A Cup Of Perfection

The mouthwatering aroma of coffee permeates the air in Kona Coffee Purveyors’ roasting facility.

Sitting in a booster seat atop a bin full of coffee beans, 7-month-old Liam is entranced with the buzz of machinery as beans begin roasting. Nearby, his father Raymond and Timothy Kai “T.K.” Yamada work closely with one another, adjusting and perfecting every step of the production. Raymond’s wife Jackie, meanwhile, remains in another room of the facility steeping coffee.


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Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

This is only a fraction of the process Kona Coffee Purveyors undergoes to showcase its carefully crafted coffee to customers.

For years, founder and master roaster Raymond Suiter has channeled his own excitement for coffee into seeking out and then sharing his best discoveries.

“You know, I just love coffee,” he says.

From Honolulu to Kona

Raymond Suiter’s first encounter with coffee was not a memorable one. As a 14-year-old, he admits he masked its true flavors by adding too much sugar. Fortunately, his interest in coffee persisted, enabling him to develop a more sophisticated palate.

The Kailua High School grad first involved himself professionally with coffee in the early ’90s.

“I actually lived here for a while, but I couldn’t find a good cup of coffee,” he says. “I think that’s what got me into coffee.”

In 1991, he established Honolulu Coffee Company. The strong growth of the company forced Suiter into more of a managerial position. He sold Honolulu Coffee Company in 2008 to return to his true passion: “roasting and finding amazing coffee.” That same year, he began Kona Coffee Purveyors.

Currently, Kona Coffee Purveyors works as a wholesale and retail roaster. Its products also can be purchased at Neiman Marcus and via its recently launched website.

As a roaster, Suiter travels to Kona to meet and foster relationships with farmers. Sometimes, he also goes abroad for its Kona blends.

To ensure its quality, Suiter looks for two things: high elevation and single estate. Beans grown at a higher elevation, he says, provide a nicer flavor, and only working with single estates ensures each bean is of the same standard.

“We want to do everything we can to work with people like ourselves who prioritize quality,” he says.

Back at the roasting facility, coffee beans are roasted five to 10 different ways and undergo a cupping process to allow Suiter and his team to refine and perfect each flavor profile.

As part of his personal preference, Kona Coffee Purveyors only offers light- to medium-roasted coffee, which he feels highlights its full flavor.

“My passion is letting you taste a cup of coffee and understanding what that bean tastes like because we did everything we could, from the blossom to the cup, to make it as good as possible,” he says.

A family affair

Standing around a cupping table in Kona Coffee Purveyors’ facility, the three Suiters and T.K. are a tight-knit group with only one other employee.

As Jackie brews coffee, Raymond and T.K. take turns entertaining Liam.

“This is a team effort here,” says Raymond. “I can’t do any of this without these two people.”

Jackie, who has been with the company since its inception and married to Raymond for two years, trained as a food scientist. She feels coffee allows her to apply her training and tasting experience in a very specific way.

T.K. has been working with Raymond for seven years and roasting coffee for three years.

“The more I’m learning, I learn that I don’t know anything,” he says with a laugh. “There’s just so much to coffee.”

Next month, Jackie and T.K. will travel to San Francisco, where they will take a six-day examination to become Q Graders, a certification similar to becoming a sommelier.

If Jackie passes, she would like to also become an instructor, utilizing Kona Coffee Purveyors’ space and resources, to share her passion with others.

The couple is interested in hosting cupping classes in which participants can learn to identify what they like or dislike about different flavor profiles. Jackie also would like to teach proper brewing methods to ensure their coffee is prepared in ways that truly showcases the product.

Additionally, the duo hope to work with restaurants and cafes to introduce artisan roasted coffee to diners.

Even as Kona Coffee Purveyors continues to flourish, the goal remains relatively simple: “My passion is to really have people, when they taste Kona coffee say, ‘Man, that’s good,'” says Raymond.

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