I’m not much of a coffee drinker, having consumed about five cups in my entire life, so I was a bit concerned that I would be out of my element last month as I headed toward Mount Hualalai to tour UCC Hawaii Kona Coffee Estate on the west side of Hawaii, the Big Island.
Early on, I had a hint that the trip might exceed my expectations as I passed by several alluring, quaint shops and some of the world’s leading coffee plantations, all the while gaining increasingly spectacular views of Kailua-Kona Village and Kailua Bay. The area is ideal for harvesting coffee beans due to the high elevation, constant cloud coverage and rich volcanic soil from Hualalai.
My companion—Senior Director of Sales Debbie Hogan from the Big Island Visitor Bureau (BIVB)—and I reached our destination, UCC Hawaii Kona Coffee Estate, and were warmly greeted by staff members. We discovered that in 1989, Ueshima Coffee Company began managing the 35-acre estate, which boasts more than 15,000 coffee trees. We also learned that UCC is a leading coffee company on the Big Island, having won a host of honors.
After being told about various coffee roasting methods and styles, we were invited to roast our own coffee. Soon after being guided through a simple step-by-step process, I was presented with two bags of the coffee that I made. To top it all off, each bag had a label with my photo on it along with the statement, “Ueshima Coffee Company: 100% Kona Coffee/Special Roast by Dan Johnson, May 3, 2015.”
I left UCC feeling proud that I had in my hands my own custom-made coffee. Perhaps I can even be regarded as somewhat of a coffee authority and should start my own brand. But first, I better drink at least five more cups!
The UCC estate is located 30 minutes from Kona International Airport. The Roastmaster Tour is offered six times daily (reservations are required) and lasts 45 minutes to an hour. Tours are limited to nine people, although larger parties can be divided into groups. The cost is $35 per person.