There’s no denying that Kau boasts some of the best coffee in the world. When you look to the numbers, the modest Big Island district ranked among the top 10 for Coffee of the Year, three years in a row. They even earned a spot in one of Starbucks’ 2011 specialty blends. But when you look to the southeastern flanks of Mauna Loa, you’ll find small family-run farms to which the tasty Kau cup is accredited.

(Top) Fresh blend of peaberry from Rusty’s Hawaiian. (Bottom) All-in-the-family coffee.

At about 1,500 feet in elevation, second-generation farmers till the fertile volcanic soils by day and let the afternoon precipitation and cool evenings work into the night. More than 250 coffee samples from 26 countries vied in the prestigious competition, hosted annually by the Roasters’ Guild of the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA). The panel of coffee cupping judges blindly evaluated the sensory attributes of each coffee – looking at aroma, taste, flavor, acidity, aftertaste and body.

Lorie Obra shares her love for coffee at last year’s Kau Coffee Festival.

The three winning coffees from the Kau region included: Will and Grace Tabios of The Rising Sun, Lorie Obra of Rusty’s Hawaiian and Francis and Trinidad Marques of Alii Hawaiian Hula Hands Coffee.

“It’s the spiritual connection to the aina (land). As Hawaiians, the aina and nature speak to us…it feels great to see the results of our perseverance,” Trinidad Marques said in a press release.

Here’s where you can sample a cup of Kau:

  • SCAA’s annual Expo in Portland, Oregon (April 18-22)
  • Kau Coffee Festival in Pahala, Big Island (May 5-6 & May 12-13)

Photo Credit: Rusty’s Hawaiian (first, top); Alii Hawaiian (first, bottom); Fern Gavelek (second)

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