Ka’u Coffee Is Something to Celebrate

For a lot of people in the specialty-coffee industry, the only significant Hawaiian coffee they had ever heard of was Kona ”until a few years ago, that is. In 2011, Pete Licata won the United States Barista Championship, and took 2nd in the World Barista Championship, using coffee from Rusty’s Hawaiian in Ka’u, an area of the Big Island of Hawaii that is producing coffees being snapped up by the likes of Blue Bottle, Klatch Coffee, PT’s Coffee, and other reputable roasters.

I walked the length of the Rusty's Hawaiian farm with Pete Licata (now World Barista Champion), far left), Heather Perry (whose company Klatch Coffee, buys Ka'u coffee), to the right of Pete, and other friends.
I walked the length of the Rusty’s Hawaiian farm with Pete Licata (now World Barista Champion), far left), Heather Perry (whose company Klatch Coffee, buys Ka’u coffee), to the right of Pete, and other friends.

Want to get up close and personal with the amazing coffees of Ka’u? Then save the date for this year’s Ka’u Coffee Festival, May 2 “11. Here’s a peek at some of the fun events scheduled for the festival:

Friday, May 2,  5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Pa ˜ina Open House at historic Pahala Plantation House with Ka’u Chamber of Commerce to kick off 10  days of activities for the 2014 Ka’u Coffee Festival. Music, hula with Halau Hula O Leionalani, food, and house tours. Donations accepted for Miss Ka’u Coffee Scholarship Fund. Corner of Maile and Pikake in Pahala. Hosted by Pahala Plantation Cottages, Ka ˜u Chamber of Commerce and  The Ka ˜u Calendar  newspaper.  www.kaucoffeefest.com,  www.pahalaplantationcottages.com. 808-928-9811.

The 2014 Ka'u Coffee Festival will be a wonderful time to meet leading coffee producers from the area, such as Joan Obra (pictured) who operates the award-winning Rusty's Hawaiian.
The 2014 Ka’u Coffee Festival will be a wonderful time to meet leading coffee producers from the area, such as Joan Obra (pictured) who operates the award-winning Rusty’s Hawaiian.

Saturday, May 3  Taste Success: 4th Annual Ka’u Farmers’ Table at Kalaekilohana Inn and Retreat  features locally sourced fine dining, premium live entertainment, and has been sold out three years running. Advance only tickets are $75 at  www.kau-hawaii.com.

Sunday, May 4  the Triple C Recipe offers competition in cookies, candies and crackers at  12:00  noon, all made with provided  Ka ˜u  coffee. Attendance and  coffee tasting are free; find contest entry info at www.kaucoffeemill.com.

Also  on Sunday, May 4  doors open  6 p.m. for the annual Miss Ka’u  Coffee Pageant at Ka’u  Coffee Mill.  For more information visit  www.KauCoffeeFest.com.

During the week,  visit  Ka’u  coffee farms. Enjoy the scenic and historic beauty of  Ka’u, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Honu’apo fishponds, the cliffs of  Ka Lae ”the southernmost place in the U.S. ”and the nearby Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Stay in one of the many accommodations in  Ka’u. Visit  www.kaucoffeefest.com  for participating coffee farms and accommodations.

The producers in Ka'u are known for experimenting with varietals and processing methods.
The producers in Ka’u are known for experimenting with varietals and processing methods.

Wednesday May 7  explore flume systems of the sugarcane era and development of hydroelectric power on a  Ka’u Mountain Water System Hike in the Wood Valley rainforest  9 a.m.-2 p.m. $40 includes lunch. Limited to 30. Visit www.kaucoffeemill.com  or phone 808-928-0550.

Friday May 9  enjoy Coffee & Cattle Day at Aikane Plantation Coffee farm at 10 a.m., where descendants of the first coffee farmer in Ka ˜u  explain how coffee is integrated into other agriculture.    $25 fee includes an all-you can eat buffet. Visit  www.aikaneplantation.com  or phone 808-927-2252.

Also on  Friday May 9,  observe the heavens from the summit of Makanau at Ka’u Star Gazing,  5:30-10 p.m. $35 with refreshments. To sign up, see  www.kaucoffeemill.com  or call 808-928-0550.

Saturday, May 10  tantalize your taste buds at the  Ka’u  Coffee Festival Ho’olaule’a, with a full day of music, hula, food, local crafts, coffee tastings and farm/mill tours at the Pahala Community Center. Festival entry is free; Ka ˜u Coffee Experience with guided coffee tasting $5; farm tours $20. Call 808-929-9550 or visit  www.KauCoffeeFest.com.

Sunday, May  11  learn about the coffee industry at the  Ka’u  Coffee College at Pahala Community Center. Free, donations appreciated. Also farm/ mill tours continue. Call 808-929-9550 or visit  www.KauCoffeeFest.com.

Founded in coffee traditions hailing to the 1800s ”plus the hard work of former sugar plantation workers ”Ka’u coffee burst onto the specialty coffee scene by winning numerous coffee quality awards. These accolades highlight the unique combination of people and place that makes Ka ˜u coffee a favorite across the globe. The festival’s mission is to raise awareness of Ka’u as a world-class, coffee-growing origin.    

Ka ˜u Coffee Festival vendor and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information and festival updates, visit  kaucoffeefest.com, follow Ka ˜u Coffee Festival on Facebook and @kaucoffeefest on Twitter, or call 808-929-9550.

About Sarah 918 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.