Kauai Coffee: A visit with Hanalei Coffee and Tea Company by Eddie
An exclusive post by Ed with Seattle Coffee Scene (thanks, Eddie!)
When I think of Kauai, I think of sunshine, beautiful sandy beaches, and… chickens. Yup, chickens! If you’ve never been to this Hawaiian island, you’d be amused at seeing so many chickens running around everywhere- from the beaches, to city parking lots – to coffee shops.
Many of you probably already know that Hawaii is the only state in the United States that actually cultivates coffee, which isn’t the only reason why I’m here. (Since I’m from Seattle, the truth is that there really isn’t a better place in the U.S. for me to replenish my annual intake of Vitamin D.)
But let’s talk Hawaiian coffee. When it comes to the Hawaiian bean, the weather, the rich volcanic soil, and the agricultural know-how, and its world demand, is really transforming the local economy here. Word on the street is that much of the land for sugar cane crops is slowly being replaced by coffee plantations that have been here for centuries.
I was fortunate to visit with one local roaster and owner of a café in the town of Hanalei who has been roasting Hawaiian beans for the last eight years. Mark, the owner of Hanalei Coffee and Tea Company, was in the middle of roasting his beans when I walked in on a warm mid-morning lull.
Mark’s café is situated in a beautiful century-old wooden building just off Kuhio Highway. Seating can be found just outside the café’s door around a beautiful deck by which to perch oneself and watch the locals or other tourists come and go.
Green coffee runs about $16 per pound here, which is nearly six times the world commodity market’s rate. Labor laws and environmental regulations, among others, push the coffee prices well beyond the world’s top prices. One fact I didn’t realize is that coffee here isn’t traded on the world commodity market. The result, Mark argues, is the world’s fairest trade coffee.
I ordered an espresso and Americano and walked towards the door to get me a seat when I was greeted by the owner. “Not too many people order just a shot of espresso,” Mark commented, which is probably why he came over to introduce himself. “We do get a lot of orders for iced coffee,” he added with a smile.
Mark and I chatted for awhile about his business and what running a café is like in Hawaii. He usually roasts single origin Hawaiian coffee every morning during the week. “It doesn’t get more local than this,” he said.
Below is a video of Mark roasting his beans to meet the demands of his customers and thriving internet sales.