Ka`u Coffee Takes Top Honors on Big Island

Ka`u Coffee Takes Top Honors on Big Island

There are those who think of that morning cup o’ joe as something more than a quick pick-me-up. Coffee—especially to those of us who have explored the “kona typica” varietals that thrive here in Hawai`i—can be as intricate as a fine wine to the right palate. And while many know that we’re blessed with the only coffee-producing region in North America, not as many are aware that farmers throughout Hawai`i have “stepped it up” over the last decade. The proof was in the mug last week, when a little farm in the south eastern district of Ka`u placed first in the Grand Champion of Hawaiian Coffee at its 15th annual conference in Kona.

Lorie Obra of Rusty’s Hawaiian accepted the Hawaii Coffee Association’s top honors, which included 67 entrants from all over the islands, including the more well-known Kona region. Earning a score of 91.1, Obra’s Ka’u brew (which is named after her late husband) called the win “a victory for all of Ka`u, for HCA and all of Hawaii." Earlier this month, Obra was recognized as the 2010 Outstanding Producer by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe. Yes, THAT Europe; the one where Italians and French and Spanish have been perfecting "La crema" for more centuries than all the Polynesian islands combined have recorded history for. A big deal, without question.

Maui’s Kupa`a Farm placed second (with an 89.65 score), which certainly took attendees by surprise. The Kona district award went to Una Greenaway’s 5-acre Kuaiwi Farm, which cupped an organic blend. There were high scores from coffees hailing from Kauai, Molokai and Oahu, to boot. Yet the top ten included five from Kona, three from Ka`u and one from Maui.

Members of the judges panel were flown in from various coffee-related businesses in California and Oregon.

For those of you on the cusp of educating yourself about the craft of coffee growing here in Hawai`i, be sure to look for Shawn Steiman’s book (and interview you can read byclicking here), who holds a PhD from UH in coffee science; look for Ka`u-grown coffees on menus like Alan Wong’s and others around Hawaii; and consider attending the week-long November celebration of all things coffee that is the Kona Coffee Festival (click here to find details on the event). From cherry-picking, to culinary events, the cupping competition, art exhibits, a parade and the crowning of Ms. Kona Coffee—it’s an event no coffee-lover should miss in his/her lifetime.

There were high scores from coffees hailing from Kauai, Molokai and Oahu, to boot. Yet the top ten included five from Kona, three from Ka`u and one from Maui.