In recent years there has been significant interest and growth of coffee microbrewers and blends. Café culture is revered as a staple of good living for many, and it goes hand in hand with fair trade or seed to cup coffee. With these factors in mind, it’s no wonder one of Hawaii’s staple crops has exploded in interest. Kona coffee has a long-standing tradition as one of the Big Island’s largest and most revered industries.
History of Kona Coffee
The history of Kona Coffee dates back to 1813 when Don Francisco de Paula y Marin imported the aromatic tree into Honolulu. Following this introduction, missionary Samuel Ruggles planted coffee in 1828/1829 on the Big Island. These arabica trees were actually imported from cuttings planted in Oahu prior. From there Kona’s volcanic soil, amicable climate, and small family farmers did the rest.
Since 1970 the Big Island’s cash crop is celebrated at the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. Held over 3 days, the festival hosts nearly 50 events including farm tours, barista training, a recipe contest, and art exhibitions. Running from November 4th to the 7th, the event is put on with the intention of promoting the agricultural community that keeps Kona Coffee a staple of Big Island café culture. This year celebrates over 50 years of this event. In an effort to be considerate of public health due to the pandemic, there will be a live stream option this year.
Kona Coffee Cupping Competition
As with all things Hawaiian, the festival is filled with music, dance, and rich cultural events and exchanges. One event in particular draws the attention of the public and the press every year at the festival: the Festival Cupping Competition where growers are judged on their best cup of 100% Kona Coffee. Rules aren’t taken lightly. All coffee entered into the competition must be 100% Kona Coffee and grown in the Kona district on the Big Island. Coffees are scored on the global standard of the Specialty Coffee Association cupping format on a 100-point scale.
If that doesn’t sound serious enough, the cupping competition is a closed event with no public attendance. The public event is the awards ceremony following the competition. The Kona Specialty Award is given to the top three scoring coffees in the Festival’s Cupping Competition using the Specialty Coffee Association cupping scoring system and protocol.
Other flagship events include seed to cup farm tours where you can learn a few of the key ingredients that give Kona Coffee its revered and one-of-a-kind flavor. These farm tours come highly recommended as you can not only enjoy the tour of the farm but also walk the rustic landscape and enjoy the views from the higher elevations of Greenwell Farms.
This guided farm tour is similar to a Napa Valley Wine Tour and will give an insightful view of the history, farming, and processing of coffee prior to sampling their 100% Kona Coffee. It was voted Hawaii’s Best Farm Tour in 2021 by Hawaii Magazine and won a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in 2021.
Whether in person or virtually, this event will be something eye-catching and enjoyable as we welcome the fall season, which just so happens to line up with coffee harvesting time as well!