By Noreen L Kompanik
The Hawaiian island of Kauai, nicknamed “The Garden Isle”, is known for its unique geography and unparalleled natural beauty. With 97% of its land covered by verdant undeveloped mountain ranges and lush, tropical rainforests, Kauai truly is one of the most breathtaking islands in the world.
But, it’s this wonderfully exotic island’s warm Pacific sunshine, rich volcanic soil, abundant mountain rains and cool Hawaiian trade winds that merge deliciously to create the ideal conditions for one of Kauai’s largest and most treasured crops – 100% pure Hawaiian coffee.
Located in the agricultural Kalaheo area of southern Kauai, the Kauai Coffee Company beckons island locals and visitors with its acres of bright green coffee plants and the rich aroma of roasted coffee beans. The Kauai Coffee plantation began in the 1800s as McBryde Sugar Company, one of Kauai’s first sugar growers. In 1987, however, the plantation began growing coffee, playing a major role in one of Hawaii’s largest agricultural diversification projects in the past fifty years.
Today, the Kauai Coffee Company has over four million coffee trees growing on its 3,100-acre coffee estate making it not only Hawaii’s largest coffee grower, but the largest coffee grower in the United States.
The Kauai Coffee Plantation house had a warm, welcoming feel to it as we parked the car and followed our noses into the lobby shop and welcome center where the wonderfully rich scent of freshly ground coffee filled the air, tantalizing us with its heady fragrance.
A fascinating informational video at the visitors center prior to our tour demonstrated how the beans are grown, harvested, processed, and made into coffee all on-site.
Committed to environmentally friendly, sustainable farming practices, the plantation has the largest drip irrigation coffee growing system in the world. Over 2,500 miles of drip system tubing carry water and fertilizers directly to the roots of the coffee trees, eliminating the need for spray or dust fertilizers.
Pulp and mulch collected during pruning are returned to the land as soil amendments. And because coffee trees do not have the same disease and insect problems as other agricultural crops, the use of herbicides is minimal.
Visitors can choose between a guided or self-guided tour of the coffee estate. Our twenty-minute self-guided walking tour of the grounds included sights of acres of coffee plants grown in the island’s deep red soil, deep purple bougainvillea, exotic island flowers, majestic mountain ranges and views of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Roasting demonstrations are available to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 am to noon.
The tour concludes in the visitors center’s tasting area, the perfect place to relax and enjoy unlimited complimentary tastings of some of the plantation’s finest coffees. One of our favorites was the intense, dark roasted Specialty Peaberry Coffee. This fascinating natural mutation of the bean occurs when the cherry yields a singular coffee bean vice the normal two, resulting in what many specialty coffee drinkers believe to be a more aromatic, complex cup of coffee. There was no denying that the Peaberry produced one exceptionally smooth and flavorful cup of coffee.
Flavored Hawaiian coffees include unique types like Coconut Caramel Crunch, Vanilla and Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Hazelnut, Toasty Banana Nut Crème, and a Hawaiian-Irish Crème offering coffee aficionados a wide variety of exquisite gourmet and dessert-type coffees.
A large well-stocked museum store on-site offers coffee-related products, local delectable specialty food items like Hawaiian syrups, butters, jellies and spices, and cookbooks. Hawaiian apparel, artwork and an array of other island keepsakes are also available for purchase.
As we were leaving, we recalled Terri Guillemets claim that “Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with”. And we quickly confirmed the following morning and throughout our island stay that there is no better coffee with which to celebrate a sunrise than Kauai’s very own estate grown coffee.
Where to get Kauai Coffee Company’s coffee
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