Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, Ka’u is the southernmost district in the county, and first became a coffee growing region in 1894. While this may have been quite a while ago, Ka’u’s coffee industry only really took off in recent years, with local farmers turning to coffee after the sugar industry collapsed. However, the coffee produced here was largely ignored until 2007, when they were entered into the annual competition held by the Speciality Coffee Association of America, and won numerous awards. Since the terrain in the area is dramatically diverse, the majority of Ka’u coffee is grown in a few mountainous pockets that can be found on the flanks of Mauna Loa, boasting deep, rich soil along with the perfect balance of sunshine and rain.
The Ka’u Coffee Mill and Visitor Center
One of the major issues that was faced by local coffee growers was the lack of a local roasting facility, meaning that farmers used to have to haul their beans all the way to Kona or Puna for roasting. When the Ka’u Coffee Mill opened its doors in 2012, it was greatly welcomed by local growers, who could now make full use of this $1.5 million facility. Visitors to the coffee mill are able to tour the grounds, as well as taste samples of the different varieties of coffee that are produced here, and purchase coffee that cannot be found elsewhere on the island.
Ka’u Coffee vs Kona Coffee
When it comes to Hawaiian coffee, Kona experiences a high international demand, making it the most expensive. However, this does not mean that it tastes better, and since it is grown in similar soil conditions to Ka’u, many coffee experts find the taste of the two comparable. In fact, in international coffee reviews in recent years, Ka’u coffee has scored much higher than Kona in terms of taste and flavor. With a floral bouquet, a distinct aroma and an exceptionally smooth flavor, Ka’u coffee is more than capable of competing with the world-famous Kona.
The Value of Ka’u Coffee
In the last four years, Ka’u coffee has almost doubled in value, with local farmers winning a range of highly-esteemed international awards. In addition to the awards that have been won, the increase in value of Ka’u coffee can also be attributed to the fact that it can now be purchased in Starbucks stores all over the country, and even in the brand’s Reserve stores, which only sell the finest of premium coffees. All of this has drastically helped in promoting Ka’u coffee to the rest of the world, bringing it a new fame that the local growers are extremely appreciative of.
There are now about 50 coffee farms dotted around Ka’u, producing coffee in an area that totals an average of 500 acres. Farmers are now receiving fairer prices for the coffee that is produced here thanks to the increase in demand and popularity of Ka’u coffee, renewing the sense of pride that used to be abundant in this beautiful, rural region. In addition to bringing all of this international interest to Ka’u, the new growth in coffee production here has done wonders for the community, creating a number of new jobs and opening up a path to a brighter, and more successful, future.