Waimea Coffee Company

Growing 100% Kona Coffee: "A Labor of Love"

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-1.jpg

The most amazing part might not be the coffee – which, by many accounts, is some of the best on the Big Island – but that it’s just Eddie Sakamoto.

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-3.jpg

Retired now for five years, Sakamoto, 69, works his half-acre, 250-tree farm beside a comfortable Kona, hillside house almost exclusively by himself. Works it with a coffee basket, hook, and an easygoing disposition.

“It’s a fun operation. Keeps me busy,” Sakamoto says. “It’s a labor of love, I suppose.”

The Waimea Coffee Company is one of very few places to find the Sakamoto label. In fact, just one other store (in Oahu) sells the Sakamoto Peaberry variety that has become a favorite in Waimea. Other outlets for the Sakamoto varieties – there’s the Plantation Pride along with the Peaberry – have included select restaurants or by order from the man himself.

A medium to dark roast, the Sakamoto Aged Peaberry is known for complex chocolate, honey and oak flavors and gains it’s “aged” pedigree from beans that are carefully tended and up to 35 years old. The Sakamoto Plantation Pride is a medium-dark roast that features chocolate, honey and caramel notes.

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-8.jpg

“You know, that is my ultimate favorite coffee,” says Tennille Lindsey, a longtime employee at the Waimea Coffee Company, of the Peaberry. “That is the only coffee I enjoy without cream and sugar. And I’m a cream and sugar girl.”

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-7.jpg

Sakamoto recently invited several employees of the Waimea Coffee Company to his home – which features a well-maintained yard, with a pleasing lily pond and waterfall -- to witness how the beans go from cherry to cup. He strolled through his coffee trees, detailing his picking process and explaining why he selects one bean from another. He likes to do the work himself, joking that others “don’t pick it right.”

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-2.jpg

“Trying to hold a tree down, and pick with one hand, it takes all day,” explains Sakamoto, showing his skill with the basket and hook. “For me, I’m a slow picker, so it takes me six hours to pick a hundred pound bag.”

He continues: “Good year, about 2,000 pounds of harvest, all picked by me. … I only want ripe cherries.”

A former waiter and wine steward at the Mauna Lani Hotel for more than three decades, Sakamoto was born in Hilo, moved to Kona in 1979 and is a father of four children. He worked his full-time and part-time jobs together before his recent retirement. 

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-11.jpg

“Yes, very serious about coffee. And I think that comes from his background in wine,” Lindsey says. “He’s just one of those amazing men, with an amazing palate.”

Not only is the Sakamoto brand locally grown and 100 percent Kona coffee, it’s cared for by a man with a discerning eye throughout the process. “I use organic fertilizer, which is twice as expensive as regular fertilizer,” Sakamoto says. Adding later, with a smile: “It was a fun thing. Now, I’m working on golf.”

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-5.jpg

“I would say that Eddie is a humble, hard-working man that has become a master of his craft through consistent attention to quality, through constant repetition to his work and the process,” says Waimea Coffee Company employee Victoria Mejia. “His hands pick the beans, plant the trees, clean the grounds, process the cherry to a form that becomes the beans. … What that man does is the epitome of homegrown and hand-made.”

04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_Blog_SakamotoEstate-4.jpg
04162018_WaimeaCoffeeCompany_CoffeeGrowingProcess-09.png

Written By: Timothy Scott | Photos By: Kathrine Kauhane | Infographic By: Alicia Greenwell

Barista Profile: Treazure O’keefe-Howard

untitled-2.jpg

The first thing you might notice is her smile: bright, wide, and welcoming from behind the counter at the Waimea Coffee Company. Or her name: Treazure (with a Z). Or, perhaps more recently, the joy that she’s expecting her first child (due date: April 12). Regardless, the shop’s assistant manager manages to provide a consistent burst of happiness.

untitled-5.jpg

“Treazure has always had a kind heart,” says Waimea Coffee Company owner Mikey. “She’s just a special soul.”

A Big Island native, Treazure O’keefe-Howard was born in Kona as the third of three sisters and grew up on a five-acre farm in Ahualoa that featured horses, cats, rabbits, tons of trees, and lots of grassy fields. The three daughters were home-schooled under “definitely hippie parents, but in a good way,” she says with a smile.

“It was good. It was definitely different,” Treazure says. “I’m very thankful that I had that upbringing. … I loved the animals. I loved everything about it.”

Speaking at one of the coffee shop’s outside tables on a warm, sunny Waimea afternoon -- just days before she’s set to begin a three-month maternity leave -- Treazure tears up a bit, somewhat surprisingly to herself, when revealing what working at the shop has meant. 

“I’m really going to miss this place,” she says, emotional at the thought of her impending leave. “I’ve grown up so much here.”

untitled-6.jpg

Now 23, Treazure has worked at the Waimea Coffee Company for five years. Fondly, she shares why the shop is a special place: the community between the employees and customers, and the numerous connections she’s made and observed over the last half-decade. More recently, the expectant mother laughingly reveals she’s been receiving “so many” pregnancy and parenting tips.

“She is always looking out for everyone on the shift. She has a natural maternal instinct where she puts kindness first,” says shop co-worker Victoria Mejia, adding later: “She exudes gratitude. … She’s always saying thank you. She’s always showing appreciativeness.”

untitled-4.jpg

Tennille Lindsey has worked at the Waimea Coffee Company for 18 years and happily describes Treazure as someone who’s always had a strong work ethic and later developed management skills.

“Treazure is amazing. She’s very well put-together. I can count on her, you know? She takes pride in her work,” Lindsey says, adding later: “She was really young and kind of wild child. … Now she’s having a family, and I’ve definitely seen her grow since she’s been here.”

Mikey first met Treazure when, then as shop manager, he hired her five years ago. He still recalls his first impressions.

“I remember sitting down with her, she was very sweet and quiet, which is not something you expect from someone with all those tattoos and ear piercings,” Mikey says. “She looked me in the eyes and … she was very earnest.”

untitled-12.jpg

The personal and professional growth over the last five years that Treazure herself cites is something Mikey notes, as well.

untitled-7.jpg

“Within two months, she had picked up everything I had given her. She had become my partner, my sidekick,” he says. “I just kept giving her more and more work. I called her my manager. … (And) I built the position around her.” 

He adds later: “Treazure is not just the manager of the Waimea Coffee Company, but also my best friend.”

Mikey says the duo would often make trips to Kona for shop supplies, but also to buy goofy stuff like little laser guns and, generally, to enjoy each other’s friendship. 

“When I’m down, or not feeling all that, my main objective is to get Treazure to laugh. And there hasn’t been one time I’ve tried, that I haven’t been able to do it,” Mikey says. “I love making her day, because she always makes mine. She goes out of her way to make other people feel good.”

untitled-11.jpg

The cheerful nature Treazure brings to a shift at the coffee shop reveals itself in a very specific way: A laugh that resounds.

Says Mikey. “When Treazure laughs, it’s a real laugh.”

According to Victoria Mejia: “She’s got a laugh that you can hear from the other room. It’s an echo of candor; it’s funny and its honest.”

Says Lindsey, who works in the kitchen at the coffee shop: “It’s just enjoyable. I hear it and I think, ‘All is well.’ I love to hear her laugh, and I hear it pretty often.”


Written By: Timothy Scott | Photos By: Kathrine Kauhane

03302018_WCC_SideBar_Treazure-01.png

03302018_WCC_SideBar_Treazure-02.png