Ka’u Coffee Is Something to Celebrate

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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.comwww.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 the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen 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.