As a third-culture kid, Ken Reyes grew up craving adventure. While studying journalism at UH Mānoa, she found her passion for writing, film photography and coffee. Today she works as a barista at The Curb Kaimuki and as a freelance photographer. You can usually find her reading at coffee shops, eating raw fish and tinkering with her cameras.
I used to think that my coffee experience ought to be rushed and instant. The push of the button was enough. But not for long.
When I was a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I used to stop by The Curb. I enjoyed getting my morning coffee there so much that I applied for a job and became a barista.
Working at the shop opened my eyes to the world of coffee — a bustling community that was eager to introduce novices to the subtle, invigorating flavors you would never expect from a cup. I learned what it takes to pull a good espresso shot, different brewing methods and how to acquire a taste for the variety of flavor notes of each roast.
Coffee shop hopping became a favorite weekend pastime as I checked out different spots around the island. What I look forward to starts with good coffee, of course — no one wants theirs to taste like burnt dirt, right? As a barista, I also look for passion that people pour into making a cup. Lastly I want an atmosphere that doesn’t rush people out; it has to be an experience worth slowing down for.
Here are some of my favorite coffee shops to hang out in:
Located near the University of Hawaii, Glazer’s is a hub for students and working professionals who need a quiet place to study and meet. I especially enjoy the artwork displayed on the walls — particularly photographs by my friend Ben Decastro and the vintage film cameras on display near the bar — and the soothing music playing across the room.
Must-get: Maple Latte or regular Latte
2700 S. King St. • Moiliili • 391-6548
The North Shore’s laid-back feel and vibrancy permeate Coffee Gallery’s atmosphere. After a long day at my favorite beach, Keiki’s, this is where my friends and I stop by before we drive back to town. They roast their own coffee in small batches and serve a variety of food and pastries with vegan and gluten-free options. Some of the more popular drinks include the Mocha Freeze and specialty espresso drinks. I enjoy trying their seasonal flavors and regular espresso drinks.
Must-get: Bulletproof Coffee or any latte with their seasonal syrups
66-250 Kamehameha Hwy • Haleiwa • 673-5355
GORILLA IN THE CAFE
A modern, geeky look that stands out in tourist-filled Waikiki — that’s Gorilla in the Cafe. Founded by Korean drama star Bae Yong Joon, the shop boasts a variety of coffee sourced from local farmers in Hawaii. Although it’s small, there is outdoor seating where I usually find myself people-watching with a latte in my hand.
Must-get: House Brew or Kinako Honey Latte
2155 Kalakaua Ave. • Waikiki • 922-2055
MORNING GLASS COFFEE
Morning Glass Coffee sources some of its coffee from my favorite roaster, Stumptown. The shop also serves Hawaiian coffee and brews each cup as a pour-over instead of a premade drip. The place is packed during brunch time on the weekends so the best time to visit is earlier in the morning. Some of the friendliest, most passionate baristas I know work here, and it’s always a treat to be served by them.
Must-get: Hawaiian Coffee of the Day or a Cappuccino
2955 E. Manoa Rd. • Manoa • 673-0065
I come back to the sleek and industrial-looking 9Bar HNL for one reason: its Cloud 9 Trio — a shot of espresso, a cortado and sparkling water. It’s all I ever need to start an easy Saturday exploring Kakaako. Besides its carefully crafted coffee, the shop also serves my favorite pastries. Scruffins — a hybrid between a scone and a muffin — pair perfectly with espresso.
Must-get: Cloud 9 Trio or Nitro Cold Brew
685 Auahi St. • Kakaako • 369-2299