PAHALA, HAWAIʻI ISLAND—Leaders in the specialty coffee industry and orchard research are presenting a host of educational opportunities for island coffee farmers at the annual Ka‘u Coffee College 9 a.m.-pau May 5 at the Pahala Community Center. 

The annual educational series is part of the Ka’u Coffee Festival, which opened last Friday and continues this week with a variety of fun and interactive activities at different venues before culminating this coming weekend with an all-day ho‘olaule‘a Saturday, May 4 and the college on Sunday. 

The Coffee College has proven to be a place of learning, sharing and networking—featuring coffee’s leading professionals from around the globe while bringing industry experts to Ka‘u to interface with local growers and make valuable connections. 

“This year’s college focuses on needs expressed by local growers,” notes long-time festival organizer Chris Manfredi. “In particular, we’ve found that estimating the harvest can be elusive and challenging and has caused some issues, particularly in the wake of last year’s volcanic eruption. Being better able to accurately predict yields helps bolster good business practices.” 

The Coffee College opens with “Increasing Coffee Production in Ka‘u,” by Andrea Kawabata. Based in Kona, Kawabata is an assistant extension agent for coffee and orchard crops with UH’s CTAHR cooperative extension service. Since 2011 she has been on the forefront of coordinating and providing coffee berry borer integrated pest management recommendations to growers throughout the state and beyond. She also conducts research applicable to farmers. 

“A Rapid Visual Estimation of Coffee Yield in Hawai‘i” is explored by Dr. Adel Youkhana. A researcher and lecturer in the Natural Resources and Environmental Management department at UH-Manoa, Dr. Youkhana holds a Ph.D. in NREM. With his colleagues, Dr. Youkhana has published numerous research papers and his efforts have delved into shade coffee agroecosystems, biofuel feedstock production and silviculture of coffee hybrid Leucaena.  

Learn how to process distinctive coffee with added yeast strains during a presentation by Brittany Horn, owner/founder of Pacific Coffee Research. Located in Kealakekua, PCR is a specialty coffee education center and the Specialty Coffee Association’s premier training campus in Hawai‘i. It is home to a Coffee Quality Institute-certified cupping lab.  PCR  has partnered with Lallemand, a global leader in the development and production of yeasts, to introduce its line of Lalcafe coffee yeasts. PCR provides support for producers wanting to add yeast strains to their fermentation process by assisting in designing trials and providing cupping feedback. 

Cal Westergard, an environmental health specialist with the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Branch, offers a talk on “Pesticide Safety Training.” He previously worked in pesticide enforcement in Saipan prior to moving back to Hilo in 2015. Westergard is an expert on the updated federal Worker Protection Standards regarding proper pesticide use and safety and can share what the standards are, to whom they apply, and what is needed to be compliant. Learn how to safely mix and apply pesticides in the coffee orchard.

Admission to the Ka‘u Coffee College is free, though donations are appreciated. Refreshments will be served. 

The Ka‘u Coffee Festival is underway and all activities are open to the general public; some require a fee. Find details at www.kaucoffeefestival.com or phone 808-929-9550. 

Ka‘u Coffee Festival: Founded in coffee traditions hailing to the 1800s—plus the hard work of former sugar plantation workers—Ka‘u coffee burst onto the specialty coffee scene by winning numerous coffee quality awards. These accolades highlight the unique combination of people and place that makes Ka‘u coffee a favorite across the globe. The festival’s mission is to raise awareness of Ka‘u as a world-class, coffee-growing origin. Support is provided by Hawai‘i Tourism through the Community Enrichment Program. 

Ka‘u Coffee Festival vendor and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information and festival updates, visit kaucoffeefestival.com, follow Ka‘u Coffee Festival on Facebook and @kaucoffeefest on Twitter, or call 808-929-9550.