If you Love Coffee like I do, then you will love this blog. Since I reside in the Ka’u district myself and have been a coffee drinker all my life (people actually recognize me by the coffee cup glued to my hand everywhere I go), I decided to do some researh into what makes it so different and unique out of all the coffees in the world, including beating out the world renowned Kona Coffee in recent competitions. I have gathered this information both from visiting farms and talking with farmers combined with some internet research. Enjoy my little piece of Hawaii, and then check out the listing here in my store. I can tell you from personal experience that this truly is the best coffee I have ever had the privilege of drinking and now having direct access to from a local Ka’u Farmer whose product I am now pleased and proud to be promoting. I really can't describe enough how good it really is, and I really wish I could email smells because that would really do it.
Leaders of the specialty coffee industry are traveling to the stateʻs largest agricultural district this weekend to learn about award-winning Ka‘ū coffee.
Representing three areas of the US Mainland, they include specialty coffee guru George Howell of Terroir Coffee in Acton, Mass.; Skip Fay of Dunn Bros Coffee in Minneapolis, Minn. and James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland, Calif.
The notable coffee experts are participating in Ka‘ū coffeeʻs inaugural reverse trade mission as part of the third Ka‘ū Coffee Festival May 14-15, 2011 at the Pahala Community Center. They will learn first-hand about Ka‘ū coffee during Saturday festival activities, including guided tastings and farm tours. On Sunday, the men will give guest lectures to local coffee farmers at the free Ka‘ū Coffee College.
“We’re pleased and proud that these notable industry leaders are traveling to Ka‘ū to share in our community”, said Chris Manfredi who serves as lead festival organizer. “This strategic initiative to create collaborative relationships will benefit Ka‘ū growers and moves us another step forward on the path toward establishing Ka‘ū as a premium coffee growing origin.”
A pioneer of the specialty coffee movement in the early 1970s, George Howell founded The Coffee Connection, a high-end coffee retailer that was acquired by Starbucks in 1994. He is an expert on single-origin coffee and is a living legend in the industry.
Marshall “Skip” Fay is executive vice president of Dunn Bros Coffee Franchising, Inc. He opened Dunnʻs first franchised coffee house and roastery in 1994. Today there are 90 locations.
Named one of the New York Times’ “Nifty 50,” James Freeman is on coffee’s radar for his Blue Bottle coffee company in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Freeman’s network of coffee carts and cafes offer carefully made coffee drinks and he is committed to selling beans “less than 48 hours out of the roaster.”
The Ka‘ū Coffee Festival comes on the heels of recent coffee industry awards garnered by brews that hail from the rural southern end of the Big Island. Kailiawa Farm earned a Coffee of the Year award in the 2011 Specialty Coffee Association of Americaʻs (SCAA) annual international cupping competition. Out of 127 entries, representing 17 countries, competed in Houston, and this marks the fifth consecutive year that strictly Ka‘ū coffees have placed at or near the top of international competition. Manfredi first introduced Ka‘ū to intentional competition in 2007 and his company, Ka‘ū Farm and Ranch, LLC, has sponsored the entries every year since.
On May 3, Hawai‘iʻs Pete Licata used Ka‘ū and Kona coffees to be the first from the 50th State to win the U.S. Barista Championship. The event is the culmination of 10 regional competitions organized by SCAA in which competitors produce espresso, cappuccinos and original signature drinks to exacting standards. Licata, of Honolulu Coffee Co., travels to Bogota, Columbia, June 2-5 to vie in the prestigious World Barista Championship.
In 2007 two Ka’u estate coffees captured 6th and 9th place against the most celebrated coffees in the world in the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Roaster’s Guild Cupping Pavilion Competition. In 2008, Ka’u coffee came in 11th at the SCAA’s prestigious annual cupping competition. Ka'u Coffee has also received high scores from some of the most respected coffee experts in the world. In 2007 Ka'u coffee roasted by Miguel Meza of Paradise Roasters scored a 91 from Ken Davids of the Coffee Review, 92 from Coffeecuppers.com, and 87 from Tom Owens of Sweet Maria's Coffee.
Ka’u coffee is cultivated on small hill-side and valley farms overlooking the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Ka’u coffee is grown with pride, passion and aloha by farmers dedicated to creating the best possible coffee in the world. Ka’u coffee is carefully hand-picked, hand processed in small batches, and sun-dried.
Coffee was introduced to Hawaii in 1813 by the Spanish physician and royal interpreter, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. Coffee was being cultivated in Ka’u in 1894 by J.C. Searle. However his coffee business was not commercially successful due to the competition for land and labor posed by the sugar plantations.
When the sugar industry collapsed one hundred years later and the Ka’u sugar plantation closed in 1996, the displaced workers looked to coffee as one of the most promising avenues for post-plantation agriculture.
The first years of the fledgling Ka’u coffee industry were rife with challenges as the farmers struggled to acquire the daunting array of agricultural, processing and business skills required to succeed in the coffee business. The farmers persevered and quietly began producing an amazing coffee, rooted in Hawaiian coffee-producing tradition but displaying a new and exciting flavor profile.
Ka’u coffee slowly began to make a name for itself among local coffee buffs but remained virtually unknown outside the region until recently. This began to change with Ka'u Coffee was entered in the SCAA competition in 2007 by Ka'u Farm and Ranch Company. Indeed, the recent story of Ka'u coffee's recognition would not be complete without mentioning Chris Manfredi of Ka'u Farm and Ranch Company, whose thoughtful support of the Ka'u coffee farmers has opened new doors for Ka'u coffee.
The story of Ka’u coffee has just begun, as the farmers build on their success with new energy and commitment to quality.
The Honolulu Advertiser Newspaper Article from July 1st, 2007
Hawai'i coffees ranked among the top brews in the world in a recent international competition. The state's high ranking may not be surprising. Rather, what's raising eyebrows is where the coffee was grown — the Big Island's Ka'u region. Ka'u coffees ranked sixth and ninth in a major annual international taste test in Long Beach, Calif., in May of 2007, the very first time Ka'u coffee was entered into official competition.
Coffee is Hawai'i's fifth-largest agricultural export, and the distinct taste of 100% Kona coffee has made it by far the most sought-after local variety. However, for Ka'u's nascent coffee industry and other non-Kona growers, this recent top ten placement provides proof that Hawai'i can produce world-class coffee outside of the well-known Kona region. Hawai'i is home to hundreds of coffee growers strung out from O'ahu to Moloka'i; however, no local coffee commands the recognition and high prices generated by Kona growers. For non-Kona growers that equates to about 50 percent lower wholesale prices.
That makes the recent recognition of Ka'u coffees by the Specialty Coffee Association of America especially sweet.
"I'm very happy because right now Ka'u coffee is recognized as one of the best coffees in the world," said William Tabios, whose Will & Grace Rising Sun coffee placed sixth. Tabios, a former sugar-cane farm worker, has grown coffee on seven acres in Pahala since 2000.
Another Ka'u grower, Aroma Farms, placed ninth.
The tasting competition already has gotten added attention from potential Mainland buyers, said Lorie Obra, co-president of the Ka'u Coffee Growers Cooperative and another Pahala coffee grower. It's also gotten Ka'u coffee on the radar of local celebrity chef Alan Wong, who plans to add a variety of Ka'u brands to the menu at his King Street restaurant.
"We're going to put it on the menu and see if people like it," said Wong, who visited Ka'u coffee growers after learning about the competition results.
Ka'u coffee joins other Big Island coffees including Kona brands as well as Kaua'i brands on the restaurant's menu.
"I love the Kona coffees, but it's always good to have competition," Wong said.
Ka'u coffee "has got enormous aroma — great body, great flavor. It's got great potential," he added.
KONA COFFEE UNRANKED
So if two coffees from Ka'u ranked in the SCAA's top 10 specialty coffees in the world, where did Kona coffees rank? They didn't. That's because no coffees from Kona — Hawai'i's most renowned coffee-growing region — were entered in the annual cupping contest even though several Kona coffee companies attended the SCAA's annual conference. Overall, 104 coffees competed in the contest.
"As far as we know they haven't participated (in the tasting contest) in the last three years," said Rick Havacko, a spokesman for the SCAA. "This is the major tasting competition in the world."
That lack of Kona representation likely won't be repeated next year, said Roger Kaiwi, general manager for Captain Cook Coffee Co., which was present at the trade show but did not compete.
"You'll probably have 20 entries from Kona next year," he said. "A lot of people will probably feel they missed the boat. This is probably in all reality a great wake-up call. Come on, Kona, represent yourself."
However, it's not like Kona coffee necessarily needs the publicity. Kona growers already are getting near-record prices amid lower production in the wake of a bumper crop in 2006.
There are 3,800 acres of coffee on the Big Island, of which 3,350 are in Kona, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The rest — about 450 acres — can be found in Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo and Ka'u, among other locations.
SMART MOVE FOR KA'U
Jim Wayman, president of both the Hawaii Coffee Co. and the Hawaii Coffee, Association, said the coffee tasting competition proves there's a lot happening in Hawai'i outside of Kona.
"Kona has 100 years of marketing behind it, while something like Ka'u has 10 years behind it," he said. "They're trying to get recognition for their brand, so anything you can do, you do. This is a first step in getting them some strong recognition and attention to their brand."
With well more than 100 years of history Kona coffee also is Hawai'i's biggest, most recognized and highest-priced coffee. Ka'u's coffee history is more limited. The region got a boost in the late 1990s when the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Economic Transition Assistance Program helped 30 or so displaced sugar-cane workers start coffee farms in Ka'u.
Since then things haven't gone as planned, with growers at times finding it difficult to find buyers.
"It's been a bumpy ride," said Obra, who has farmed coffee in Ka'u since 1999.
Kona also is the only Hawai'i coffee with its own regional trademark, though Ka'u growers are considering pursuing similar protection via a Ka'u coffee trademark.
Ultimately what's good for Ka'u coffee is good for Hawai'i coffee, Captain Cook's Kaiwi said.
"We all win," he said. "We're all brothers and sisters in this whole fight. This was probably one of the better business moves by Ka'u."
Click Here To View My Listing
Enjoy the photos. This is what truly fresh roasted and bagged coffee is supposed to look like: