no added milk or sugar— to experience the extraordinary flavor of this world class coffee.
Yes, you pay more for Langenstein Farm 100% Estate Kona Coffee than the coffee you’ve been drinking. But you won’t mind. One cup and you’ll know what God meant real coffee should taste like.
An Appetite for Hawaii - Off the usual tourist trail, food growers and entrepreneurs help define the islands' delicious, distinctive cuisine. By Martine Booe - Bon Appétit • March. 2002
From the Bon Appétit: America's food and entertaining magazine
By Martin Booe
|John Langenstein took over a long-neglected coffee farm on the west slope of Mauna Loa 27 years ago. Today, the mainland defector, who likens the complex flavor of his hand-picked coffee to fine wine, is one of the state’s most respected growers of Kona beans. He sells his roasted on-line at kona-coffee.com.|
The ancient chiefs on the Big Island didn't joke around. If you crossed them by, say, stepping on their shadow, you got whacked-unless you managed to scrimmage past the chiefs' warriors to the "place of refuge," a six-acre temple compound located on a jagged peninsula south of Kona. If you make it, you were as good as new.
Today, the spot is known as Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. I wandered around the grounds, contemplating the notion of redemption just by walking on a piece of land.
So redeemed, I took a short drive up the mountain to the quaint village of Captain Cook and the pungent aroma of roasting coffee beans. At Langenstein Farms, which overlooks the place of refuge, John Langenstein creates refuge in each cup of his own Kona estate-grown coffee.
"Drink this for a month and you'll notice it improves your sense of well-being," Langenstien said. This was my first experience with pure Kona coffee, and its silky body, creamy head and complex flavor made it a far cry from the many lackluster Kona blends (they may contain as little as 10 percent Kona) that are sold elsewhere. As we trudged along the rocky hillside, Langenstein zealously tore at invading weeds. "I am a fanatic," he said. Then he paused and corrected himself. "Actually, I'm a maniac. But really, the thing that's unique about what I'm doing is that I care.
New York Times - AS you drive south along the west coast of the Big Island, you can't help smelling the coffee roasting. By R. W. APPLE Jr. - New York Times • Feb 28, 2001
From the Volcano, the Rarest Brew: Kona Coffee
February 28, 2001
By R. W. APPLE Jr.
CAPTAIN COOK, Hawaii -- AS you drive south along the west coast of the Big Island, you can't help smelling the coffee roasting. With that, and the slopes of Mauna Loa on your left, bathed in the sumptuous sunlight of a Hawaiian morning, and the whales cavorting in the blue Pacific on your right, who needs roses?
You are smelling the pride of the Kona coast, the best coffee produced in the United States. It comes from trees growing in the slowly decomposing lava flows that stripe the hillside along a milewide, 25-mile-long piece of land stretching from Holualoa south to Honaunau. One of the most prominent growers in Captain Cook, John Langenstein, calls these 2,500 precious acres "God's gift to the coffee bean."
Coffee is grown on most of the Hawaiian Islands, but Kona's well-drained basaltic soil is perfect. The climate pattern is perfect, with sunlight in the morning, which is beneficial, and cloud cover in the afternoon, a natural canopy that blocks out the day's most intense heat, which is not. And the rainfall is perfect - 60 to 90 inches a year at 1,100 feet, compared with 2 inches on the beaches only a mile away.
Whether brewed in a drip pot or in an espresso machine, pure Kona produces a cup of coffee with a creamy head and a magnificently full body. Its taste is winy and multidimensional, with enough acidity to give it balance. The first time I tasted it, almost a decade ago, I knew it was something special, and I'm no kind of coffee connoisseur. My choosy wife, Betsey, agreed.
At a retail price of $20 a pound or more, growers here concede, Kona is one of the world's costliest coffees. Yet no one is getting rich; Mr. Langenstein estimates that he cleared about $20,000 last year. His mill, a ramshackle apparatus made of plywood and galvanized steel, with handmade pulleys and belts, is 100 years old. He sticks at it, he said, because he loves the climate, having grown up in Newark, N.Y., near Rochester, where winters can be brutal, and because "it's such a great place to raise kids."
Mike Craig, another grower, summed it all up in four pithy words "Life's great, work stinks."
For the dozens of small growers, economies of scale and hip marketing campaigns are beyond reach. So most sell mostly on the Internet. The only producer of pure Kona who seemed to be making it big turned out to be a fraud. Officials of Kona Kai coffee were convicted in 1996 in a $20 million swindle in which cheaper Central American green (unroasted) coffees were put into bags marked "Kona." Not all French bread comes from France, one of the miscreants argued; "why should all Kona coffee come from Kona?"
There is, in fact, no need to flout the law. A perfectly legal way to make money on Kona coffee is to blend it with less expensive coffees and sell the result as Kona.
That's what big roasters do. They benefit from the name while bypassing most of the cost that goes along with using only carefully hand-tended, handpicked beans from the Kona coast. They must label their stuff "Kona blend," and the purists can call theirs "100 percent Kona," but the word "blend" somehow ends up in smaller type.
A University of Hawaii study a couple of years ago estimated that 20 million pounds of Kona coffee are sold annually, although only about 2 million pounds of Kona beans are produced. Legally, a blend containing 10 percent Kona can be called Kona coffee.
"We have a terrible marketing problem," said Merle Wood, a big- time corporate lawyer turned small- time coffee grower. He said it with the air of a man who has spent a lot of time trying to roll boulders up Mauna Kea. Well he might. As the president of the Kona Coffee Council, an alliance of small growers, he and several colleagues, led by Mr. Langenstein and Mr. Craig, have struggled in vain to establish a certification mark for coffee grown in the Kona district.
Such trademark protection exists for Maui and Vidalia onions and for Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, as well as for many wine regions, but the growers' efforts have been blocked by the big coffee companies.
"Our market is on the mainland," Mr. Wood said. "Starbucks has taught people there about good coffee, but it's a very long way away, and convincing them to insist on pure Kona is a very difficult proposition. This is a poor island, where nobody but the tourists can pay or will pay 20 bucks a pound for coffee. But what tourists take home, if they take food at all, is chocolate-covered macadamia nuts."
Coffee trees (Coffea arabica, mostly of Guatemalan origin) grow to 20 feet tall in Kona, and they sometimes live for a century or more, developing trunks up to six inches thick. As is often the case with grapevines, the old trees yield the best fruit.
Actually, the trees look more like bushes, with heavily ridged leaves and long whiplike branches that bend toward the ground when heavy with fruit. Members of the gardenia family, they produce amazingly fragrant, brilliantly white flowers that coat the hills 8 or 10 times a year, usually beginning in December or January. "Hawaiian snow," the locals call it.
The fruit that follows is a berry about the size of a cherry tomato, which gradually turns from green to scarlet as it ripens. But this is not an accommodating fruit like the apple or the peach. With so many flowerings a year and a ripening period of seven to nine months, there can be no single harvest.
So the pickers, mostly Mexicans, have to make their laborious way down the rows of trees as many as a dozen times a year, steadying themselves on the steeply sloping mountainside as they pluck the ripe berries from the trees. They squeeze the berries, and out pop the seeds - fresh coffee beans, coated in a sweet mucilage-like substance. Usually, there are two; when there is only one, it is called a peaberry. (Some growers argue that peaberries make a superior cup of java, but others dismiss that as hype).
At this stage the coffee is known as "cherry," and a lot of arduous processing lies ahead before it is ready for the roaster, let alone the grinder, the pot and the cup. The foamy covering is removed in a pulping mill. Then the beans ferment overnight before drying, either in a gas oven or, preferably, on what the early Japanese farmers here called a hoshidana, or drying deck. This is a series of concrete pads with retractable corrugated steel roofs that can be left open to the sun and closed when it rains. The beans are raked repeatedly during daylight hours to keep them from spoiling.
When the moisture content is reduced to 11 or 12 percent, the beans develop a papery covering called "parchment." At this stage they can be stored for fairly extended periods.
Many small operators among the 600 growers here, lacking the capital to install expensive machinery, are forced to sell their cherry to the big processors for whatever price they can get, which in bad times is not much, rather than waiting for the market price to rise. Others pay a fee to have the raw beans processed for them.
The final stages involve grinding off the husklike covering, grading the beans (Extra Fancy, Fancy, No. 1, Prime) and, of course, roasting.
Mr. Langenstein, who produces 8,000 pounds of coffee on his 8.3 acres in a good year, ages some of his beans for as much as 12 months in parchment. A onetime wine-and-food man at Hawaiian hotels, he thinks this mellows the coffee and brings out subtleties in its flavor, the same way that storage in oak barrels helps mature wine.
Coffee growers, fierce individualists all, disagree about almost everything. Is gas-drying or air-drying better? Should roasted beans be kept at room temperature, in the refrigerator or in the freezer? And perhaps the most contentious question of all: light roast or dark? Mr. Langenstein thinks dark-roasting caramelizes the coffee too much, thus increasing the caffeine concentration and making it harder to taste the nuances in the brew. Mr. Craig, just a few miles up the road, thinks lighter roasts taste wimpy.
Choose your poison.
A missionary named Samuel Ruggles brought the first coffee trees to this island in 1828 - for their ornamental value, not to produce a cash crop. But by 1845, the first exports were on their way to California, and starting about a hundred years ago, Japanese farmers came to dominate the growing of coffee in Kona. Some came directly from Japan, but many escaped from slavelike conditions on Hawaiian sugar plantations before their contracts expired, rode here on donkeys along narrow cliffs and changed their names.
Living frugally in tiny frame houses, often without electricity or running water, the farmers were constantly in hock to the stores owned by the big mills. In an exhibition at the Kona Historical Society, a farmer named Yosoto Egami recalled, "The store advanced merchandise for your family . . . and at the end of the year, in return, you had to give your crop to the store."
Restricted by geography to the small zone near Mauna Loa, the Kona coffee industry, and indeed the coffee industry in the islands as a whole, never approached the size of the giant Brazilian, Costa Rican and African plantations. It was plagued by economic collapse in its main markets, the United States and Japan, and later by price volatility. One old-timer recalled the price of cherry falling to 33 cents a pound, from $1.37, in two or three weeks.
Most remaining Japanese-American growers are getting old, and some, like the mother of Eddie Sakamoto, the nonpareil wine waiter at the Canoe House hotel, grow coffee only part time now. They sell their output to the Kona Pacific Farmers Co-Op, which processed about 1.5 million pounds of cherry (from about 300 farmers) last year.
Recently, the historical society acquired and restored the former D. Uchida farm, established in 1913, as the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, which still produces coffee the old-fashioned way. Think you know something about frugality? Then check this: ceiling panels sewn from cotton rice sacks. (Small groups are given tours, by advance reservation only, by costumed guides. Detailed information on the World Wide Web at www.konahistorical.org.)
It was the arrival in the 1980's and 1990's of retirees and others from the mainland, known here as haoles, that transformed coffee-growing. Striving for maximum quality, more than 40 of them now market their own estate coffees - those grown on a single farm that is owned or leased by the farmer, with careful records kept to establish its origin. Five of these estates have been grouped together for greater marketing efficiency as Pele Plantations (www.peleplantations.com), but most have stubbornly gone it alone.
The new growers are a varied bunch, to put it mildly. One of them, Gus Brocksen, who heads Pele Plantations, hands out business cards identifying himself as "Head Bean." Another, Mischa Sperka, is a voluble former museum curator of Central European origin who farms 10 acres and processes his own coffee and that of 25 neighbors. Nikki Ferrari, who runs a sizable non-estate mail- order business under the name Hawaiian Mountain Gold, says he is a distant relative of the Italian automaking family.
And then there is Mike Craig. I found him at the end of a steep, stony, rutted, twisting road, well up the mountain, where he lives with his family in a kind of treehouse, with its sides open to the breezes, surrounded by towering Norfolk pines and orange-flowering African tulip trees. A burly, bushy-haired man who used to teach and coach at a high school in San Diego, he came here after watching a Pacific Southwest Airlines jet crash there in 1978.
"It was an omen," he said. "When planes start falling on your house, it's time to try something new."
Eight years later, he became the first all-organic producer of Kona Coffee, substituting weed-whacking for herbicides and compost for chemical fertilizer, and enriching the soil further with glacial rock dust. He found in short order that his product, now sold under the Rooster Farms label (www.roosterfarms.com), could command a premium price, he said, "just as it ought to." He charges $25.95 a pound, with shipping extra.
"It's twice as much work," Mr. Craig's wife, Lindy, added, "but it's not near twice as much money."
Like the others, they depend heavily for sales on the Internet, word of mouth and a mailing list built up over the years. Like the others, they do most of the work themselves, and do it well enough that they have a contract to supply coffee to Merriman's, the Big Island's top restaurant.
Mr. Langenstein weighs each bag of coffee he sells on a tiny Directo postage scale, seals it with a gadget that looks like a curling iron and signs it by hand, "so people know what they get." His coffee, labeled Langenstein Farms, sells for $25, shipping included (www.kona-coffee.com).
But the big guys may be coming. A few days before Christmas, a 1,570- acre ranch on the Kona coast, once owned by the actor Jimmy Stewart, was sold to a local investor for $7.4 million. The investor, Guy Cobb, said he planned to replace the pastures, forests and macadamia groves that now cover the land with coffee trees.
King Kona - Hawaii's esteemed coffee bean shows that fine wine isn't the only delicious estate-grown sipper. By Harvey Steiman - WINE SPECTATOR • SEPT. 30, 1999
Hawaii's esteemed coffee bean shows that fine wine isn't the only delicious estate-grown sipper.
By Harvey Steiman - WINE SPECTATOR • SEPT. 30, 1999
John Langenstein steadies himself against the rocky tilt of his farm on the steep slopes of Hawaii's Mauna Loa, on the Big Island, and picks a bright red berry, about the size of a cherry tomato, from a small tree. Like many winegrowers, Langenstein uses only his own estate-grown fruit, processing it carefully according to long tradition, aging it for months or even years.
He squeezes the berry above a visitor's cupped hand, and two coffee beans coated with a hazy white foam drop out. "Try it," he suggests. The foam tastes sweet, like candy, but it's more than that; there are overtones of other flavors - hints of spices and nuts and flowers.
To turn those berries into coffee, Langenstein will ferment away the sugars and sun-dry the beans. Those wonderful flavors will permeate the beans, ultimately making a more interesting brew. Traditional coffee processing demands time-consuming procedures filled with hand labor, many of which have parallels in winemaking. Of course, it all pays off in America's most highly prized cup o'joe - Kona coffee.
Unfortunately, Kona coffee has another, less savory parallel with wine. Much of what is sold as Kona coffee isn't what it appears to be. Much of it is Kona blend, which can legally contain as little as 10 percent Kona coffee. Langenstein fumes, "Hell, that doesn't matter. At 10 percent, you can't taste the difference. but you are still charged a premium because it has the name Kona on it."
Hawaii produces the only American coffee on the market - which is surprising for the country that initiated the coffee break. you get good coffee from the other Hawaiian islands (except Lanai), but there's no question that Kona is king. A recent University of Hawaii study reported that 20 million pounds of Kona coffee are sold annually, even though the Kona coffee harvest averages only 2 million pounds a year.
A fraud action taken in 1996 against on coffee firm in Hawaii determined that some Kona blends contained no Kona coffee at all. The temptation to cheat is huge. Kona blends comprise the most profitable segment of the specialty coffee industry, says Langenstein. True Kona coffee retails for $20 per pound and up (Kona is a rare commodity, which explains the price tag). Consumers will pay because the coffee is that good.
In the early 1990s, Langenstein and other estate Kona coffee growers tried to create a certification mark for Kona coffee grown in the Kona district of Hawaii, similar to one used on Maui onions. Opposed by big coffee companies, the Kona mark never materialized. The only assurance for consumers is a label stating that the product in question contains 100 percent Kona coffee - or better yet, 100 percent estate-grown Kona coffee. If your coffee purveyor offers Kona, ask to see the original package before buying. Unless it has such a label, assume it's a blend.
"Kona blend has definitely tarnished the image of Kona coffee," says Jeff Lewis, who roasts and sells pure Kona coffee at The Kona Coffee Store on Highway 11 in the heart of the district. He also sells it through the mail and over the Internet. "People gasp at the price and say, 'I can get it on the mainland for $10.' What they don't realize is that they're not buying real Kona coffee."
A lanky, bald, deeply tanned man named "Stretch" arrives. He is wearing flip-flops, a Batman T-shirt and is carrying a burlap bag half-filled with green (unroasted) coffee beans. Lewis agrees to roast the beans, which are intended for Stretch's personal use, by 5 p.m. Locals often grow and brew their own coffee, just as residents of wine country might make their own wine.
"What makes it special is when someone takes a sip and says, 'That's the best cup of coffee I've ever had,'" says Lewis with a smile. "That's what makes my day."
So what's the difference? The character of Kona coffee hits the palate from the first sip. Pure Kona made in a drip pot has a creaminess and a complexity of flavor, combined with a lively acid balance, that makes wine comparisons valid. Made as espresso, it has an incredibly smooth character. It is an aristocratic coffee.
To get that way, the coffee must be grown on the volcanic, wet-facing slops of Mauna Loa, the second-tallest mountain in Hawaii. The Kona coast stretches south of Kailua and includes the towns of Honalo, Kainaliu, Captain Cook and Keokea. It's a beautiful stretch of mountainous coast, regularly misted by light rain showers. Coffee and macadamia nut plantations spring up from the hillside forests.
A dirt road bumps and winds up the mountainside to the farm, where Langenstein can produce 8,000 pounds of coffee in a good year. Pickers squeeze fresh coffee beans from the fruit and fill baskets with the sugar-coated beans (called "cherry"). They empty the baskets into a rinsing vat, where the beans ferment overnight. Then the beans are dried for five days on concrete pads covered with a removable corrugated steel roof. The pads must be raked regularly to keep the beans from spoiling. When the beans are dry enough, they develop a flaky, parchment like coating, and are then packed into burlap bags and transferred to an aging shed.
"I've been experimenting with aging," says Langenstein. "It's like oak aging for wine. All my coffee is aged at least two or three months [before roasting], but I have some that has aged for a whole year in parchment. It mellows and brings out inherent subtleties that distinguish one estate from another."
Langenstein also makes sure air is circulated through the shed to keep mold from forming. "I guarantee my coffee to be mold-free," he says. "You have no idea how important that is. Go into a coffee warehouse and slap a bag. That cloud that puffs out is mold. Most people who say they can't drink coffee are really reacting to the mold."
The beans are milled to remove the papery coating, but first Langenstein borrows another idea from winemaking: He puts the beans through a selection process, removing any wizened, white or beige beans. After roasting, they appear remarkably uniform and unbroken, and these beans are made into coffee that wants no cream or sugar. "I used to pour cream and sugar into coffee," Langenstein says. "Now I would no sooner add anything to my coffee than I would pour 7-Up into my wine."
Langenstein knows about wine. He owned a successful catering business in Sausalito, Calif., before moving to Hawaii in 1975. The Big Island was a pretty remote place then, and it didn't take much to buy the wildly overgrown spread near Keokea, which he did not know was a coffee plantation. He discovered the 90-year-old trees, and knowing that old vines made better wine, he picked about 12 pounds of coffee to see if the held true. "It was strictly seat-of-the-pants processing. But it was the best coffee I ever had," he says.
To earn enough money to live, he worked as a bartender in resort hotels, where his passion for Kona coffee finally convinced him to start making and marketing his own. Incensed that tourists drinking Kona blend thought it was the real thing, he made a pot of his own coffee behind the bar. Pretty soon, hotel guests were passing up the free Kona blend at breakfast to buy Langenstein's coffee at $2 a cup.
Members of the Kona Coffee Council market their coffees as 100 percent estate-grown. Many of them welcome visitors and sell the roasted beans through the mail and over the Internet. (For more information on sources for 100 percent estate-grown Kona coffee, visit the council's Web site: www.kona-coffee-council.com. It has links to member estate's sites and mail-order information.) Among specialty coffees, pure Kona ranks among the most expensive, ranging from $20 to $30 per pound. But Langenstein has an answer for that, too.
"I'll pay $30 to $40 for a good bottle of wine without blinking," he says. "You can get - what? - six glasses of wine from a bottle? Because it's so rich, I get 60 cups from a pound of my coffee. That's 50 cents a cup."
You can't buy a decent wine for that.
WINE SPECTATOR • SEPT. 30, 1999
Corby Kummer, 'The Great Good Cup', Diversion Magazine, February 1993
"...genuine Hawaiian Kona coffee is produced in very small quantities, despite the wide distribution of what is labeled 'Kona'. Most of this is actually a Kona blend (meaning as little as 10% genuine Kona coffee), and even pure Kona can be indifferently grown and processed.
True Kona is a remarkably aromatic, ultra-smooth brew with clean, mild flavors and very low acidity... One producer I can personally recommend is John Langenstein, who works an eight-acre farm in Honaunau. Each bean is hand picked at peak ripeness, pulped, meticulously washed, sun-dried, and then air-roasted. The result is about as far from supermarket coffee as it is possible to get."
'The Best of '94', Diversion Magazine, December 1994
"For variety and quality, no-one beats the Coffee Connection in Boston... But Langenstein Farm on the Big Island of Hawaii wins special mention for the best Kona coffee. Its aromatic, ultrasmooth brew is offered in medium, dark, and French roasts."
'Black Book', Departure Magazine, May/June 1995
"Langenstein Farm sells terrific 100% Kona coffee."
Janice Wald Henderson, 'Dining', Diversion Magazine, February 1996
"Langenstein Farm sells excellent Kona estate coffee (the real thing, as opposed to the aforementioned blends) at its Big Island locale . . . .
Chuck Furuya, Food & Wine Magazine, March 1997
"Langenstein Farm produces exceptional quality estate Kona coffee"
Diversion Magazine is a privately sponsored publication for physicians at leisure.
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