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Knowing Ka'u Coffee in 5 Minutes

BerryBird Impression: Like a treasure trove of deep delicious flavors. The right Ka’u coffee can set your tastebuds tingling, that hums with long lengths of finish that will have you savor that cup for the best occasions. If Kona is like the Gevrey-Chambertin of French Burgundies, then Ka’u is like Napa Valley. This region of fine coffee really gives its neighbor in the North (Kona), a run for its money.

Ka’u is without a doubt a new exciting region for coffee growing in Hawaii. It is located south of the Big Island in Hawaii. It is not filled with tourists and 5-star hotels, and you can really get the local feel for coffee.

There are a lot more even spread of varieties in Ka’u than in Kona. This region has arabica typica, Yellow Caturra, Red Catuai, Geisha, etc. Furthermore, Ka’u is a lot more open to different coffee processing techniques, which allows the growers to experiment with very interesting flavors

100% Ka’u Coffee can have the taste of:

  • Light roasts of Ka’u coffee, one may find notes of pineapple, lychee, apple, milk chocolate, and possibly white wine

  • Medium roasts can offer black tea, cherries, light spices, and an almost Mokha flavor.

  • Dark roasts discover dark chocolate, red wine, candied oranges, and a little spicy finish.

Like Kona Coffee, for a coffee to be called Ka’u coffee, it must be grown in its own region to be legally called Ka’u coffee. Unlike Kona, Ka’u coffee rarely gets blended with coffee from any other region. Ka’u has a more even spread

The Terroir: Ka’u coffee is planted on fields that previously grew sugar cane, and some growers attribute the sweet and fruity quality of this coffee to the sugar cane soil. And this soil composed of a key ingredient that keeps it rich and fertile, the Pahala Ash – sediment that was exploded out of the Kilauea volcano 10,000 years ago

The Climate: Ka’u has a mix between a humid tropical climate that has dry summers and a temperate climate that is continuously wet. The higher the elevation, the wetter the environment becomes.

The Weather: Sunny warm mornings, with the Mauna Loa volcano sending very chilled air to cool down the evenings

Key historical events that shaped Ka’u coffee

  1. 1996, the loss of sugar cane business to other parts of the world, forcing Ka’u sugar cane growers to switch to coffee

  2. 2007, Chris Manfredi helped to push Ka’u coffee to the international spotlight by getting 2 Ka’u farms to win a top 10 position in the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)

  3. 2009, Thomas “Bull” Kailiawa III, a pioneer of Ka’u coffee, won 7th place in SCAA’s annual cupping competition

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