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HAWAII’S COFFEE GROWING REGIONS

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Hawaii’s bioregions are diverse as are Hawaiian coffees. This guide is intended to help you understand the regional distinctions of Big Island coffees by describing their general characteristics. We understand everyone has their own experiences and opinions. This is neither a definitive nor exhaustive analysis but merely a suggestive starting point for your consideration.


PUNA COFFEE

The state of Hawai’i does not recognize Puna as its own coffee growing region. Of all the Big Island’s districts, this one has the most untapped potential for an amazing coffee industry. What limited production exists usually remains quite elusive to the consumer as most farms are spread out, small and not well-advertised.

Most Puna coffee grows just above or in lava. In fact, our coffee—Kazumura—is named after the Kazumura lava tube because the roots of our coffee trees make their home in the volcanic rock called pahoehoe. Mineral-rich volcanic substrate contains high levels of sulfur, which helps create body, aroma and acidity. Sulfur is the acid precursor to most of the revered aromatic compounds found in coffee. Hence, volcano-grown coffee tends to be highly aromatic with more acidity. When properly harvested and roasted, acidity adds rich dimension to the coffee. For instance, flavors of orange blossom (citric acid), red wine (acetic acid), and green apple (malic acid) may be present.

Puna is the wettest region of the island with an average rainfall of 150″–220″ annually. Even at elevations below 1000′ the coffee tends to ripen slowly due to mostly overcast days and relatively cool temperatures. Combined with the volcanic substrate, these terroir attributes create an extremely distinct experience that is unique not only compared to Hawaiian coffee but to coffees around the world.

We have consistently found the following qualities in most Puna coffee: rich, mineral-laden flavors and a  balanced acidity carried by a lightly syrupy body. These flavor characteristics can run the range from almonds and floral sandalwood, to caramel & cacao nib,  grapefruit and melon, to deep chocolate.


KA’U COFFEE

Like the deep soil in many parts of the region, Ka’u coffee tends to be delicately rich and nuanced, possessing more sugar than many Hawaiian coffees we have tried. The climate is nearly ideal for quality coffee production: 60″– 90″ annual rainfall, morning sun and afternoon clouds with somewhat cool evenings. Most farms are located 1500′ – 2100′ above sea level, exhibiting characteristics similar to many Central American coffees: a syrupy mouthfeel, complex acidity, with flavors and aromas of malt, brown sugar, vanilla, and floral notes.

With numerous accolades in the last five years, Ka’u coffee hardly requires talking points. The only way to find out if the awards are merited is to try it for yourself.

HAMAKUA COFFEE

Home to the most fertile soil on the Big Island and a breathtaking ocean panorama, we love a great Hamakua coffee when we can find one. Limited production on small farms scattered throughout the region make for a challenging search. Luckily, we’ve made friends with some awesome people that produce fantastic coffee.

Suffice it to say, well-done Hamakua coffee consistently has an attribute not equalled anywhere else in Hawaii: great body. Whether at a medium or dark roast, the mouthfeel is delightfully smooth, round and full. In all of this region’s coffees, we’ve also found the following: low acidity and full body with smooth, rich straight-forward bakers chocolate and nut characteristics.


KONA COFFEE

The Kona region has quite a bit to offer in terms of variety and quality, perhaps more than other coffee regions in Hawaii.

Kona has a great deal of variation in the landscape — many micro-climates that have dramatic effects on the coffee. Lower elevations (below 1200’) generally produce a soft, mellow cup with moderate acidity, delicate chocolate character, and subtle, balanced sweetness. Higher altitude farms (1600’ and above) seem capable of producing remarkable floral character, rich sugars, and a silken body with deep acidity.


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