Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Celebration of Ka’u Specialty Coffee

The Ka’u District on Hawaii Island is expanding coffee production on the southern slopes of Mauna Loa Volcano. Though Ka'u coffee is less well known internationally than Kona coffee, gourmet coffee beans grown in Ka’u are winning international coffee competitions.

Coffee was initially planted in Ka’u in 1843, but the land was overtaken by sugar plantations. After the demise of the region's sugar industry in 1996, farmers have been transforming the cane fields into acres of coffee plants.  Ka’u coffee started gaining attention in 2007 when Will & Grace Rising Sun coffee and Aroma Farms were ranked in the top ten coffees in the world by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).  This year, three coffees from Ka’u were judged in the SCAA top ten, including  Rising Sun, Rusty's Hawaiian, and Ali'i Hawaiian Hula Hands Coffee. These Ka’u coffees, which competed with 250 other coffees from 26 countries, were the only winners from the US. 

We were introduced to Ka’u coffee in 2004 when we stopped at the farmer’s market in Na’alehu in the Ace Hardware parking lot across from the Punalu’u Bake shop. We were taken by Rusty Obra's enthusiasm for growing coffee so we bought some of his Rusty's Hawaiian to try.  We liked it so much that we started ordering it online when we returned to California.  After moving to Hilo in 2007, we were sorry to hear that Rusty had passed away, but we were glad the great tasting coffee was still available thanks to his wife Lorie.

This weekend, the 4th Annual Ka’u Coffee Festival is taking place in Pahala, a town located between Volcanoes National Park and the Punalu’u black sand beach. On Saturday, May 12, the events include a music festival (Ho’olaule’a) , cupping demonstrations, coffee farm tours, and the Ka’u Coffee Experience which offers the opportunity to sample a variety of Ka’u coffees.   On Sunday, May 13 the festival sponsors the Ka’u Coffee College which features instruction and advice to those interested in producing their own coffee.

To find out more about Ka’u Coffee and the upcoming annual Ka’u Coffee Festival, check out their website.

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