A story about award winning Ka’u Coffee being produced on the Big Island of Hawaii for Sunset Magazine
I love coffee. It’s part of my daily, morning ritual, yet until I recently photographed a story entitled, “Big Island Buzz,” for Sunset Magazine, I had never known much about the process of truly hand-harvested coffee. On the Big Island of Hawaii, in an area that is located on the flanks of Mauna Loa in the Ka’u district, you’ll find one of the best areas to grow coffee in the United States. The upper elevations of the Ka’u district have the perfect climate for the coffee plants. Those conditions combined with a wonderful group of devoted coffee farmers have landed this remote location on the international coffee map in recent years. I had previously only been familiar with Kona coffee, the famed Hawaiian coffee grown around the bend on the same island. The Ka’u area still feels somewhat untouched with it’s beautiful ocean views and sparsely populated villages. During my assignment, I met two farmers who methodically harvest the ripe “cherry” on land they work by hand. Willie and Grace Tabios, who produce the award winning “Rising Sun” brand coffee, hand pick the ripe cherry, then dry and process it outdoors at their home in Ka’u. Lorie Obra does the same, and along with her daughter Joan, produces another award winning coffee from the area called, “Rusty’s.” Both of these family run coffee farms have won international coffee competitions over the last few years and their beans now command top dollar throughout the world. There is a wonderful place to see the entire process first hand in the small town of Pahala called the Ka’u Coffee Mill. There, I was walked through the entire process, from picking and processing the raw “cherry” to the roasted bean. They dry their beans by laying them out on a concrete slab outdoors. The mill processes both their own beans but also roasts for some of the locals. This facility is open to the public for tours. It was fascinating to see how the red, plump fruit was methodically turned into the warm cup of jo that I enjoy every morning. Of course, you can’t have a cup of coffee without something nice and sweet as an accompaniment. The Hana Hou restaurant, the southernmost restaurant in the US, offers a variety of delicious home-made pies along side a steaming hot cup of the local coffee. Although the article is not available to read online, I’ve put a copy of the story here for your perusal. If you would like to look at more photos of the story, you can see them on my stock photography site here. Mahalo for visiting!
Harvesting ripe “cherry;” Ka’u coffee sign along the side of the road; Will and Grace at their Pahala store; coffee drying in the sun at the Ka’u Coffee Mill
A coffee bus parked on the church lawn during the Wednesday farmers’ market in Pahala where tourists and locals alike can enjoy the freshest coffee on the island
Macadamia nut cream pie with a steaming cup of Ka’u coffee at the southernmost restaurant in the United States, Hana Hou; Laurie and Joan Obra hand harvesting their coffee at Cloud Rest on the flanks of the volcano Mauna Loa