By July 2, 2013 Read Article

What’s the Best Hawaiian Coffee?

Perhaps as we approach the All-American holiday of Independence Day, it’s appropriate to consider what the “best” American coffee is.  And, given that Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows commercial quantities of coffee, it might naturally lead to the question “What’s the best Hawaiian coffee?”

That is a question raised in a recent reader search on  First of all, as objective reviewers, we always shy away from the term “best” because it somehow suggests absolute superiority and fails to recognize the subtleties and ambiguities of coffee appreciation.  But, that said, clearly some Hawaiian coffees are better than others, both within and among the main growing regions.

The most famous of Hawaiian coffees are from the Kona growing area of the Big Island.  However, coffee is grown on other parts of the Big Island (Ka’u and Puna, possibly others) as well as all of the major islands of Hawaii, including Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and Molokai.  Each of the coffees have their own distinctive qualities, driven by significantly different growing conditions and processing methods.  We’ve reviewed coffees from Kona, Ka’u, Maui, Kauai, and Molokai.  However, it’s been roughly a decade since we’ve evaluated coffees from Kauai and Molokai so we would caution readers that these reviews are almost irrelevant when considering the quality of current coffees produced on these islands.

So, we’ll focus our attention on the other growing areas where we have at least several sample points – Kona, Ka’u, and Maui – let’s say since 2010.  If you average the scores of all reviews that meet our criteria, the data is inconclusive in trying to determine the “best” Hawaiian coffee.  Since 2010, the average Coffee Review rating for Hawaiian coffees are as follows:

Maui (3 reviews) – 92.3 points

Ka’u (8 reviews) – 92.2 points

Kona (16 reviews) – 91.4 points

In short, they are all excellent, but a couple observations….

I’m not sure averaging three reviews from Maui is statistically significant but it might be surprising to some that all three reviews from Maui were 90 points or higher.  And two of these excellent reviews are of the distinctive Maui Mokka produced by Kimo Falconer at MauiGrown Coffee.

All 8 reviews for Ka’u coffees also scored 90 points or higher.  That’s quite impressive for a coffee growing area that until 5 years ago was largely unknown to consumers.

Kona coffees also scored very well but four of the 16 coffees reviewed earned 89 points.  That is still an excellent coffee but it explains the slightly lower average score for Kona coffees.  My takeaway is that you just need to be a little more careful when choosing coffee beans from Kona because you will find greater variation in quality.

Aloha and Happy 4th of July!

Here are some recommended resources for Hawaiian coffees:

MauiGrown Coffee (Maui)

Hula Daddy Kona Coffee (Big Island)

Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee (Big Island)

Coffees of Hawaii (Molokai, others)

Waialua Estate Coffee (Oahu)

Miguel Meza’s Isla Custom Coffees


Posted in: Coffee News

About the Author:

Kenneth Davids is a coffee expert, author and co-founder of Coffee Review. He has been involved with coffee since the early 1970s and has published three books on coffee, including the influential Home Roasting: Romance and Revival, now in its second edition, and Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying, which has sold nearly 250,000 copies over five editions. His workshops and seminars on coffee sourcing, evaluation and communication have been featured at professional coffee meetings on six continents.

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