HONOLULU (KHON2) — Coffee. It is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. It makes our day better, and it makes conversations with friends much livelier.

Although coffee is a central part of most our lives, there’s still a good of mystery for folks when it comes to understanding the significance of the potent black drink.

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In the United States, Hawaiʻi is the only place that grows coffee plants which has led to some amazing roasters throughout the state.

So, KHON2.com sat down with the owner and master roaster Fred Hernandez of Hawaiian Fresh Roast Coffee to talk about his unique roasting process and other important things that coffee drinkers want to know.

But first, let’s take a look at the history of coffee.

Where did coffee come from?

The Ethiopian plateau is where coffee plants were first discovered. The ancient coffee forests of Ethiopia has made that region a hot spot for coffee commerce for centuries.

According Ethiopia’s legends, it was a goat herder named Kaldi who lived around 575 CE first discovered and understood the potential those wee green beans had.

The legend goes like this.

Kaldi found his goats eating red berries from certain trees where he herded them. After eating the berries, Kaldi saw that the goats would become highly energetic, frolicking and playing with exuberant amounts of energy. Then, he also noticed that they did not want to sleep at night after consuming the berries.

After making these observations, Kaldi went to his villages religious leaders to let know. They took the berries to make a drink out of them which led to them being stimulated by the caffeine that occurs naturally in the beans.

These religious leaders began using this black drink as a way of increasing their energy, and they eventually shared this discovery with other monasteries in the region. This led to its popularity expanding into the Arabian Peninsula; and from there, it spread across the globe.

In coffee’s modern iteration, Kona produces some of the best coffee beans in the world.

Honolulu’s local coffee roaster

Hawaiian Fresh Coffee Roast is located in the Dole Cannery, and it is one of the only commercial coffee roasters in the United States that offers air roasted coffee beans.

Hernandez explained that obtaining the technology to offer air roasted coffee to Honolulu was no easy feat.

“I called for months trying to get someone from the company to sell one of the roasters to me,” revealed Hernandez.

The biggest issues that stood between him and the air roaster were language and culture.

The commercial air roaster technology comes from a company in Japan, and they did not want to sell it to a U.S. based business due to language and distance barriers.

So, Hernandez hired a translator and kept on calling. Finally, the owner of the company, who was in Paris at the time, emailed Hernandez simply because he was intrigued by his tenacity.

After a conversation with the owner, Hernandez set out for a journey to Japan to meet him.

“We spent 12 hours a day together for a couple of weeks,” said Hernandez. “He took me all over Japan, and we talked about everything that has ever happened in our lives. But we never once talked about the air roaster.”

However, at the end of his visit, the owner offered to sell Hernandez an air roaster.

“He told me, ‘You’re a good person with a lot of tenacity. I’ll sell you one of my air roasters’,” revealed Hernandez.

And with that, Hernandez’s dream was beginning to take shape.

You may be asking yourself why does air roasted coffee beans even matter.

“What happens with drum roasted beans is they are bruised during the roasting process, and so much of the oils and flavors are knocked off with traditional drum roasting,” explained Hernandez. “With air roasting, the beans maintain their flavor profiles and caffeine content. With most national chains, the beans are burnt which actually creates cancer-causing carcinogens, decreases the amount of caffeine in the beans and causes that burnt flavor that is so common.”

Hernandez has two locations. There is one in Dole Cannery, and the other is located at Fort Shafter. He is also working on opening a few locations around the world.

Hawaiian Fresh Roast only offers Hawaiʻi grown coffee. You can purchase beans roasted to the flavor you like. There is even a pictorial list of gradations of roast from which to choose.

Hernandez explained that in order to keep your coffee fresh there are a few steps that need to be followed:

  • Buy freshly roasted whole coffee beans rather than pre-ground coffee. Coffee begins being oxidized as soon as it is ground; so, whole coffee beans will keep longer in their sealed bags.
  • Only grind the amount of beans you’ll need for your coffee each time you drink it; it’s best not to pre-grind beans for the week or month ahead. This is because oxygen dissipates the oils (aka their flavor and caffeine) making the coffee taste stale. He said you’ve probably experienced this with mass produced roasted coffee.
  • Roasted coffee beans last for about two weeks, whereas ground coffee lasts only a few hours.
  • Do not store in the freezer as the freezer dries up the oils from the coffee beans, impacting the flavor and overall quality of the coffee.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Few in the United States have heard of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. It is an hours long experience that creates some of the best tasting coffee in the world.

The ceremony takes up to nine hours, and there are three rounds of coffee consumption.

No one really knows who invented the ceremony or when it was first practiced. Most sources agree that is typically done by a woman who has been trained in the art and techniques of the process.

Hernandez said that you can come by Hawaiian Fresh Roast Coffee to pick up the green, unroasted coffee beans for the ceremony.

Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8

If you have the time to create a ceremony for your friends and family to celebrate National Coffee Day, then upload your photos to our social media posts. We’d love to see them!