Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Brewing On Big Island November

The 2005 Festival Spotlights Coffee Culture

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Brewing On Big Island November

The 2005 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival at the Outrigger Keauhou is rapidly approaching. If you're looking for an excuse to save some shipping charges on Kona coffee, swing by the Big Island between November 3 - 12th, and can pick up a case of the island's top-rated brew.

The gist: The Pacific's (and beyond) most caffeine-happy enthusiasts (we won't call them addicts) descend upon the Big Island's south coast for weekend of tasting and general good times in and around Keauhou Bay. With so many people jacked up on the island's tastiest beans, how could it not be fun? Aside from the daily coffee tastings, there will be a wonderful display of local art, including a coffee label contest, plus culinary demonstrations, local artists displaying their wares, live hula and Hawaiian musical performances.

First, a little background for the newbies: the Big Island of Hawaii is a huge swath of moonscape-like lava rock. There is new and old lava. Some is black, hard and sharp. Some is red, soft and molten hot. Don't touch the latter. If you're touching the former, do it gently. It cuts.

Anyway. Between 1,000 and 2,000 feet above the island's royal blue seawater, the land is among the most fertile on the planet. It also happens to be perfect for growing coffee. This, as discovered by Japanese settlers 125 years ago, who came to plant banana, sugar cane, mountain apple, breadfruit and taro in the same area. They found that coffee grew quicker and yielded far more profits than the rest.

And the Kona coffee industry was born.

Today there are rumored to be over 75 bean growers on the island. Not all produce coffee--some sell their beans to those who have mastered the art of roasting and, perhaps somewhat more difficult, selling for profit.

At the 2005 festival, B on Hawaii interviewed the coffee experts--those brought in by Gevalia to judge the entries to the contest--to get an idea of how multi-layered the art of coffee-making goes. Apparently, it's rather deep.

The experts confirmed that certain technological advances in the roasting process--as well as the cultivation of beans--were conceptualized in Kona. These practices are now used in the top producing locales like Italy, Central America and the Arabic regions.

Meanwhile, back at the festival: The event has been bringing in thousands throughout its 35-year existence, who come to find out which producer will receive the blue ribbon for best brew. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the experience is watching the experts judge the coffee. Situated on a dramatic, spacious lanai at the Outrigger Keauhou, with waves crashing beneath, the tasters invoke practices that we have yet to see mimicked anywhere in the culinary industry. One judge held her hand over a cup of steaming brew, allowing a certain amount of condensation to form on her palm. She then cupped wafts of steam up towards her face, while deeply inhaling, in short, dramatic breaths. Fascinating.

Another judge explained how the tiniest fleck of "skin" from the fruit not property removed can dramatically affect the taste of a brew. A bitter brew can be evident of a sloppy separation of beans from skin process, we learned.

A third judge would swirl a cup of joe with a special spoon--then, mid swirl, plunge the device to retrieve a sample from the whirlpool's center. He would then slurp the liquid from the top of the spoon, while inhaling air through his nose. Unreal.

For those with a keen interest in coffee's history on the islands, visit the 7-acre Kona Coffee Living History Farm. It's more than a century old, and their hour-long tour offers great insight, not to mention sweeping Kona views. (808-323-2006 for more information.)

Click this link to go to see a listing of a dozen Kona coffee producers--and order your own bag of heaven!!!

Visit www.islandair.com for ticketing.