I have many dreams. One of them is to put everything behind me, buy a taco truck and sell fish tacos on Kauai. Anyone wanna join me? I would serve coffee too, of course!
Well, in my endless pursuit of scoping out the best beaches on Kauai – you know the best place where we can park our new taco truck – I also had some time to check out the “Hawaiian coffee scene.” (Yes, they do have one!)
The coffee scene here is quite, well, robust – not only because it’s the only state within the United States that actually grows coffee, but because well, people demand great coffee. Coffee here – whether roasted or green – is a bit more expensive. (But everything for that matter is a little more expensive here!) Nevertheless, great specialty coffee can be found grow on Kauai, and that's all I needed to hear.
My first coffee upon our arrival was at an unlikely place in the small town of Hanalei – it was at Chicken in a Barrel. (It had been a six hour plane ride and an hour drive so I needed to stop coffee!) As I took my first sip of a cappuccino I realized that the town’s only coffee roaster was across the street!
During my stay, my family and I were able to visit one of the few American coffee growers, Kauai Coffee. They have a enormous 3000 plus acre farm with about 4 million trees, planted in a rich red volcanic soil. Visitors get an unlimited sample of their coffees and a brief guided coffee tour of their farm. (Needless to say, we stayed awhile.)
Below are a few more pictures that I took at Kauai Coffee's plantation.
While in Hanalei, I also stopped in at the Hanalei Coffee and Tea Company. A mom & pop operation that serves more coffee than any other place I’ve been too on the Islands. They roast their own Hawaiian beans (all single origin) right in the café, which is great for their customers and their bottom line. They also make a great Panini too.
I spoke with Mark, the roaster/owner about his love for coffee and coffee in general (See the video below). He told me something that was quite new to me: Hawaiian coffee isn’t sold on the world commodity market. This might seem a little trivial to you and me but it really is important for a number of reasons. Pulling yourself out of the world market and to sell directly means that your price generally isn’t dictated by world traders.
In the U.S. a pound of green coffee from Hawaii at wholesale prices is roughly about 17-18 a pound today – approximately 4-6 times the going rate in say Guatemala or Ethiopia. The reason it has to be this way is because of US labor laws,wage laws, environmental protections, etc. Because of this, Mark mentioned that Hawaiian coffee is the only true direct trade coffee in the world that offers fair trade. While some may disagree with him, I see his point.
In any case, I loved his coffee! I am came back about four times during my stay – ordered more than a dozen coffees for me and my family and got myself two Panini sandwiches over the course of seven days. There wasn’t any seating room inside his café – rather the seating was perfectly suited for Hawaii – along a shaded deck in a century old building directly outside his shop.
Here's Mark Roasting. This guy was the nicest guy and loved to talk about his love his work. If you would like to order his coffee, you can visit their website here.
When you’re on Kauai you’ve probably visited Princeville. Deep in their shopping center you will find Lei Petite Café ran by the owner’s daughter, Shea. She and her co-star barista were super friendly and accommodated my questions.
Lei Petite Bakery and Coffee Shop is a small but quaint place that serve up their own blend of wonderful coffee in addition to some baked goods. Below are some pictures.
Whether in Seattle, Hawaii or anywhere else, coffee has an amazing way of bringing people together. And as any other place I can visit, I know that without a doubt, I'll be back here. In the end, ultimately, I will told tight on my dreams of a taco truck… and will keep you posted.