Kona Impact is a short drive to the world-famous Kona coffee growing area. This area stretches from the North end of Kailua-Kona to about 20 or so miles South of town. In many areas, it is only a few miles wide. It is here that the stars align to make for the perfect growing conditions for coffee: a tropical climate, volcanic soil, leeward side of a mountain, morning sun/afternoon shade and good rainfall. There are about 300 Kona coffee farms. Most sell unprocessed coffee cherry to processors and many sell roasted Kona coffee direct to the public.
A few farms sell decaffeinated, but most do not. Those that do sell decaf Kona coffee often have their coffee processed off-island using the Swiss Water process. There are obvious problems with this process, which created an opportunity for a new way of decaffeinating coffee.
A new business and processing model for Kona decaf coffee has been pioneered by the Kona Decaf Coffee Company. They use a CO2 process, which offers a far superior taste, on-island processing and a process that is devoid of harsh chemicals.
There are three main ways to decaffeinate coffee: 1. The solvent process, 2. Swiss Water, and 3) CO2.
The solvent process sounds horrible because it is. Coffee beans are steamed to open the pores, and then a chemical solvent is used. The solvent bonds with the caffeine molecule’s, and then the beans are steamed again to remove the solvent. Taste, of course, is affected, and many people would probably choose to avoid this process because of the chemicals used. Unfortunately, most inexpensive decaf coffee is processed this way.
The Swiss Water process requires hot water to be passed through the bean, and then that water is charcoal filtered to remove the caffeine. The beans are then soaked again in the water to re-add the flavor. Kona coffee farmers who use this process send their beans off-island, and will not receive the same beans in return. Taste, according to many people, is affected by this process.
The CO2 process, which is used by Kona Decaf, is simple. Carbon Dioxide, a naturally occurring gas, binds with the caffeine molecule when it passes through the beans. The caffeine is removed and the great taste of the coffee remains. The process is done in Hawaii, and few would argue, that it results in superior coffee and is more environmentally friendly than the solvent process.
I am personally very excited to see a new, innovative entrant to the Kona coffee market. For years people who have wanted Kona decaf coffee were stuck with two bad choices. Now the taste profile of Kona coffee—low acid, aromatic, flavorful—can be had without the caffeine buzz.
74-5599 Luhia St, E-7
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740