“Coffee is part of the culture of the islands,” says Jayson Kanekoa, executive chef at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. “Every state drinks coffee, but Hawai`i is the only state that produces coffee.”
Kanekoa (pictured below right) oversees a mini-grove of 38 coffee trees that are planted outside the Marriott’s Hawaii Calls restaurant. Although the small grove doesn’t produce enough beans for the hotel’s coffee supply, Kanekoa does use the beans from the trees to produce a rub that is used to flavor fish and meat dishes in the restaurant.
“The beans are ready to pick in November,” Kanekoa says. “Guests — particularly kids — enjoy picking them, learning about the drying and roasting process, and tasting the menu items that use the rub we make from the beans.”
The coffee trees were the idea of longtime Marriott employee Oren Yamagata, whose family owns a coffee farm in Kealakekua, south of Kona. “I mentioned the idea to our general manager one day,” Yamagata says, “and he liked it. So, we cleaned an area by the pool and planted the trees.” Yamagata helped the landscaping staff understand how to properly prune and care for the trees, and it turned out to be a hit with guests.
Also outside Hawaii Calls is another “seed-to-table,” guestfriendly garden where taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, and a few other plants are grown that have played such a large part in Hawai`i’s history.