When it comes to American-grown coffee, as far as the general population is concerned, there is Kona and only Kona. But in 2021, the Kona Belt isn’t the only area within the 50th state capable of producing high-quality coffee. And in fact, according to the Hawaiian Coffee Association’s statewide cupping competition, the best crop this year didn’t come from the Big Island at all, but from neighboring Maui.
As reported by Big Island Video News, the HCA virtual conference took place last week, June 24th and 25th, and included in the programming was the 12th annual (but first virtual) cupping competition, seeking out some of the best coffee’s produced in Hawaii. With 70 total entries, the competition saw a litany of coffee varieties—Gesha, Mocca, Typica, SL34, Red Catuai, and Red Bourbon, to name a few—from multiple locations around the state, with the top 10 coffees ranging in score from 85 to 86.63. The top spot went to a washed Red Catuai produced by Olinda Organic Coffee in Maui.
Yet even with a Maui coffee winning it all, there was nonetheless a preponderance of Kona throughout the leaderboard. Out of the 13 top 10 coffees (there were a lot of ties), 10 came out of Kona, including the washed SL34 from Hula Daddy Kona Coffee that took home second with a score of 86.60, tying a natural Red Catuai produced by Miranda's Farms on Ka’u.
“This year’s entries were incredible as this competition represents the collective efforts of our local producers, scientists, researchers and professionals who continue to elevate the quality of coffee grown here in the State of Hawaii,” added [Judge Marc] Marquez [of Savor Brands]. “Our coffee community should be very proud.”
The results of the HCA statewide cupping competition offer a positive note for Hawaiian coffee news that has otherwise struck a decidedly different tone; in September last year, the coffee borer beetle was found in Kauai, with leaf rust being discovered in Kona shortly thereafter. Still, the high marks in the cupping show potential for good things to come. With more and more specialty coffee being produced, Hawaiian coffee may soon no longer be synonymous with Kona.