2019 Crop Tasting Notes
Aloha and welcome to our annual crop assessment and tasting. Even with our farm, milling, and roasting remaining consistent, annual changes in weather and other growing conditions subtly change the flavors found in the final cup. Here’s what we’ve found in the 2019 crop.
Before we get the coffee brewing, let's start with a quick introduction. My name is Michael Cubbage and I am a long-time employee and forever fan of Kona Coffee & Tea. I have been in the coffee business for almost 20 years. My work for Kona Coffee & Tea is multifaceted including consulting, creating online content and providing customer service to our online customers.
For this tasting, I used brew methods and tools most of us will have at home. I use a burr grinder as a personal preference (more consistent particle size as opposed to a blade grinder), a plug-in kettle and a simple kitchen scale. All water is filtered using a double carbon filter (ex: Pur, Britta). The recipes I used can be found here along with information about storage, using the proper grind, and a summary of our recent awards.
There is something about our 100% Kona Dark Roast that is so grounding and welcoming to me. Perhaps because it reminds me of the first great coffee experience I had here on the Island about a decade ago. Dark roasts offer brave, bold flavors that stick with you. A great dark roasted coffee is hard to forget.
This year, our Single-Estate, Dark Roasted 100% Kona, is no exception. My tasting room was permeated with the ardent and bountiful aroma simply from opening the bag. After grinding I was able to discern aromas of cedar and roasted hazelnuts straight away. Just beyond that, there was a distinct herbal honey note and buttered popcorn that stood out. There is a brighter fruit note to this coffee in the form of strawberry that comes subtly in the background. Once you find it, it seems so obvious.
Wet aroma really highlighted the cedar notes, like last year's crop along with subtle pine and roasted nut aroma. New this year is the honey note and buttered popcorn. They fit perfectly and bring the coffee a wonderful balance.
Flavors are almost always going to follow the same basic attributes as the aroma. The cup was well balanced with a pleasant aftertaste. The flavors that stood out the most were the cedar and pine, roasted nut, and herbal honey notes. The strawberry mentioned above comes across in the finish and it is a treat.
The body in the cup is medium to medium/full, depending on brew methods. I found paper filter methods such as Chemex and Melitta tended on the medium side of things, while the french press and metal filters were able to push the body to a good medium/full.
As all dark roasts tend to be, this roast has a nice sweetness. Here is where the honey aroma translates remarkably well into the actual flavor of the cup. A well-known and appreciated trait of 100% Kona coffee is its low acidity. All in all, I enjoyed this year's Dark Roast. The highlights for me are the intense aroma, as well as the herbal honey and subtle, sweet note of strawberry in the cup.
I’d recommend pairing this coffee with bold foods. This is a coffee that can compete with bold flavors. Try it for breakfast with bacon, or lunch with a hearty stew, and alongside a steak or roast for dinner. Heavy chocolate desserts would pair well with this Dark Roast and try desserts or snacks with honey or strawberries to really draw out those flavors in the cup.
100% Kona Medium Roast is that optimal mix between the roast profile and terra (origin). Here you get a great balance between the fruit notes from the cherry and the nutty, chocolate notes. Kona Medium Roast is always my first recommendation for anyone new to 100% Kona. Here again, just opening the bag of 100% Kona Medium Roast, my house was filled with the sweet, penetrating aroma of coffee. I started my tasting with a Chemex. The dry aroma after grinding was dominated by sweet, raw almond and peach. I also appreciated the buttery, maple and milk chocolate notes that rounded out the overall aroma nicely.
The wet aroma was most prominent during the french press extraction. I enjoy giving the brew a nice swirl after it has seeped, directly before I plunge the coffee. The coffee expresses excellent cedar notes along with the chocolate, maple, and subtle peach.
I enjoyed the Medium Roast nearly equally well as a french press as I did as Chemex, though I would give the Chemex a slight edge. Both brew methods exhibited low acidity and a full, thick body. They both had a balanced sweetness complemented by darker roast notes. Peach and apricot fruit highlighted the cup that was nicely balanced by sweet almond, marzipan, and clove. Learn more about different brew methods here.
My pairing recommendations would be sweet tarts, light pastries, fruit, and acai. Aside from the sweeter side of things, this coffee would also pair well with both beef and pork dishes, omelets and crepes. A nice plate of fluffy pancakes with melted butter and maple syrup really brings forth the maple and butter notes of this roast.
Light roasts are known to highlight the best a growing region has to offer. With light roasted coffees, the origin care and detail of the farm, farmer, and roaster are in the forefront. Light roasts tend to bring forth more of the fruit flavors inherent in the coffee.
The dry aroma, pre- and post-grind, exhibited a nice balance between dark berry jam, hazelnut, and caramel. I prefer lighter roasts almost always through a paper or cloth filter as opposed to french press or metal filters. The paper or cloth really helps keep the cup clear and clean which allows the natural brightness and light acidity to shine.
During extraction, the wet aromas I found most substantial were strawberry, light jasmine flower, fig, and cedar. Both the Chemex and Melitta pour-over methods scored high in aroma and intensity. The body was a delightful medium/full and the lightly acidic fruit notes worked well in rounding out the deeper caramel and nutty flavors in the cup. Although light roasts may be a bit less forgiving as far as the brewing process goes, good preparation is truly 100% Kona at its best.
The french press brought out more of a light tomato acidity and earthy body. Fragrance and intensity were similarly bold like the filtered cups with the greatest difference coming in the overall clarity and definition of flavor and aftertaste.
Pairing recommendations for the light roast would include buttery pastries such as danish and croissants. Also, try it with fresh fruits of almost all types. Try this coffee as a Cold Brew…recipe on our website.
Peaberry is an anomaly in the coffee plant. Within some of the coffee cherries, only one seed develops and grows. While this happens worldwide wherever coffee is grown, only a few growing regions sort and separate these little pearls of flavor. Lucky for us, Kona is one of those regions.
There are many myths and tales about Peaberry including that since only one bean is grown in the cherry as opposed to two that the single Peaberry bean has double the flavor. This certainly may be true, but here are some facts that can lead to a superior cup. Peaberry goes through extra steps in sorting. It is almost impossible to not hand sort Peaberry if you are serious about quality (and Kona Coffee & Tea is serious). The roundness of the Peaberry enables it to roll in the drum while roasting giving the bean a subtle advantage to the flat/oval of conventional beans.
When I prepared my samples of Peaberry from this year's crops I had high expectation and happily was not disappointed. Freshly ground aromas of clove, almond, citrus, and milk chocolate was immediately apparent. Kona Coffee & Tea roasts all their Peaberry coffee to a full city roast, which is right in the middle of medium and dark roast. This really brings into harmony the art of the roast and the inherent flavor of the bean.
Both filtered (cloth or paper) and french pressed had good things going for them. For me, it became just a matter of personal preference for that brew. If I was in the mood for a more robust and bolder cup, I would reach for the french press. This Peaberry exhibited some nice deep chocolate notes with almond and marzipan highlights in the french press. Brewed through a paper or cloth filter the deep chocolate was transformed into more of a hazelnut nougat flavor and the citrus notes were just tangible. The body in all preparations was full. My favorite aspect of Peaberry is the acid/body balance. This coffee did not disappoint. It was a pleasure on the palate.
Pair your Peaberry with a nice thin sliced Serrano or Parma ham. For breakfast, this coffee would go great with an eggs Benedict. Do you like chocolate cake? This coffee is made to pair with chocolate cake. This is another good coffee to drink on its own as well. If you like your coffee smooth and bold this is your cup.
We’d like to send a big Mahalo (thank you) to all of our crew on the farm, Lani and Danny who roast our coffee, and to all of our customers who enjoy 100% Kona. We hope you try the roasts yourself. Please comment below with your own personal findings.
CONTRIBUTOR: MIKE CUBBAGE
HOW I LIKE MY COFFEE: Medium Roast Black
AS KID, I WANTED TO BE A: Pilot or race car driver. I liked going fast and I was much better at the hand eye coordination of games and stuff than sports.
I've been involved in the coffee industry for about 16 years. I've been a barista for many years, then a trainer and consultant. I am big on sharing relevant knowledge that will help coffee lovers have the optimal coffee experience. Working with Kona Coffee & Tea Company is like a dream come true. I can't say how rewarding it is to work with such a great product from seed to cup. From the very beginning, being part of the team here, I've felt like family and have been treated like family. The spirit of Aloha is strong as is their dedication to community and quality.