taro ube latte

The off-menu ube taro latte, a creamy and sweet coffee drink at Ali'i Coffee Company.

New in Chinatown: Ali'i Coffee Company

The farmer's market staple is now a brick-and-mortar joint
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If you've been a regular at the Farm Lover's Saturday market at Pearlridge, as I am, you're familiar with the Ali'i Coffee Company booth that kept us caffeinated for the last couple of years. Will Gold and James Webb started roasting and brewing local coffee sort of as a hobby, as coffee geeks, and eventually their hobby became their business. Like Butcher & Bird, these guys have made the leap from booth to brick and mortar, and now have a permanent space at 35 N. Beretania St. (where Let Them Eat Cupcakes used to be).

Will Gold (left) and James Webb of Ali'i Coffee Company.

Their tastes are refined, especially Gold — who has worked in fine dining with our own Will Chen — so when they whip up their handcrafted coffee drinks, it's with the finesse of a mixologist. For coffee purists, the java is smooth and rich; for those who need caffeine to wake up but don't care for big coffee taste, their cold brew "coff" tails are unique treats. These aren't like your common frappuccino, and the prices are much better, at $4 for 12 ounces and $5 for 16 ounces, especially considering that they're sourcing their beans from Ka'u and Kona. Here are a few of the drinks we tried:

The Ono Coconut is practically a cocktail without the alcohol, including coconut milk, and muddled pineapple. It sounds strange, but it's a nice cross between a pina colada and ... well, coffee.
The banana milk float is like a dessert, with almond, ripe banana, and milk.
The cascara tea, made from the coffee cherry instead of the bean, usually is infused with Ali'i Kula lavender, but on this day Webb had some backyard lychee, so experimented with it. It was light and refreshing!

They've also got food, which they try to get from local farms and artisans (like the Baker Dudes, who had a booth next to them at the market). The fare is light, fresh, and a litle hipster, featuring sandwiches, salads, and bagels.

Instead of lox and bagels, Ali'i Coffee Company serves lomi salmon bagels with cream cheese, capers, and red onions. They include tomato to give it a lomi-esque flavor. 
Healthy people on the run will love the chia parfaits, just grab and go.
I loved the kale and beet salad ($8) with quinoa, beets, feta, and black beans. It's a bowl of fresh, vibrant flavors and interesting textures, and we liked that the beets and kale weren't too raw or tough.
The tomato, garlic and artichoke naan flatbread ($8) is also popular with this crowd. It's like eating a salad atop your flatbread, but much fancier. The house dressing is slightly tart, but with a little more of a sweet profile.

Alii Coffee Company also has access to Time Warner WiFi, which makes it an ideal spot for a remote office. There are about six tables and a counter, so for now, there are lots of places to sit and work while sipping cold brew coffee or a hot pour over.

The menu at Ali'i Coffee Company.

As you can see from the blackboard menu, the prices are all super reasonable, so we'll see if that translates into a crush of business when Hawaii Pacific University starts their next semester. Even without the student traffic, coffee lovers who know what these drinks would cost elsewhere can see that this is a very good deal. 

Ali'i Coffee Company
35 N. Beretania St.
Open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Parking is on-street, Chinatown lots or at Kukui Plaza.