"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
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
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.