Going Crazy For Kaua‘i Coffee

Kauai Coffee Company grows 100 percent Hawaiian estate coffee on 3,100 acres and is the largest coffee farm in the United States. Water is sourced from Alexander Dam and Wainiha Valley, and runs through a hydro-electric plant that provides enough clean, renewable energy for Kauai Coffee to be self-sufficient, while the excess electricity provides six percent of Kaua’i’s power.

Drip irrigation runs for 2,500 miles, and applies water and fertilizers directly to the roots of the trees. During harvest, water is diverted from the drip irrigation system for the wet processing stage. A filter cleans the processing water, and reapplies it to the coffee fields. Contoured plantings, hedgerows and diversions reduce runoff and soil erosion.

Cherry pulp and mulch are used in soil amendments, and through cultivation practices, herbicide use has been reduced by 75 percent. Kauai Coffee is pesticide-free and grows non-GMO coffee plants. Vehicles are powered with biodiesel fuel.

Kauai Coffee roasts about three million pounds of coffee a year, and offers 38 varieties. No artificial flavorings are used in the flavored coffees.

What’s growing now: Five varietals of Arabica coffee: Yellow Catuai, Red Catuai, Typica, Kaua’i Blue Mountain (Jamaican Blue Mountain) and Mundo Novo.


The fruit of a coffee tree is called a cherry, and inside the cherry are two beans. About five percent of a crop contains one bean, which has been fused during growth, and is called peaberry.

After coffee cherries are harvested, they are “wet processed” to remove the fruit covering the beans. Once the fruit has been removed, the beans are “dry processed” to remove most of the moisture. When the beans are dry, they are milled to remove a thin skin called parchment. In this stage, the beans are called “green beans”, which are sorted by size, density and color, and graded before they are roasted.

Single-origin coffee is unblended, and grown from a single country, region, and crop, such as Kona coffee. Estate coffees are unblended, single-origin, and produced by a single farm, single mill, or single group of farms. Kaua’i Coffee is an estate coffee.

Season: Gardenias are flowering plants in the coffee family, and coffee flowers smell like gardenias. At Kauai Coffee, coffee plants begin to flower in January, and cherries are harvested about nine months later. Kauai Coffee harvests once a year, from late September to late November.

Storage: Coffee will keep in a dark, air-tight container for about a year. Freezing coffee dries the beans out, and is not recommended for storage.

Cupping: Cupping is a technique used to grade coffee and is based on aroma and flavor profile. In a coffee cupping session, a table may be set with six to 10 cups, per coffee, along with a sample of roasted beans, and a sample of green beans, for visual inspection.

Aroma is evaluated by the smell of ground coffee as well as prepared coffee. Taste evaluations are similar to a wine tasting, in that the coffee is slurped to aspirate the entire tongue, throat and nasal passage. Notes are taken on taste, acidity, aftertaste, and body.

Kauai Coffee cups a sample from each lot of coffee to assist in grading.

Grading: There are five grades of coffee: Grade 1 is specialty grade coffee beans also known as super-prime with no more than five full defects in 300 grams of coffee. Grade 2 coffee beans is premium-grade, also known as prime, and have no more than eight full defects in 300 grams of coffee. Grade 3 is exchange grade, and have between nine and 23 defects; Grade 4 is standard, with 24 to 86 defects, and grade 5 have more than 86 defects and are considered off grade.

Defects include full black color, sour taste, fruit residue, debris, broken or chipped beans, and insect or water damage.

Tip: Grinding beans right before use increases flavor, and if you use a coffee press, a course grind brings out the flavor profile.

Health benefits: Recent studies have generally found no connection between coffee and an increased risk of cancer or heart disease. Newer studies have also shown that coffee may have benefits, such as protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer. And it has a high content of antioxidants. Four to seven cups of coffee a day can cause problems such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness.

Kauai Coffee can be found at: Kauai Coffee Visitor Center, Foodland, Big Save, Safeway, Pacific Missile Range Facility NEX, online and gift shops around the island. For more information, call 335-0813.


Shannon King, delivery driver and service technician for Kauai Coffee Co., came up with this recipe, which was served at this year’s Westin Princeville Jazz and Wine Festival. The brownies are a swirl of dark and light mixes, and use three types of Kauai Coffee.

Kauai Blue Mountain Estate Reserve brewed to triple strength

* 1/4 cup Coconut Caramel Crunch coffee, brewed to triple strength

* White Chocolate Kauai Coffee Peaberries for garnish

Brownie mix:

* 1, 18 1/2-ounce package yellow cake mix

* 2 large eggs 1/4 cup butter 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

White icing

Prepare brownie mix according to directions and substitute Kauai Blue Mountain brewed coffee for water. Pour into a pan sized for mixture. In a separate bowl, combine yellow cake mix, eggs, coffee, butter and brown sugar, and beat well until smooth.

Spoon lines of blonde brownie mixture over brownie mixture and swirl with a fork. Bake according to package directions until done. Cool, cut into squares and garnish with white icing and Peaberries to look like a music note.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.