Kona Coffee Festival: Cupping

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My maternal grandmother, third child from the right (holding the baby) with the family on the Kona coffee farm. They were migrant coffee pickers.

My maternal grandmother, third child from the right (holding the baby) with the family on the Kona coffee farm. They were migrant coffee pickers.

If you are a Kona Coffee fan, or just trying to learn about it, the annual Kona Coffee Festival is for you. It started on November 1, but I just arrived yesterday to take in the second half of the festivities that will go through the weekend. If you’re headed for the Big Island, head this way.

It’s the 43rd annual festival, making it Hawaii’s oldest food festival — and there are people here who have been participating almost every year. In addition to tasting the best coffee in the world (yes, I’m biased), you can learn about how it’s grown, picked, and roasted through tours of farms in the area. If you remember my series on “tasting the ‘aina” with Kamehameha Schools earlier this year, the opportunity to educate the public on Hawaii’s vast agricultural resources is important, not just to encourage sustainability, but to make people around the world aware of our high-quality products.

There’s something for everyone with events throughout Kona like art walks, a Miss Kona Coffee pageant, workshops, a quilt show, historical tours, and more. Kamehameha Schools is hosting coffee, community and cultural workshops that help perpetuate Hawaii’s culture, and a ho’olaule’a on Saturday that will celebrate all the cultures that make this state unique. For a full schedule, click here.

The first activity I experienced was the coffee cupping, where coffee professionals taste the quality of beans submitted by Kona farmers. There is a different winner each year, interestingly enough, and all entries are numbered to ensure anonymity. It was my first time to a cupping, and I’m sure most of you have never seen it, so here are a few photos of how it went:

Kona Coffee Festival 2013

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When I arrived, the coffee cupping was already underway. The judges, from left, are Phil Maloney, John King, and Kazuya Ujimori. To see what is involved in coffee cupping, you have to watch the video, below.

Here’s a video to explain how it’s done:

After tasting 65 “classic” beans, 15 finalists were selected and more cupping commences today at 9 a.m. to determine the winners. You can catch this final cupping today at the Sheraton Kona, and it’s open to the public. The 15 finalists you’ll see today are: Bill Dwyer, Brockensgate Estate, Greenwell Farms, Huahua Farm, Kainaliu-Kona Coffee Company, Kauiwi Farm/Kona Old Style, Kona King Coffee, Kona Mountain Coffee, Kona Rainforest Coffee, Kona View Coffee, Mauka Fire, Mauka Meadows, Mountain Thunder.

Be watching my Twitter and Instagram @Melissa808 and @NonstopHonolulu to get glimpses of Kona this week! In the meantime, here’s a quick gallery of what we ate at Holuakoa Cafe last night, high up in the mountain where many of the farms are located. I already blogged about Holuakoa Cafe in detail when I went there in June, so this is just an additional look at their fabulous food.

Kona Coffee Festival 2013

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Here's the view on my way to dinner last night. The fog produced a colorful sunset, but Hawaii people in the know say this one was "just okay." I love it!

Disclosure: This trip was provided by the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival and the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa.