Kau Coffee

Coffee Growing in the Kau District on the Big Island of Hawaii

Coffee farms in the Kau region of the Big Island, the southernmost Hawaiian Island, average about five acres in size. The quality of Kau coffee has great potential as has been shown at recent Coffee Cupping (professional coffee tasting) events and contests.

The region also celebrates an annual Kau Coffee Festival every spring, while the Kona region holds the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival every November.

The flavor characteristics of Kau coffee include smooth taste with a distinct, pleasant aroma. Kau coffee has been described as sweet and aromatic with a pleasant vibrancy exhibiting floral notes of citrus flowers and orchids in its bouquet, and often revealing deep chocolate flavors along with cherry and coconut.

For many coffee aficionados who have long appreciated Kona Coffee, Kau coffee provides a new and exciting taste profile.

Coffee Farming in the Kau District of the Big Island

A man named J.C. Searle began cultivating coffee in Kau in 1894. However, competition for both land and labor due to Hawaii’s burgeoning sugarcane industry soon led to the demise of coffee in Kau.

More than on century later in 1996 when the area’s sugarcane plantation closed, the cultivation of coffee again became an attractive option for agriculture in Kau.

Coffee Farming Cooperatives in Kau

Kau Farm and Ranch began leasing small lots of land to coffee farmers and former sugarcane lands were planted with coffee. Two coffee farming cooperatives were established in the Kau region.

The coffee harvest of the Kau region is hand picked and processed in very small batches and then sun-dried. Roasting is also done in the area.

Cloudrest Coffee in Moaula

The focus of coffee growing activity is in the Pahala area. More than 330 acres of coffee are being cultivated in Kau’s Cloudrest region which is located in Moaula. This area ranges in elevation from about 2,000 to 2,500 feet above sea level.

Kau Coffee is on the Coffee Connoisseur Map

Of all the Hawaii coffee-growing regions outside of Kona, the Kau area seems to show the most potential to match or exceed the quality and reputation of Kona Coffee.

The quality of Kau coffee has been noted by coffee connoisseurs. Among the highly respected fine dining restaurants that have given their imprimatur to Kau coffee are Alan Wong’s in Honolulu and Merriman’s in Kapalua.

Kau Coffee Achieves Distinction in National Coffee Cupping Competitions

People really began to take notice when Kau coffee, which most people had never heard of at the time, placed sixth in the respected annual international Cupping contest held by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). The coffee also scored a ninth place in that competition which is known as the Roaster’s Guild Cupping Pavilion Competition.

Since that time the coffee has continued to impress judges as well as gourmet coffee lovers in general. Also in 2007 the esteemed coffee reviewer Kenneth Davids (Coffee Review) rated Kau coffee a 92 (from Paradise Roasters) while Tom Owens (Sweet Maria’s Coffee) rated it 87, which are excellent scores, particularly for coffee from a relatively new coffee growing region.

In 2008, Kau coffee also earned an 11th place at the SCAA’s annual cupping competition.

Among the highly respected fine dining restaurants that have given their imprimatur to Kau coffee are Alan Wong’s in Honolulu and Merriman’s in Kapalua.

Coffee Production in Kau

These coffee farms of Kau produce around 400,000 pounds of green coffee beans (unroasted coffee beans) each year, and the value of this crop is an estimated $2 million. The Moaula Cloudrest coffee constitutes about ninety percent of Kau’s coffee.

Wood Valley is another coffee-growing area of Kau. About ten percent of Kau’s coffee comes from the Wood Valley area.

Kau coffee is grown on the southern slopes of the volcano called Mauna Loa which is the largest mountain in the world by total mass. The Moaula area is about four miles above the town of Pahala in the Kau district about twenty miles south of the famous Kona Coffee growing region.

Climate and Coffee Plant Varietals of the Kau Coffee-Growing Region

The climate of the Kau coffee growing region ranges from warm and sunny to cool and breezy. The area is well-suited for growing the Arabica coffee bean varietal Kona Typica which is the most common variety grown in the Kona region.

The Kau district is adjacent to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. A main attraction in this area is Punaluu Black Sand Beach.

For more information see: Hawaii Coffee; Big Island Coffee; Kona Coffee; Puna Coffee; Hamakua Coffee; Hilo Coffee; Oahu Coffee; Maui Coffee; Molokai Coffee; Kauai Coffee; Hawaii Coffee Grading; Hawaii Coffee Facts; Hawaii Coffee History – Kona Coffee History; Kona Coffee Farm Tours.

Kau Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips

For tips on brewing the perfect cup of Hawaii coffee see our section titled All About Coffee including tips on Coffee Brewing. You can also read detailed coffee flavor profiles of Gourmet Coffees and instructions on preparing the finest Espresso Drink Recipes.

For tips on espresso brewing see Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot as well as the Barista Guide to Perfect Lattes and Cappuccinos.

See detailed definitions of coffee terminology in the Coffee and Espresso Glossary.  History buffs will love the World’s Best History of Coffee.