Friday, June 1, 2012

Ka'u Coffee Day

Visitors were invited to taste a variety of Ka'u Coffees prepared using several different methods
 at the Ka'u Coffee Experience. Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
The 4th annual Ka'u Coffee Festival drew more than one thousand people May 5-6 and May 12-13 to the Village of Pahala between Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. Visitors and residents enjoyed The Ka'u Coffee Experience, music, hula, food and farm tours. The 2013 Ka'u Coffee Festival is set for the weekend of April 28 and 29 with farm to table lunches and dinners, the Triple C Recipe Contest, farm tours, the Ho'olaule'a Saturday, May 4 and the Ka'u Coffee College on Sunday, May 5. Check back for the many events to be planned for the festival.

Sueki and Satsuki Funai (left) have grown organic coffee in Ka'u for
generations and were honored with a Ka'u Coffee Festival Lifetime Visionary
Award trophy, surrounded by award-winning Ka'u Coffee farmers
Bull Kailiawa (back left), Trinidad and Francis Marques (back center),
Willie Tabios (right) and Lorie Obra (front right).
Photo by Ralph Gaston
     In 2012, For the first time, the Ka'u Festival joined with Kalaekilohana Bed & Breakfast for a Feast for the Senses with famed Hawaiian singer and hula master Robert Cazimero and Chef Morgan Starr. The Committee also made official the inaugural Triple C Recipe Contest for Candies, Coffees & Crackers at Ka'u Coffee Mill.

      In another inaugural event, the Committee awarded a Lifetime Visionary Award to Sueki and Satsuki Funai. The couple carried on generations of growing organic coffee at their farm in Moa'ula,  Ka'u.

     This year's festival was also honored with the Big Island's Mayor Billy Kenoi naming May 12 as Ka'u Coffee Day. The festival was also graced by a sister hula halau from the remote island of Lana'i, emcee Skylark, and many famous Hawaiian recording artists performing, including Keoki and Moses Kahumoku, Cyril Pahinui, Bruddah Waltah and Sammi Fo.

Ka'u Coffee farmers with Coffees of the Year organizers. Willie Tabios (left),
was top in the U.S., and Lorie Obra (center) and Trini Marques (right) followed,
all three taking spots in the top ten in the worldwide competition.
Photo by Julia Neal
     Central to the Ka'u Coffee Festival are the award winning farmers. Year after year, they place in the top ten worldwide at the Specialty Coffee Association of America's Coffee of the Year competition. The 2012 SCAA Coffees of the Year competition placed three Ka'u Coffees in the top ten: Willie & Grace Tabios with The Rising Sun, Lorie Obra with Rusty's Hawaiian, and Francis and Trinidad Marques with Ali'i Hawaiian Hula Hands Coffee. Ka'u became Grand Champion of Hawaiian Coffee in 2010 and 2011 as Ka'u Coffees are making their way onto some of the world's finest cupping tables.

Come see what all the buzz is about in Ka'u. Join us in 2013 for music, hula, the Ka'u Coffee Experience, delicious local food, fun and educational events, farm and mill tours and coffee, coffee, coffee. Stay awhile and visit Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, South Point, Punalu'u, Honu'apo and the many other natural wonders of our remote part of Hawai'i with its world famous Ka'u Coffee.

Coming from out of town? Directions to Pahala and the festival.

Monday, May 14, 2012

2012 Ka'u Coffee College

Starbucks quality manager Anthony Carroll.
Photo by Ralph Gaston
The future of Ka'u Coffee and how to improve the industry were topics at Ka`u Coffee College held May 13 at Pahala Community Center. Anthony Carroll, manager of coffee quality for Starbucks, said it’s all about the quality and being able to fill orders. He estimated that Ka`u Coffee will be sold in more than 300 of the 17,000 Starbuck stores worldwide this fall. Under the Starbucks Reserve program, Ka`u Coffee is served by the cup and sold whole bean in bags.

     Dr. Robert Hollingsworth, a research entomologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, talked about the farm side of quality. Keeping farms clean and free of fallen and overripe or dried out coffee beans is the most important preventive for infestation of the coffee berry borer, he said, acknowledging that the pest has devastated some farms on this island. He told farmers at Ka`u Coffee College that coffee berry borers can live only a few days outside the coffee cherry and bean. If farms are clean between harvests, borers have nowhere to live, said the entomologist. He said that some farmers in studies elsewhere task pickers to clean fields every few weeks even when they are not harvesting. The cost of paying pickers to clean up fields could be less than the cost of chemicals and labor to apply chemicals to fend off coffee berry borers, he said. During harvest, he recommended, pickers can carry two containers, one for old and overripe beans that are considered trash and one for beans going to the mill.

Jeff Taylor, of PT's Coffee Roasting Co., talks about picking as one of the most
important aspects of quality coffee. Photo by Julia Neal
     Jeff Taylor, of PT’s Coffee Roasting Company in Topeka, Kansas, said that Incentivizing pickers to refrain from picking green beans leads to a much better product and higher prices. He was one of the speakers in a Reverse Trade Mission for which coffee experts and buyers were brought to the Ka`u Coffee Festival. He and his colleague from Finca de Las Planas gave examples of giving prizes like bicycles and chickens for those who pick the best coffee without the green beans. Counting on the floating and separation of green and ripe beans by machinery at the mill “won’t have a good quality.” Said Taylor, “you have to draw the line somewhere. You can’t let your pickers run your business and pick green beans.” Taylor said that farmers can also give orientation classes to pickers before putting them in the field to help them understand why picking the best beans will help everyone become more successful.

     Taylor, who is a nationally renowned micro-roaster, talked about roasting coffee light, saying that dark coffee is like giving someone a well done steak. He contended that medium light and light roasts bring out the true taste of the coffee.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Successful 4th Annual Ho'olaule'a

Local band Hands of Time wrapped up the Ka'u Coffee Festival as
coffee farmers packed up to go home.
Photos by Julia Neal
Ka'u Coffee farmers reached a new high on May 12, 2012 as they celebrated the demand for Ka'u Coffee that is growing to nearly outstrip supply. The farmers sold almost all the coffee on hand at the fourth annual Ka'u Coffee Festival over two weekends, attended by more than 1,000 local residents, visitors and coffee enthusiasts. Many took tours of Ka'u Coffee farms and Ka'u Coffee Mill. Visitors also enjoyed the Ka'u Coffee Experience, where baristas, including national champion Pete Licata, used their skills to make the best Ka'u Coffee possible.

Willie Tabios, 2012 U.S. winner at SCAA, enjoys the Ka'u Coffee
Experience with U.S. barista champion Pete Licata serving.
      Willie Tabios, who took first place for the United States in the 2012 international Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Coffees of the Year competition, said his success is for all the coffee farmers. Tabios is known for sharing his planting, harvesting and processing practices with all the farmers, which has helped lead to a regional excellence. Coffee farmers working on farms within a mile of each other have been winning top ten in the world at the SCAA competition, year after year.

Miss Ka'u Peaberry 2010
Karlee Fukunaga-Camba
and Jennifer Abalos.
Pahala members of Halau Hula
O Leionalani
Photos by Julia Neal
      The day featured an unusual and culturally rich free concert by such legendary musicians as Cyril Pahinui, Moses and Keoki Kahumoku, Bruddah Waltah, hula dancer Sammi Fo and kumu hula Debbie Ryder. Demetrius Oliveira brought his band Keaiwa to the stage along with many more musicians. Miss Peaberry Court, under the direction of Ka'u Coffee Growers Cooperative president Gloria Camba, performed the Bamboo & Water Dances. Music lasted all day and even accompanied the farmers as they packed up and went home. Emcee Skylark's steady voice stayed until the end sharing  all her local knowledge and aloha.

Debbie Ryder, of Lana'i, has expanded
her halau to Pahala and is leading a
cultural exchange between the two
remote communities.
      Debbie Ryder, of Halau Hula O Leionalani, said organizers of the Ka'u Coffee Festival have helped create a new attachment between the remote communities of Lana'i and Ka'u. In 2009, Bull Kailiawa, himself an award-winning Ka'u Coffee grower, joined Dane Galiza in traveling to Lana'i to help with Ho'okupu Hula No Lana'i Cultural Festival and to look at coffee-growing possibilities on the small island. They invited Ryder and her halau to the Ka'u Coffee Festival in 2011. They traveled to Ka`u and ever since, travel between Pahala and Lana'i has increased. Local dancers performing at the Ka'u Coffee Festival already plan fundraisers to go to the next Lana'i Festival. Ryder said she will teach in Pahala more often, as her halau has expanded to include native Hawaiian dancers from such local families as Kailiawa, Kaleohano, Ka'apana-Wroblewsky, Kailiawa-George, Keohuloa-Initan and Ho'opi'i-Kailiawa.

 Sueki and Satsuki Funai  (center) have grown organic coffee in Ka'u
for generations and were honored with a Ka'u Coffee Festival Lifetime Visionary
Award trophy, surrounded by award-winning Ka'u Coffee farmers
Lorie Obra, Willie Tabios, Bull Kailiawa and Francis and Trini Marques.
Photo by Ralph Gasto
    The first Ka'u Coffee Festival Lifetime Visionary Award was presented to Sueki and Satsuki Funai, of Pahala, who have grown organic coffee in Ka'u for generations. Sueki has taken care of shade-grown coffee at the Moa'ula coffee plantation well into his 90s. The farm was started generations before the rise of the new Ka'u Coffee industry. The Funais are famous for having sold most of their coffee to a church in Japan.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Triple C Recipe Contest

Kathleen Kam moves her final mural before it's installed in the Visitor Center.
Photo by Julia Neal
The Triple C Recipe Contest, an official event of the 2012 Ka'u Coffee Festival, was offered to the community on May 6 in conjunction with the Grand Opening of the Ka'u Coffee Mill Visitor Center - where the event was held. The contest called community members to create cookies, crackers and candies using Ka'u Coffee. 

Ka'u Coffee Brigadeiros, 1st place Amateur Candy,
by Gwen Edwards of Kailua-Kona.
Photo by Rachael Sauerman
Participants received an 8 ounce bag of medium roasted coffee from the mill upon turning in their application forms.To balance the competition, professional, amateur and student entries were judged separately. Each first place winner in each category (i.e. professional cookie) took home $150, while second place winners took home $100, and third place winners took home $50. Local chef Brad Hirata of Ka'u Hospital; foodie Carl Okuyama, owner of Wiki-Wiki Mart and Island Market in Na'alehu, and Ka'u Coffee Mill founder Edmund C. Olson served as judges.
Edmund Olson awarded the Grand Prize to Chealsea Lynn
Kauionalani Rosario for her Biscotti. Photo by Julia Neal
Edmund C. Olson and his Land Manager John Cross announced the winners and handed out awards at the event. The overall top scorer, Chelsea Lynn Kauionalani Rosario of Ocean View, HI, received the Grand Prize of $500 for her Amateur Cracker entry titled Biscotti. The recipe incorporated five Ka'u grown ingredients, for which it was awarded bonus points.

As of yet, the mill is trying to create a Ka'u Coffee Mill signature product from the top winners, which will be sold at the Ka'u Coffee Mill Visitor Center once the final product is ready.

Ka'u Coffee Mill Visitor Center is now open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday. Visitors are invited to tour the mill and surrounding farms, view the beautiful original artwork and murals by Kathleen Kam, taste Ka'u Coffee, learn more about how coffee makes it from the field to your cup and purchase merchandise supporting the Ka'u Coffee Mill. 

Triple C Recipe Contest Winners:

Amateur Division, Candy Category
1st place - Gwen Edwards with "Ka'u Coffee Brigadeiros"
2nd place - Cathy Behrens with "Ka'u Coffee Ball Cookies"
3rd place - Raylyne Welker with "Coffee Caramel Candy"

Amateur Division, Cookie Category
1st place - Lisa Dacalio with "Ka'u John Bull Cookies"
2nd place - Shawn Marques with "Keoua's Ka'u Coffee Coco/Mac Attack Cookies"
3rd place - Mary Coulman with "Ka'u Expresso Oatmeal Fruit Cookie"

Amateur Division, Cracker Category
1st place - Chelsea Lynn Kauionalani Rosario with "Biscotti"
2nd place - Tammie Nelson Ewers with "Ka'u Biscotti"
3rd place - Raylyne K. Welker with "Ka'u Coffee Crackers"

Professional Division, Cookie Category
1st place - Trinidad Marques with "Ka'u Kope Mocha Cookies"
2nd place - Carol Barr with "Welfare Bits"

Student Division, Candy Category
1st place - Malie Ibarra with "Ka'u Coffee Toffee"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Celebrating Ka'u Coffee

Ka‘ū, Hawaii Island—The Ka‘ū Coffee Festival kicks off 5-9 p.m. Saturday May 5 with Ka‘ū Farmers’ Table: A Feast for the Senses hosted by Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast. The event features an intimate evening of music with world-renowned Hawaiian entertainer Robert Cazimero and the culinary magic of Executive Chef Morgan Starr of Mi’s Italian Bistro. The locally sourced fare includes a paired five-course gourmet meal and a Ka‘ū coffee dessert bar. Tickets are $100 in advance. The event is being sponsored by Mi’s Wine and Cheese Shop, Hana Hou Restaurant and Kalaekilohana. For information and tickets, contact Kalaekilohana at 808-939-8052.

Miss Ka'u Coffee danced at the
Ka'u Coffee Mill blessing.
Photos by Geneveve Fyvie
Second, the Triple C Recipe Contest, hosted by Ka‘ū Coffee Mill on Wood Valley Road above Pāhala, is 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6. Triple C stands for cookies, candies and crackers made with Ka‘ū coffee. Judges include local chef Brad Hirata. Listen to Hawaiian music with Keoki and Moses Kahumoku, tour the new Ka‘ū Coffee Mill, cheer on the recipe contest entrants and sample the delectable entries as they vie to become a signature Ka‘ū Coffee Mill product. Grand prize is $500; other prizes will be awarded in each category. The contest is co-sponsored by Pahala Plantation Cottages, OK Farms and Edmund C. Olson Trust. For contest rules, visit or call 808-928-9811.

Pete Licata and Lorie Obra
Third, on Saturday May 12, get set for the 4th Annual Ka‘ū Coffee Festival Ho‘olaule‘a featuring the Ka‘ū Coffee Experience in the heritage town of Pāhala. Attendees can sample Ka‘ū coffees prepared in a wide variety of brewing methods while chatting with 2011 US Barista Champion Pete Licata. Festival highlights include day-long live entertainment featuring music by Cyril Pahinui, Keoki and Moses Kahumoku and a host of others, plus hula, local food and crafts, farm and mill tours and lots of internationally renowned Ka‘ū coffee. Festival entry is free. Entry to the Ka‘ū Coffee Experience and tours are $10. Visit for frequent updates and a schedule of events.

Finally, on Sunday, May 13, the Ka‘ū Coffee College returns with its reverse trade mission and educational series. Notable guest speakers include Jeff Taylor, co-founder of PT’s Coffee Roasting Company in Ann Arbor Michigan and Anthony Carroll, manager of Coffee Quality for Starbucks. Dr. Robert Hollingsworth, research entomologist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, will share strategies for optimizing the cost effectiveness of controlling coffee berry borer.

--> Ka‘ū burst onto the specialty coffee scene by winning numerous awards over several years. These awards highlight the unique combination of people and place that help make Ka‘ū coffee a favorite across the globe. The Ka‘ū Coffee Festival’s mission is to raise awareness of Ka‘ū and its growers as a world-class coffee growing origin. For more information visit or call 808-929-9550. Vendor and sponsorship opportunities are available. The Festival is supported in part by the County of Hawai‘i Department of Research and Development and Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.