Every year in November the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival celebrates all things Kona coffee, including holding a coveted blind cupping competition judged by experts from around the globe. Kona Coffee & Tea entered the crown division this year and won first place. Malia, our Director of Operations, gives her account of the excitement below.
This November was a beautiful month with clear blue skies and sunny days. As always in November, we prepare ourselves for the long, busy days of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. This year was the 48th Annual and Kona Coffee & Tea hosted several events. Monday, we had a barista training at our café. Wednesday night we had the Beer, Wine, and Coffee Pairing event. And finally, Thursday, the Barista Latte Art Throwdown. This was on top of setting up coffee booths at various locations throughout the week. It's a great festival and this year was extra special when we were announced the Winners in the Crown Cupping division!
What a surprise! It truly couldn't have come at a better time. This year marks 20 years of coffee farming for our family and we are looking forward to the next 20 years. Winning this prestigious competition is a testament that we are doing something right. We strive to do our best in all areas of our vertically-integrated process from our farm to your cup.
The competition is tough and the judges are even tougher. “Q Graders” (sommeliers of coffee) from throughout the state and even two from Japan came to judge this blind cupping. They include big names in coffee including:
Pete Licata, who won the 2013 World Barista Championship and 2011 United States Barista Champion (using 100% Hawaii coffee),
Mika Saito, a licensed Q Grader, latte art champion and trainer of Kawaguchi, Japan
Brandon Thiessen, a licensed Q grader, and coffee trader, of Healdsburg, California,
Jacqueline Suiter, a licensed Q grader and level 1 sommelier, owner and green coffee buyer of Kona Coffee Purveyors, from Honolulu, Hawaii,
Madeleine Longoria Garcia, another licensed Q grader, barista trainer and equipment service technician, with Four Seasons Hualalai of Kailua Kona, Hawai`i,
Hideki Miki of UCC Ueshima Coffee Company in Kailua Kona, Hawai`i,
Max Maemori a licensed Q grader, of the other great coffee region on Hawaii Island, Kau,
Aaron Schank, a licensed Q grader and the Systems Administrator Hawaii Coffee Company in Honolulu, Hawai`i.
The entries were submitted a month prior to the cupping. We were required to submit three pounds of unroasted, green coffee. The Q Graders use the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) scoring parameters to judge each of the entries. Though I am not a cupper, I have watched and attended cupping workshops and am very grateful for the hard work these professionals put in, diligently tasting all the different farm’s coffee. They spend two days going through the 50+ entries to score each sample in blind tastings.
Exhausted from the Pairing event the night before, I received a call from Brit with Pacific Coffee Research, saying I needed to be at the award ceremony for the cupping. Excited to share the news that we advanced to the next round, I group texted my family to see if they could be there. When I arrived at the Awards Ceremony, I was greeted by all our old friends in our small coffee community. It was great to catch up with Pete and Masha Licata; seeing Shawn Steinman with his cute baby girl; Fred Hokada from Downtown Coffee; Jackie Suiter from Kona Coffee Purveyors; Roger Kaiwi with Hawaii Coffee Company; Dave and Trudy Bateman with Heavenly Hawaiian and Karen Lee with Hula Daddy.
The awards were all neatly laid out to be given away. It wasn’t long before the announcements started. My parents and sister-in-law arrived just in time for them to announce the Crown category. The third place was Hawaii Queen who is our farm neighbor. I stood their thinking in disbelief that we could be First or Second. Second place was called, and it went to Kona Organica. I stood there still not realizing that we won the event. My Mom, being the supportive and loving woman, she is, looked at me with a smile and gave me a big hug. Then it was announced that The Kona Coffee & Tea Company was the First Place winner! I was in shock and overjoyed. Standing up there with my parents to receive the award was a true blessing. My parents started something wonderful 20 years ago!
It was later that night looking back on our pictures that it sunk in what a huge accomplishment this really is. We started our retail business back in 2003 after winning the cupping which was our very first time entering a contest. Then we won the cupping again in 2009 and 2010. When people compliment me on how good our coffee tastes, I always say that our secret ingredient is love.
We continue to put our heartfelt Aloha in everything we do to make it the best it can be... Mahalo for all your support!
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CUPPING:
2018 Cupping Scores: http://konacoffeefest.com/shop/
Rules of the Competition: http://pacificcoffeeresearch.com/cuppingcompetition/
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival: http://konacoffeefest.com/
CONTRIBUTOR: MALIA BOLTON HIND
HOW I LIKE MY COFFEE: 100% Kona Americano
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: I love all the holidays! But I would say Christmas or Thanksgiving because we get the whole family together and make new memories through the big feast and the fun adventures.
I was born and raised here in Kona. I guess you could say that the coffee trees and I grew up together on my family’s Waiono Meadows farm. While in High School, I helped plant our first coffee (with a fair bit of complaining). I came home from college during summers to work as a barista at our first café. For the over a decade now, I’ve managed our Farm to Cup operation here in Kona. I feel honored to play a role in cultivating a community around Kona coffee and hope you can taste the Aloha in every sip.