Kona Earth: Riding Coffee's Third Wave

Kona Earth: Riding Coffee's Third Wave

Single-origin, single-source, small-batch roasted, micro-roasted, handcrafted, artisanal, sustainable, fair trade, specialty, gourmet. This is the nomenclature behind coffee culture, the jargon behind java. 

For folks in the industry and avid coffee aficionados, today's coffee is commonly referred to as coffee's third-wave. It's a coffee trend which emphasizes bean quality, origin, and methods employed during farming, processing, and roasting. Its adopters want to know where their coffee is grown, who grows it, how it’s processed and roasted, and how the companies growing it are responsible farmers and citizens.

Third-wave coffee stands on the shoulders of the "first-wave" of mass coffee consumption in the early 20th century, followed by the "second-wave," marked by the arrival of Peet's and Starbucks, with a focus on coffee as an experience.

As a specialty coffee, limited in supply, and explicitly grown in a tiny region on the Big Island of Hawaii known as the Kona Coffee Belt, 100% Kona coffee certainly qualifies as a third-wave coffee. Using some of today's coffee lingo as a guide, here's why Kona Earth Coffee is a very pure representation of third-wave coffee:         

Single-Origin, Single-Estate, Single-Source:

Our 100% Kona coffee is grown, processed, roasted, and shipped from one place: our coffee farm on the slopes of the Hualalai volcano. At 2000 feet, we are considered a high elevation farm. The cooler climate allows our fruit to mature slowly, leading to coffee beans of remarkable size and quality. Unlike many of the larger Kona coffee companies, we don't mix our beans with beans from other farms or other regions. When you enjoy a cup of Kona Earth coffee, you know exactly where it comes from.

Steve and Joanie Wynn with Kona Earth coffee
Kona Earth owners Steve and Joanie Wynn in the temperature-controlled coffee storage room.  

 

Handcrafted, Artisanal

When we say "nurtured seed to cup," we mean that quite literally. We are a family-owned and operated farm. Farmer Steve Wynn manages all farming operations personally with assistance from his wife, Joanie. Day in and day out, they tend to the trees. During harvest, they are "hands-on" with the pulping and drying. Roasting and order fulfillment is done on sight. Their Kona coffee-production process is incredibly handcrafted and, well, personal. 

 

Small-batch roasted, Micro-roasted  

Small-batch and micro-roasting generally refer to coffee roasted in smaller batches of less than 150 pounds. In comparison, Kona Earth roasts are teeny-tiny, nano or pico. We roast to order on sight in ten to fifteen pound increments, literally monitoring the process minute by minute with a keen eye on temperature and color to ensure consistent quality and flavor.

Steve Wynn with Kona Earth roaster

Steve Wynn preparing Kona Earth's JM Estrada Roaster

 Sustainable farming, Fair wage farming, Good Citizenship

Kona Earth uses water catchment for all farming operations. We compost the fruit remains for use as fertilizer in the fields. We've started experimenting with solar power and use recycled materials in shipping whenever possible.

One of the few coffees grown in the United States, Kona farmworkers are paid a living wage. They receive $1 for each pound of cherry they pick during harvest, often earning several hundred dollars per day over multiple weeks during the picking season. Off-season, they are paid between $15 and $30/hour, depending on the task and experience level. 

Picker during harvest at Kona Earth

 Kona Earth picker during 2021/22 coffee harvest

Fair wage farm labor is a key contributing factor to Kona coffee's high price. Picking labor alone represents roughly $10 for each pound of roasted coffee. Add this to the costs of coffee production, business overhead, and marketing, and you can see why Kona coffee is so pricey. 

In terms of good citizenship, Kona Earth is proud of its Care In Every Cup program. Since our new owners' launch in November 2021, giving back has been an integral part of our business. Our local non-profit partner Kohala Center does important work here on Hawaii's Big Island, protecting critical ecosystems and supporting educational efforts within the agricultural community to develop the next generation of Kona farmers. Most recently, we made an Earth Day donation supporting their Kahalu'u Bay reef preservation efforts.

Fourth-wave Ready

Coffee's fourth wave is already here, making it easier for consumers to experience premium, specialty coffee at home. With our e-commerce site selling our 100% Kona coffee direct to consumers, we're riding that wave too.

Small but Mighty 

Kona Earth is certainly not the biggest Kona coffee kid on the block, but our ethos and intention fit right in with that of coffee's third and fourth wave movements.  By growing, processing, roasting, and shipping our 100% Kona coffee directly from our farm to consumers, we make it easy for coffee lovers to enjoy incredible quality from a known source. Along the way, our customers can feel good knowing they are supporting a small family farm, promoting fair wage labor, and giving back with every purchase.