If you were asked to name a commodity of Hawaii, you might likely​
respond with pineapple, or maybe even cane sugar.  However, with few​
exceptions, pineapples and sugar cane have not been widely grown commercially​
on the islands for years.  There is one item, however, that is not only growing, but​
thriving on the Hawaiian islands—coffee. ​
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Hawaiian coffees are nothing new.  In fact, Kona coffee has enjoyed such​
storied success that it is synonymous with “Hawaiian coffee.”  Unfortunately,​
this generalization leads many to conclude that Kona coffee represents all that​
Hawaii has to offer.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, virtually every​
island has its own collection of coffee purveyors whose products express their own​
character.  As consumers begin to discover these lesser-known Hawaiian coffees,​
they will be greeted by producers eager to introduce them to new products.​
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One Hawaiian coffee grower that invites everyone to try its coffee is Kauai​
Coffee Company.  Found in the southwest portion of the island of Kauai, the​
Company has been growing coffee for over twenty years.  While not yet​
recognized by many mainland coffee drinkers, there are an increasing​
number of Kauai Coffee fans who enjoy the distinctive flavors found in​
each bag. ​
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So what makes the coffee so unique?  For starters, Kauai Coffee uses 100%​
Kauai beans.  This means that with each cup of coffee, you are tasting flavors​
grown entirely on the island.  More precisely, this 100% approach also allows​
you to taste the natural flavors derived from the plantation’s bean​
varieties—those being, Yellow Catuai, Red Catuai, Typica, Mundo Novo, and​
Kauai Blue Mountain.  Each bean adds its own character to the company’s​
products, helping to create Kauai Coffee’s singular taste.  Further, this practice​
bucks a common trend among a number of Kona producers who blend a mere 10%​
or less Kona beans with other non-Hawaiian beans.  While this blending practice​
is often necessary to keep prices affordable for consumers, there is something to​
be said for tasting coffees made purely from Hawaiian beans.  ​
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Each year, Kauai Coffee is able to produce a broad assortment of products from its harvest. ​
Styles of coffee include medium roasts, dark roasts, premium coffees, flavored coffees and even​
a few decaffeinated styles.  Some years, the company is even able to produce limited quantities​
of ultra premium coffees.  Take, for instance, the flavorful Kauai Blue Mountain Peaberry coffee. ​
This coffee is only available when the plantation’s Kauai Blue Mountain plants yield enough​
peaberries to be roasted and bagged on their own—a peaberry being a coffee berry that grows a single​
bean instead of the normal two bean halves.  This coffee, and other harvest dependent coffees​
like it, demonstrate Kauai Coffee’s intimate connection with its crops and its ability to produce complex​
and interesting flavors for its customers.  In fact, by producing well over a dozen roasts each year,​
consumers’ palates will always find a Kauai coffee to enjoy. ​
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During a recent visit to Hawaii, I met with Darla Dominguez, Kauai Coffee’s retail manager,​
who shed some light on the islands’ coffee industry, and what makes Kauai Coffee’s products​
so special.  She explained that competition among Hawaii’s coffee companies is neither heated​
nor antagonistic; each producer simply does its own thing.  Without having to worry about marketing​
campaigns and gimmicks, Kauai Coffee is left free to pursue the business of refining its brews. ​
This, in turn, has indeed resulted in the company developing a signature character that is attracting​
an increasing number of fans. ​
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Not surprisingly, Kauai Coffee’s products have also attracted a respectable business following. ​
In fact, Darla shared that the Company is now a supplier to Costco, Marriott, local hotels and​
retailers, and an assortment of area restaurants and cafes.  Further, there are a healthy number​
of third party roasters who purchase beans from the plantation to utilize in their own proprietary​
blends.  Having the largest coffee plantation in Hawaii, however, allows Kauai Coffee to meet​
its own needs, as well as the demands of both individuals and businesses alike. ​
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Beyond flavor, Kauai Coffee also takes pride in the treatment of its land and resources.  For instance,​
Darla pointed out that the Company maintains some 2,500 miles of specialized pipes for drip irrigation. ​
This system efficiently delivers water directly to the plants and reduces water loss.  Further,​
Kauai Coffee recycles the nutrient rich water used during its wet bean processing back to its plants. ​
And instead of unsustainably draining water from island residents, Kauai Coffee maintains its own​
reservoir to help meet its needs. ​
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The responsible management of resources also extends to its workers.  Due in part to Hawaii’s​
own labor standards, Kauai Coffee’s job conditions and wages meet or exceed the standards​
demanded by recognized fair trade organizations.  Yet, partly because its coffee is a domestic product,​
Kauai Coffee is not technically eligible for the ever popular fair trade certifications.  Nonetheless, Kauai​
agricultural workers remain some of the highest paid agricultural workers in the nation and​
consumers should feel confident that by purchasing Kauai Coffee’s products, they are​
supporting a company that deals fairly with its laborers—an ongoing concern within the industry.    ​
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The company’s exclusive use of Kauai beans, the friendly coexistence with competitors, and the​
company’s conscientious management of its resources, all combine to give each bag of Kauai Coffee​
its pleasing, distinctive character.  And while each product is flavorful, a few of them deserve special​
attention.  Darla’s personal recommendation for customers is the Koloa Estate roast, which has hints​
of fruit and nice chocolate tones.  But the biggest sellers are the Kauai Blue Mountain varieties for regular​
coffee, and the Coconut Caramel Crunch for flavored.  And never underestimate the complexity of any​
Estate Reserve or peaberry styles of coffee that you may discover.  These are just a few of the coffees​
available, but there are plenty more to please any palate.  Darla Dominguez’s desire for Kauai Coffee​
is “to have as many people know about us as possible, but stay true to the coffee.”  From the taste of things,​
that will not be a problem. ​
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Now that you are familiar with Kauai Coffee Company, the only thing left to do to fully appreciate all that it has​
to offer is to arrange a visit to the plantation.  Not only will a personal visit give you access to a number of​
flavorful, reserve coffees that are not available through online ordering, but you will also come to intimately​
understand the products.  By walking among the plants sprouting from the iron rich red earth, you will begin​
to sense the source of some of the coffees’ complexity.  By interacting with the expert staff, such as​
coffee-host extraordinaire Susan Gray, your palate will be ready to sample the coffees and examine them as if they​
were fine wines.  And while you sip your coffee on the ocean-view patio, taking in the sea of dark green fields as​
clouds pass you by, you will realize that this coffee is more than a comforting beverage; it is a true Hawaiian experience. ​
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For more information on Kauai Coffee Company, visit: http://www.kauaicoffee.com.  Not all coffees are available​
for purchase online, so definitely find out more about the popular Coffee Club program, or simply visit the plantation​
personally on Kauai. The visitor center is located on highway 540 in Eleele, roughly between the towns of​
Kalaheo and Hanapepe.  Coffee sampling is free and held on the shaded patio overlooking the plantation​
and the Pacific.  Look for a coffee host on the patio to answer any questions you may have, as well as guide​
you to a coffee that might fit your tastes.  Enjoy, and Aloha!​
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Additionally here's a neat little video their team created showing their ground and visitor center!​
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