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Editor's note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, TravelAge West is encouraging all readers to stay at home and do their part in flattening the curve. This includes travel to Hawaii. We hope that the information in these stories will help readers stay up to date for when it’s once again safe to return to Hawaii.
As soon as we boarded the open-air trolley for Kauai Coffee Company’s Farm Tour, it was obvious that we were in for some fun.
"Who wants a rubber chicken?" asked our guide Melissa Rhoden, as she handed out squeaky toys, rattles and other silly props. "Whenever we see workers in the fields, let's make some noise and share our aloha with them."
To be clear, Kauai Coffee’s newest tour isn’t simply a rolling party. At the same time, it presents an eye-opening introduction to the largest coffee grower in the U.S., culminating in a unique seed-planting activity.
In short, the south shore attraction offers a perky and educational way for caffeine-loving clients to celebrate the riches of the Garden Isle.
Old Estate, New TechThe Farm Tour, which was launched in 2019, treats visitors to an insider's look at the ins and outs of the coffee-making process, from bean to brew.
Starting at the company’s visitors center, the trolley carries clients on a two-hour jaunt along private dirt roads that crisscross the estate’s 3,100 acres, which are home to 4 million trees running from the mountains to the sea.
As we headed upcountry, Rhoden talked about the farm’s beginnings as a sugar plantation, dating back to the early 1800s. We saw historic irrigation flumes and signposts where workers’ houses once stood. We found out that two of the former plantation homes were carefully transported and transformed into today’s visitors center.
Rhoden described the company’s evolution into a coffee plantation in 1987, and how it has remained successful over the decades through technology. (For instance, it now uses drones to keep tabs on the health of the groves.)
We perused the plantation’s magnificent arabica trees, whose blossoms develop into cherries that hold the coffee beans. Thanks to steadfast attention, some of its trees are more than 100 years old and thriving.
Seed-Planting PartyAt the top of hillside, we disembarked and enjoyed panoramic views of the ocean and the island of Niihau. As we wandered through fields of trees, Rhoden picked a handful of cherries, passed them out and showed us how to open them to find beans.
Next, the trolley motored us downhill toward the shore as Rhoden chatted about the coffee harvest, something that guests might see firsthand on tours during the fall months. She also pointed out examples of the estate’s vast drip-irrigation system, an efficient and environmentally friendly practice.
We marveled at the company’s expansive mill, where we heard about the various stages involved in processing coffee.
“From planting and harvesting to roasting, packing, selling and shipping, we do it all here, which is why we’re called an estate,” Rhoden said.
Finally, we took part in a bit of hands-on planting. Each of us wrote our name on our personal pot, knowing that our seedlings would eventually be transferred to the fields.
A Toast for the RoadBack at the visitors center, we gathered in its small museum — with fascinating plantation artifacts and old photos — for a cup of freshly roasted 100% Kauai coffee and a few more jokes.
As an added benefit, Farm Tour participants get discounts on items in the company’s shop, which sells such coffee-inspired merchandise as hats, T-shirts, art and chocolate-covered coffee beans.
“We hope everyone on the Farm Tour learns about our history and our sustainability efforts,” said Darla Domingo, Kauai Coffee’s retail operations manager. “And we hope they have a fantastic time.”
Besides the Farm Tour, the attraction features a guided walking tour through a coffee orchard near the visitors center; a complimentary, self-guided walking tour; and a daylong spread of free coffee samples, including brews with exotic flavors like vanilla macadamia nut and coconut caramel crunch.
To whet clients’ appetites until they can visit Kauai Coffee in person, the company offers products for order on its website.
The DetailsKauai Coffee Companywww.kauaicoffee.com