Ka‘ū Coffee Festival Starts Local, Thinks Global

Small businesses join event providing new activities, mainland coffee experts coming to the Big Island.

Everyone wants a piece of it, or more appropriately, a cup of it.

The continued success of Ka‘ū coffee—whose attributes continue to garner worldwide and statewide coffee awards—is attracting small, local business to expand the 2012 festival by hosting additional events. It’s also bringing coffee industry experts to the remote community of Pahala to meet Ka‘ū coffee growers, tour their operations and offer advice during the 4th annual Ka‘ū Coffee Festival, May 5-6 and 12-13.

The festival's reverse trade mission enables Mainland coffee experts to meet and mingle with local growers during the ho"olaule"a on May 12 and Coffee College May 13 at the Pahala Community Center. Photo by Fern Gavelek.

Local Bizs Key to Expanding Festival

Seven Big Island businesses with Ka‘ū roots are expanding the festival to an additional weekend by presenting coffee-themed events May 5 and 6. While the festival has enjoyed the financial support of local businesses in the past, festival organizer Chris Manfredi notes “this year marks a turning point, with businesses becoming official festival venues and entrepreneurs actively promoting Ka‘ū through direct participation.”

During the Coffee Experience on May 12, U.S, Barista Champion Pete Licata will offer guided coffee tastings. Photo by Fern Gavelek.

Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast on South Point Road in Na’alehu is the location of the inaugural Ka‘ū Farmers’ Table: A Feast for the Senses 5-9 p.m. Saturday, May 5. Ka‘ū resident Chef Morgan Starr of Mi’s Italian Bistro in Captain Cook will prepare a locally sourced, five-course dinner, followed by a coffee and dessert bar featuring Ka‘ū coffee prepared four different ways. The event is sponsored by Hana Hou restaurant in Na‘alehu and the new Mi’s Wine and Cheese Shop in Kailua-Kona. Tickets are $100 and just a few seats are available at press time.

The inaugural Triple C Recipe Contest is 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6 and hosted by the Ka‘ū Coffee Mill on Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The event coincides with the mill’s grand opening for its visitor center. Professional, amateur and student entrants can vie in cookie, cracker and candy categories to become a signature Ka‘ū Coffee Mill product. The event is free to entrants and attendees, with limited tastings, and co-sponsored by Pahala Plantation Cottages, OK Farms and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.  Details: http://kaucoffeemill.com/hawaii/RecipeContest.html.

The Coffee College on May 13 is geared for growers and offers expertise in roasting, marketing, trade standards and dealing with the coffee bearer borer. Photo by Ralph Gaston.

“If we can continue to develop partnerships like this with businesses in our district, it will help make the festival sustainable,” adds Manfredi, of Ka‘ū Farm and Ranch Co.  “Like the success of Ka‘ū Coffee, the festival has grown every year. These new partnerships are a reflection of that growth.”

Reverse Trade Mission

In its second year, the festival brings specialty coffee industry leaders to the state’s largest agricultural district to “taste and see” what Ka‘ū coffee is all about. First, they will experience Ka‘ū coffee during community festival activities Saturday, May 12.

“These representative from the Mainland coffee industry will take farm tours, get in on guided coffee tastings with U.S. Barista Champion Pete Licata and also meet and visit our individual growers at friendly, festival vendor booths,” explains Manfredi. Open to the public, these activities are 9 a.m,-4 p.m. and headquartered at the Pahala Community Center.

Among the growers offering festival booths will be the 2012 Coffee of the Year winners by the prestigious Specialty Coffee Association of America: Will and Grace Tabios with their Rising Sun coffee, Lorie Obra of Rusty’s Hawaiian coffee and Francis and Trinidad Marques of Ali‘i Hawaiian Hula Hands Coffee.

On Sunday, May 13, visiting coffee experts will share “invaluable insight” on roasting, packaging and marketing coffee to Mainland and international consumers during the 9 a.m.-noon Ka‘ū Coffee College. The educational sessions, which will include a presentation on direct trade standards and an overiew of Starbucks, are geared to Ka‘ū coffee farmers at the Pahala Community Center.

The College is also tackling agricultural concerns. Dr. Robert Hollingsworth, research entomologist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, will present strategies for optimizing the cost effectiveness of Beauveria bassiana for controlling the coffee berry borer.

“This year’s reverse trade mission participants include Midwest native Anthony Carroll, manager of Coffee Quality for Starbucks, and Jeff Taylor, founder of PT’s Coffee Roasting Company in Topeka, Kansas,” details Manfredi.

Carroll, who taste-tests up to 100 cups of coffee per day, ensures consistency of Starbuck’s core coffees and seasonal favorites. He also develops new coffee blends and seeks out rare and exotic single-origin coffee to add to Starbuck’s exclusive Reserve Program. Last fall, Ka‘ū coffee was featured in New York City and select markets through Starbuck’s Reserve menu.

A former award-winning photojournalist, Taylor is known as one of the top micro-roasters in the nation. His PT Coffee Roasting Company was recently selected to represent the U.S. in the World Roasting Championship. Each spring, Taylor travels to coffee-producing areas to personally select the finest coffees available for roasting and selling throughout the U.S.

For details on all four festival events, visit www.kaucoffeefestival.com and follow the Ka‘ū Coffee Festival on Facebook and Twitter at kaucoffeefest.

The Ka‘ū Coffee Festival is designed to raise awareness of Ka‘ū and its growers as a world-class coffee growing origin. 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. For more information, visit kaucoffeefest.com 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.

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