My parents recently took a trip to Kauai to celebrate their anniversary. It was a well-deserved trip for a couple who has never taken a lavish vacation for themselves. It wasn’t completely selfish, however. As you can tell from their photos from the field, they felt obliged to aid and abet their son in his single-minded coffee obsession. So they headed down to the southern part of the island to the Kauai Coffee Company to visit one of only a handful of farms that produces coffee within the U.S. (all of which are in Hawaii). Let’s give my folks a hand, shall we?
There are three things I learned from my parent’s trip to origin. The first is that this farm, at least, grows a lot of coffee on very flat land. The farm actually uses large harvesting machines like the ones you see here. This mechanized production isn’t surprising really given that the cost of labor is so much greater within the US than it is in most developing countries where coffee is produced.
The second is that coffee from Kauai isn’t Kona coffee. I’m embarrassed to admit that this fact actually surprised me. For some time, I’ve been closely following the battle that Kona coffee farmers have been waging to protect the Kona name. They’d like to set standards for it so that unscrupulous businessmen can’t call coffee “Kona” when it contains only 10% Kona coffee. Of course, farmers would probably also like to stop even more unscrupulous businessmen from slapping the Kona name on products which contain absolutely no coffee in them at all. In following this greater brouhaha, it somehow slipped past me that Kona was a region on the Big Island and so it isn’t an applicable moniker to attach to coffee grown on Kauai.
The third thing I learned is that the coffee from the Kona Coffee Company isn’t really very good. The Peaberry should have been my favorite because it was the lighter roast. It was a little bright and somewhat sweet. I noted something like chocolate and the suggestion of something like cherry, but the coffee overall was thin-bodied and flat in flavor.
I subsequently found myself ever so slightly more drawn to the Roaster Master’s choice which combined medium and darker roasted coffee within the same bag. The darker roast meant the coffee was more sugary and smokey giving it some much needed character. It was only just over-roasted so it wasn’t too unpleasant but I can’t say this coffee was particularly appealing either.
I wondered if perhaps both coffees were old or stale, but while not ultra-fresh, both were just under two weeks old when I first broke their seal. It seems the lack of character in these two coffees is either due to the quality of the bean or the profile of the roast or some combination of the two.