I sat down to chat with Joanie and Steve, the current owners of Kona Earth Coffee in Hawaii, on a Zoom earlier this year, during a time in which they had a break from the day-to-day keeping up with their endless coffee-growing and business-maintaining tasks. Itʻs a nonstop job, but they seemed cheerful as can be, enthusiastic about their new life on the Big Island.
Once in the production business (and for 30 years at that!), they explained to me that it was time for a change. They traveled the world with their company Bayside Entertainment–but now was the moment to settle down in a place they always dreamed of: Hawaii, where Steveʻs family had lived before and where they could take on a new life adventure.They dropped their production work and began scouting available farms.
“It was time to pivot hard and try something completely different…and now here we are in the coffee business!” Steve said as I watched the pair laugh at their own spontaneity.
Once they had bought Kona Earth, it was figuring out how to start. While there was plenty of infrastructure left over from the previous owner, they had the task of not just taking over both production and business, but making new updates for the company, like bolstering e-commerce and repainting and furnishing the farmhouse for visitors.
With Steveʻs experience working on vineyards in Sonoma, and with Joanie at the helm of running the business-side of things, they jumped right into learning the ins and outs of this whole new venture. They seemed to be a dynamic duo, both risk-takers who were willing to put in the hard work to make it all happen.
So, why this coffee? It turns out that Kona coffee in Hawaii is a specialty variety. You can only find this kind of coffee in the particular region that encompasses just a mere 30-mile belt on the western coast of the Big Island. And with 10 acres planted at 2,000 feet on the slopes of the Hualalai volcano, the coffee beans from Kona Earth mature slowly to create a robust flavor.
Since arriving in June 2021, Steve and Joanie have created a relationship with neighboring farms, in which they can reach out to more experienced growers for tips and even an extra hand.
“We work with one guy in particular whoʻs a fifth generation Costa Rican coffee farmer, who has a business here and a farm here… and he has been a wealth of knowledge,” Joanie said. They mention other farmersʻ willingness to help, always offering support even when those farmers have a whole business to run themselves.
“The feeling is very genuine and very supportive,” Steve adds.
When I had spoken with them, they were just gearing up for the next part of their adventure: farm tours. Farm touring is a popular activity for visitors in Hawaii, and the couple plans to give the tours themselves, offering an intimate experience with views, tastes, and answers to all the coffee-related questions people might have.
“Weʻre hoping that will be kinda also a fun way to meet new people and share the Kona coffee story–how itʻs made. Not many people really understand how coffeeʻs made,” Joanie said.
They have goals of adding 2 to 3 more acres of new trees each year in order to grow the business with bigger yields, varieties, and blends, eventually utilizing the entire 26 acres that they have acquired.
From 2021 until now, a full year behind them, they seem to have come a long way, with the fervor and determination to continue on.
“It’s kind of a dream come true of a dream that I never thought I had,” Steve said.
You can purchase Kona coffee on their website, konaearth.com, where an explanation of their coffee, practices, and story are available.
Photography credit: Kona Earth Coffee
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