Kauai Coffee Company

"I wapi kope nau?" means, "Will you have some coffee?" in the Hawaiian language.

The Hawaiian Islands are located in the coffee belt, the tropical region between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn where the majority of the world’s coffee is cultivated. This region, with average mean temperatures of about 70 degrees, ample rainfall, and altitudes of between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level, provides the best climate for coffee trees. Countries in East-Central Africa and South America—particularly Brazil—produce the majority of the world’s coffee, which is the second largest traded commodity in the world, after oil. Hawaii is particularly well-suited to the cultivation of this important crop. While Kona coffee is perhaps the most famous Hawaiian brand, you may be surprised to learn that the Kauai Coffee Company is the largest coffee plantation in Kauai and in the entire chain of islands. It is, in fact, the largest coffee plantation in the United States, and the largest drip-irrigated coffee plantation in the world.

Kauai Coffee Company Patio
Kauai Coffee Company Patio

On this coffee plantation in Kauai you will find more than 3,400 acres with more than 4 million trees under cultivation. It produces nearly 4 million pounds of beans per year, which is more than half of Hawaii’s total coffee production. The coffee company in Kauai began in the nineteenth century as the McBryde Sugar Company, cultivating sugar cane. It was one of the first cane plantations in what was then the Republic of Hawaii. The owners planted the first coffee trees and began transforming it into the Kauai Coffee Company as a joint venture with the Hills Brothers, later the Nestle Beverage Company, in 1987. It finally became a full-fledged coffee company in Kauai in 1996, when the last load of sugar cane was harvested and coffee production exceeded the production of the entire Big Island Kona region.

Kauai Coffee Company Interior
Kauai Coffee Company Interior

The Kauai Coffee Company is located on the island’s southern coast, off Highway 50 and about midway between Poipu and the turn off to Waimea Canyon. It is about seventeen miles from Lihue Airport and is open to visitors interested in tours and in purchasing coffee. Varieties grown on the coffee plantation in Kauai are all Arabica coffee beans, and they include yellow catuai, red catuai, Kauai Blue Mountain (originally from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica), mundo novo, and typica. Catuai is a dwarf varietal, which is easier to harvest and more resistant to cold and wind. It has clean acidity and clarity of flavor. The mundo novo plant is robust and resistant to disease, producing low, sweet acidity, and a thick feel in the mouth. Typica is a tall plant, producing excellent coffee that tastes sweet and luxurious. While the country of Jamaica strictly regulates the geographic areas producing coffee that can legally be called Blue Mountain, similar to the laws regulating wine production and labeling in France, this varietal is now grown all over the world. This most-expensive coffee has a mild flavor and lack of bitterness. It is also the flavor base for coffee liqueurs, such as Tia Maria.

The road between Lihue and Waimea is particularly scenic. It is well worth taking advantage of car rentals for the drive. If you drive by the Kauai Coffee Company property in February or March, you can see the rolling plantation hills in bloom. From mid-October through early December, you can watch the harvesting, which occurs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are visiting Maui, you can also visit the Maui Brand sugar plantation, owned by the parent company of the coffee company in Kauai.

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