Thursday, May 9, 2013

5th Annual Ka'u Coffee College

Po-Jung "Simon" Hsieh of Taiwan. Photo by Julia Neal
New York Roaster Jim Munson.
Photo by Chris Manfredi
Ka'u Coffee Education wrapped up ten days of Ka'u Coffee Festival events on Sunday, May 5, 2013, with Ka'u Coffee College at Pahala Community Center. Chinese coffee entrepreneur Po-jung “Simon” Hsieh talked about the history of coffee growing in Taiwan where Japanese established coffee growing during their occupation of the island. The coffee became abandoned and went wild after the Japanese left, and more recently was re-established as a new industry. Hsieh operates Soaring Phoenix Trading Co. and imports Ka'u coffee to Taiwan.

Jim Munson talked about the development of his company, Brooklyn Roasting Company. He praised the strength of the Ka'u Coffee farmers' stories and how they play to the U.S. market and appeal to U.S. consumers. 

Dr. Leisha Keith, from University of Hawai'i, talked about management of the coffee berry borer that has devastated farms in Kona. She said that keeping farms and surrounding lands and gulches clean of fallen branches, coffee cherry, and cuttings is one of the most important aspects of holding back the infestations. 

Dr. Leisha Keith of University of Hawai'i
Other important management priorities Keith emphasized are spraying a fungus that can kill the borers in five days when the insects move around outside the young coffee beans and also setting traps so farmers can know when the coffee berry borers are invading their orchards. She said that once the pests bore into the coffee beans, the fungus spray can't reach them.

5th Annual Ho'olaule'a

Photo by Andrew Richard Hara
The Ka'u Coffee Festival Ho'olaule'a drew more than a thousand people to the grounds of the Pahala Community Center on Saturday, May 4, 2013, in celebration of 17 years of Ka'u coffee becoming a new industry for the district, with small businesses and small farms creating a worldwide reputation. 

Chris Manfredi, co-chair
of Ka'u Coffee Festival,
with Wendy Cortez-Botelho,
representing Gov. Abercrombie
who declared Ka'u Coffee Week.
Photo by Julia Neal
Photo by Andrew Richard Hara
Gov. Neil Abercrombie declared the week of the festival Ka'u Coffee Week. 

A cultural exchange based around the festival was further forged between the small community of Lana`i and halau members in Pahala and from Japan. 

Keoki Kahumoku and 'ukulele kids.
Photo by Julia Neal
Lori Lei Shirakawa’s hula studio presented dancers from tiny keiki to kupuna, accompanied by Gene Akamu, Lori Lei and friends. Cyril Pahinui, D, Gene and Curtis, and Debbie Ryder were among the performers along with Keoki Kahumoku and his 'ukulele kids. 

Photo by Julia Neal
The many labels of Ka'u coffee were shared with visitors and local residents who also visited farms and the Ka'u Coffee Mill and tasted coffees brewed using various methods at the Ka'u Coffee Experience.

Craft, food and entertainment vendors added to the collection of community members present at the festival.

Photo by Andrew Richard Hara
Jeanette Howard was awarded a $1,000 check for winning the Buy Local, It Matters raffle.

Mahalo for your support. Check back soon for next year's dates!

Ka'u Star Gazing

Photos by Andrew Richard Hara
On Friday, May 3, 2013, Ka'u Coffee Mill offered a unique opportunity for event participants to not only visit Makanau, a Hawaiian historic sacred site and lookout place, but to taste a selection of wine and beer as they star gazed. 

'Imiloa astronomer Shawn Laatsch gave a lecture on stars from Makanau as the sun set. While the clouds, which brought much needed rain to the coffee farms, prevented many stars from being seen that night, the astronomer used the sky as a backdrop for teaching the group about Ka'u’s night skies. 

Before dark, the group was able to see the view from Makanau over ranch lands and onto a long stretch of undeveloped coastline. 

The name of the tabletop mountain, Makanau, incorporates the Hawaiian word for eyes, “maka.” 

Participants paid $35 per person in advance and received Ka'u Coffee, wine, beer and snacks.    

This event might be held again next year so check back later for a date!

Coffee & Cattle Day

Photo by Tom McAlexander
Aikane Plantation Coffee Company hosted a "Coffee and Cattle" event on Friday, May 3, 2013, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. At this official Ka'u Coffee Festival event, Phil and Merle Becker explained to participants how coffee is integrated into cattle production and other agriculture. Visitors paid $25 per person in advance and received lunch and beverages in addition to the tour.

In 1894, “Papa” J. C. Searle, Merle’s great-grandfather, planted his first crop of coffee in Ka‘u. His coffee became very popular and received many favorable comments from the local media. Due to a competition for laborers with the sugar plantation, “Papa’s” dream was lost but not forgotten. Over one hundred years later, Aikane Plantation Coffee Company was established by Merle and Phil Becker.

Phil and Merle Becker.
Photos courtesy of Aikane Plantation Coffee Co.
This event will likely occur again during the 2014 Ka'u Coffee Festival, check back later for dates.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ka'u Mountain Water Systems Hike

Olson Trust land manager John Cross discussed plans for a hydroelectric plant using water from former plantation water sources during yesterday's Ka'u Moutain Water Systems Hike. Photos by Andrew Richard Hara
The Ka'u Mountain Water Systems Hike yesterday led walkers from 25 to 75 years of age onto old plantation trails, into the rainforest above Wood Valley Road and to old tunnels and water systems once used to carry sugar cane to the Pahala sugar mill. The event, one of many during the ten days of the Ka'u Coffee Festival sold out, and Ka'u Coffee Mill representatives said they plan to offer the hike on a regular basis.

During the trek, Olson Trust land manager John Cross explained plans to use the plantation water sources for a new hydroelectric plant that will run Ka'u Coffee Mill and other farm enterprises as well as provide irrigation water for crops like taro and watercress. Shalan Crysdale, Hawai'i Island Director for The Nature Conservancy, talked about the rainforest and the preservation of the watershed and endangered species, as well as a partnership with landowner Edmund C. Olson Trust II to eradicate invasive species such as kahili ginger from the native forest.

The next Ka'u Coffee Festival event is Coffee & Cattle Day tomorrow, Friday, May 3 at Aikane Plantation Farm with lunch and a tour of coffee, protea, cattle, horses and other farm enterprises on the cane haul road between Pahala and Na'alehu. The cost is $25 per person. Call 808- 927-2252 for reservations.

Also on Friday is Ka'u Star Gazing on Makanau Mountain at 5:30 p.m., meeting at the Edmund C. Olson Trust II building on the corner of Maile St. and Pikake St. in Pahala. The $35 per person event is sold out and includes a talk from an 'Imiloa astronomer, as well as Ka'u Coffee and snacks.

The Nature Conservancy Hawai'i Island Director Shalan Crysdale talked about rainforest preservation.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Triple C Recipe Contest Winners

Judges put the recipe entries to the taste test and found it difficult to choose a winner from the many delicious creations. Photos by Julia Neal
Sunday's Triple C Recipe Contest in which contestants used Ka'u Coffee to make cookies, candies and crackers saw Gwen Edwards take home the $500 grand prize with her Coca Mocha Roca, plus $150 for winning the Amateur Candy category.

Grand Prize winning recipe,
Cocha Mocha Roca by Gwen Edwards.
The event was held April 28 at Ka'u Coffee Mill with five judges, the third event in ten days of the Ka'u Coffee Festival. Judges for the recipe contest were Miss Ka'u Coffee Tiare-Lee Shibuya, Chef Brad Hirata, Na'alehu Market owner Carl Okuyama, Ka'u Coffee Mill Chief Roaster Kalikoweo Keolanui-Daniele and Lou Daniele, also of Ka'u Coffee Mill.

Musician Keoki Kahumoku with
Grand Prize Winner Gwen Edwards.
In the Amateur Candy category, where Edwards also took first, she was followed by second-place winner Rosaria Chelsea-Lynn taking home $100 for her Ka'u Coffee Honu Crunch, and Nadine Ebert taking home $50 for her Chocolate Frosted Coffee Candy.

In the Amateur Cookie category, Masako Sakata took first and $150 for her Ka'u Coffee Cookie Delights, second place and $100 went to Angelica Kawewehi for her Ka'u Coffee Doodles and third place and $50 went to Nadine Ebert for her Mocha Biscotti Frosted with Chocolate.

Musician Keoki Kahumoku and two-time winner
Masako Sakata.
In the Amateur Cracker category. Lisa Dacalio took first and $100 with her Ka'u Bull Crackers. Masako Sakata took second and $100 with her Ka'u Coffee Icing on Crackers. Sakata donated both of her awards to next years Miss Ka'u Coffee Pageant as a $250 scholarship.

In the Professional Cookie category, Aikane Plantation Coffee and Kapolei High Schools Culinary Program took home $150 and first place for Ka'u Coffee Brownies. Trini Marques took home second and $100 for Ka'u Coffee Chocolate Dipped Pleasures.

In the Professional Cracker category, Trini Marques took first and earned $150 for her Ka'u Coffee Melts.

"Happy Birthday Ka'u Coffee
In the Student Cookie category, Sarah Beth Passarelli took first with Coffee-Chocolate Bites, earning her $150. Second and $100 went to Lorilee Lokenani Lorenzo with her Coffee Macnut Pie Crust Bars, and third and $50 went to Ka'u Middle School Uplink After-School All-Stars with their Uplink All-Star Cookies.

In the Student Candy category, Lorilee Lokenani Lorenzo took first and $100 with her Coffee Macnut Candy.

The day also celebrated the first anniversary of the Ka'u Coffee Mill visitor center.
Miss Ka'u Coffee Tiare-Lee Shibuya danced hula as Keoki Kahumoku sang and played 'ukulele while as the judges scores were tallied.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A New Queen & Court, Miss Ka'u Coffee Pageant 2013

Miss Ka'u Coffee 2013 Tiare-Lee Shibuya (left), stands with the former Miss Peaberry Rebecca Lynn Kailiawa-Escobar (middle) and her Tiare's sister, the former Miss Ka'u Coffee, Brandy Shibuya. Photos by Geneveve Fyvie
Tiare-Lee Shibuya, daughter of police officer Dane and Terry-Lee Shibuya, of Wai'ohinu, became Miss Ka'u Coffee Friday night, April 26,  during the pageant that kicked off ten days of Ka'u Coffee Festival events. Tiare-Lee is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, attends Hawai'i Community College and plans to be a nurse. Her talent was hula. She won a $1,000 scholarship presented by the Edmund C. Olson Trust II.

First Princess
Seneca Lee Oleyte.
First Princess is Seneca Lee Oleyte, of Pahala. She is 22 and the daughter of Ernest and Lenora Lorenzo-Oleyte. She attends University of Hawai'i in Hilo and studies communications. She is a graduate of Ka'u High School. Her talent was singing. She won a $500 scholarship presented by Ka'u Coffee Festival chair Chis Manfredi.

Second Princess
Rachel Ornelas.
Second Princess is Rachel Ornelas, of Wai'ohinu. She is the daughter of Mia Ornelas and resides with her grandparents, Mario and Memmy Ornelas. She is 19, graduated from Ka'u High School and attends University of Hawai'i at Hilo, studying to be a nurse. Her talent was singing. She won a $400 scholarship presented on behalf of Sen. Russell Ruderman donating $250 and Rep. Richard Onishi donating $150.

Third Princess
Kawailani Houvener.
Third Princess is Kawailani Houvener, of Ocean View. She is 17 and the daughter of Michelle and Kenneth Houvener. She is a senior at Ka'u High School and plans to sign up for the Army and study mechanics. Her talent was hula. She won a $300 scholarship with Punalu'u Bake Shop donating $250 and Miss Bobby Tucker donating $50.

The Talent and Gown categories were won by Shibuya. Ornelas took home the Education scholarship, and Houvener took home the Miss Photogenic prize.

The reigning Miss Peaberry, Rebecca Lynn Kailiawa-Escobar, wowed the crowd with a dance, a speech and gown presentation. The reigning Miss Ka'u Coffee performed a beautiful hula dance and welcomed her sister as her successor.

From left: Second Princess Rachel Ornelas, Miss Ka'u Coffee Tiare-Lee
Shibuya, former Miss Ka'u Coffee Brandy Shibuya, former Miss Peaberry
Rebecca Lynn Kailawa-Escobar, Emcees Bobby and Phoebe Gomes, First
Princess Seneca Lee Oleyte, and Third Princess Kawailani Houvener.
Emcees Bobby and Phoebe Gomes entertained, with Phoebe singing and playing 'ukulele. Before announcing the judges’ decisions, Bobby said about the candidates, “They are all winners.” 

The queen and her court will attend many festival events through May 5. Events this week include a hike in the mountains along the old plantation water system on Wednesday, visiting Aikane Plantation Coffee farm and stargazing at Makanau on Friday, and the day-long ho'olaule'a at Pahala Community Center on Saturday, May 4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. See our website,, for more.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ka'u Coffee Places Top 10 Worldwide Yet Again, SCAA 2013

After placing in the top ten in the Roasters Guild competition, Miguel Meza and Joan Obra get the
interview by a German television crew who recently filmed Ka`u Coffee farms. Photo by Julia Neal
Ka'u Coffee roasters who returned victoriously from Boston this Monday with two awards, showing regional excellence for Ka'u Coffee, will offer free coffee tastings at the Ka'u Coffee Festival Ho'olaule'a from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pahala Community Center on Saturday, May 4. Both Rusty’s Hawaiian 100 Percent Ka'u Coffee and Ka'u Coffee Mill placed in the top ten worldwide in the coveted Roasters Choice awards for 2013. The competition is sponsored by the Roasters Guild, which is the trade guild of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The SCAA considers itself the world’s coffee knowledge leader and largest coffee trade association. The competition was held at the Boston Convention Center last weekend.

Rusty's Hawaiian representatives in Boston,
 Joan Obra and Miguel Meza.
Photo by Julia Neal
The top 10 coffees were showcased with two mornings of tasting at the Brew Bar in the convention center on Saturday and Sunday. Winning coffees were three from Colombia, two from Ka'u and one each from El Salvador, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ecuador.

The tasting notes described Rusty’s Hawaiian as having “crisp acidity, sweet, bright, fruit flavor. This gives a caramel and molasses note that is a very clean cup.” According to the roast philosophy, “We prefer to roast lighter to maximize the sweetness and aroma of the coffee.” Rusty's Hawaiian is a multiple SCAA top 10 award winner.

Ka'u Coffee Mill team at Boston from left:
Ka'u Coffee Mill founder Edmund C. Olson,
coffee grower Sammie Stanbro,
Ka'u Coffee Mill general manager John Cross,
chief roaster Kalikoweo Keolanui-Daniele,
harvest manager Lou Daniele,
The Ka'u Calendar publisher Julia Neal
and interns William Neal and Lee Neal.
Front and center is multiple SCAA Coffees of the Year
 top 10 worldwide winner Bull Kailiawa.
Chief roaster Kalikoweo Keolanui -Daniele represented Ka'u Coffee Mill at the event and said the top 10 entry was a collaboration with chief roaster Lee Segawa. Daniele said the win confirms that Ka'u has incredible coffee and that the mill, which was built by Edmund C. Olson to help farmers save time and distance for processing their coffee, is also gaining a reputation as a fine roaster.

The tasting notes for the competition described the Ka'u Coffee Mill entry as coming from typica beans. The notes call it "rich in flavor with piquant acidity and intriguing hints of sweetness and spice. Citrus and jasmine aroma. Fresh butter undertones, hints of lime, currant, bergamot and a long spiced finish.” The roast philosophy reported by Ka'u Coffee Mill is: “Delicate Hawaiian coffees are required to be lightly roasted to enhance their exquisite taste profiles. Therefore, our preference is to roast at the lower end of the roast spectrum to ensure our customers taste our crop in each cup!”

Rusy's Hawaiian rep. Ralph Gaston, The Ka'u Calendar
publisher Julia Neal, Ashley Manfredi, and
Ka'u Coffee Festival Committee Chair and Ka'u Farm
Bureau President Chris Manfredi. 
Also attending the SCAA convention for the fourth year was Bull Kailiawa. His coffee is a multiple winner of SCAA awards.

Also in attendance was the Ka'u Coffee Festival Committee Chair Chris Manfredi, Ka'u Farm Bureau president and land manager for property where Rusty's Hawaiian and many other Ka'u Coffees are grown. Manfredi is the person who first encouraged Ka'u Coffee growers to submit their coffees to the SCAA competition more than five years ago.

Pete Licata with Lorie Obra, of Rusty's
Hawaiian Coffee, at Ka'u Coffee Festival.
Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
Pete Licata, who spends time in Ka'u and chose Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee for previous competitions around the world, took first place in the 2013 United States Barista Championship held over the weekend in Boston. Competitors showed off their skills in making four espressos, four cappuccinos and four original signature drinks of their own creation – all within 15 minutes. Licata will represent the U.S. at the World Barista Championship in Melbourne, Australia May 23 – 26. Licata won the U.S. Barista’s Championship in 2011 with Rusty’s Hawaiian and was accompanied by Miguel Meza, of Rusty’s Hawaiian, for the world championships in Bogota, Colombia. Licata has also led the Ka'u Coffee Experience at the annual Ka'u Coffee Festival.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Miss Ka'u Coffee Contestants Float Through the Merrie Monarch Parade

Ka'u Coffee Growers Cooperative and Olson Trust provided the float for the Miss Ka'u Coffee contenders in the Merrie Monarch Parade on April 6 in Hilo. Photo by Julia Neal

Seneca Lee Oleyte.
Photo by Chris Manfredi
Kawailani Houvener.
Photo by Chris Manfredi
The Ka'u Coffee Growers Cooperative put together a float on a Ka'u Coffee Mill truck decorated with McCall’s flowers, branches of red coffee cherries and other foliage. The four 2013 Miss Ka'u Coffee contestants, Kawailani Houvener, Seneca Lee Oleyte, Rachel Ornelas and Tiare-Lee Shibuya, represented the coffee industry in Ka'u along with Ka'u Coffee Growers Cooperative president and past-president, Gloria Camba and Lorie Obra. Also on the float were pageant artistic director Nalani Parlin and award-winning Ka'u Coffee farmer Willie Tabios. Assisting with the float were Efren Abellera and his daughters, Layla, Elisa and Erica, Bong Aquino and driver Leonardo Castaneda and his wife Jackie.

The Merrie Monarch Parade was the first official outing for the four contestants.

Tiare-Lee Shibuya.
Photo by Chris Manfredi
Rachel Ornelas.
Photo by Chris Manfredi
On Friday, April 26, the contestants compete to become the reigning queen of the Ka'u Coffee Festival. As official representatives of the Ka'u Coffee industry, the new queen and her court (three princesses) will attend several of the Ka'u Coffee Festival events over the following week - see for more on these events.

The contestants for Miss Ka‘u Coffee will be judged in three categories: Gown, Talent and Interview.

Miss Ka‘u Coffee Pageant 2013 will begin 6:30 p.m. at the Ka‘u Coffee Mill on Friday, April 26. (Doors open at 6 p.m.) Advance tickets are $10; buy them from contestants or from pageant chair Gloria Camba at 928-8558.

Photo by Julia Neal

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Save the Dates

Ka‘u, Hawai‘i Island—The Ka‘u Coffee Festival perks with java-jumping fun starting April 27 and culminating the weekend of May 4-5 with a ho‘olaule‘a on Saturday and coffee education on Sunday. Serving as an economic stimulus for the rural Ka‘u region, the festival is supported by the County of Hawai‘i Department of Research & Development, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.

On Saturday evening, April 27 enjoy foodie fun at Simply Elegant: 2nd Annual Ka‘u Farmers’ Table at The Inn at Kalaekilohana. The limited seating Table features locally sourced gastronomy with live entertainment. Advance only tickets are $75 at

On Sunday afternoon, April 28 the Triple C Recipe Contest returns to Ka‘u Coffee Mill with competition in cookies, candies and crackers, all made with Ka‘u Coffee. Attendance and coffee tasting are free; find contest entry info at

During the week visit Ka‘u coffee farms. Enjoy the 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 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Stay in one of the many accommodations in Ka‘u. See participating coffee farms and accommodations at

On Wednesday, May 1 explore flume systems of the sugarcane era and development of hydroelectric power on a Ka‘u Mountain Water System Hike. $35 per person. Limited to 30 with lunch provided. Visit or phone 808-928-0550.

On Friday, May 3 enjoy Coffee & Cattle Day at Aikane Plantation Coffee farm, where descendants of the first coffee farmer in Ka‘u explain how coffee is integrated into other agriculture. $25 per person. Lunch included. Visit or phone 808-927-2252.

On Friday, May 3 observe the heavens from the summit of Makanau at Ka‘u Star Gazing, 7:30-10 p.m. $35 per person. To sign up, see or call 808-928-0550.

On Saturday, May 4 enjoy the Ka‘u Coffee Festival Ho‘olaule‘a, with a full day of music, hula, food, local crafts, coffee tastings and farm tours at the Pahala Community Center. Festival entry is free; Ka‘u Coffee Experience coffee tasting $5; farm tours $20. Call 929-9550 or visit

On Sunday, May 5 learn about the coffee industry at the Ka‘u Coffee College at Pahala Community Center. Free, donations appreciated. Call 929-9550 or visit

Founded in a coffee tradition hailing to the 1800s—plus the hard work of sugar employees who lost their jobs in 1996—Ka‘u coffee burst onto the specialty coffee scene by winning numerous 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, follow the Ka‘u Coffee Festival on Facebook and Twitter or call 808-929-9550.