Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee

Ka’u Bourbon

Location: Pahala, Hawaii

Origin: Ka'u growing district, southwestern corner of the "Big Island" of Hawaii.

Roast: Medium

Est. Price:

Review Date: July 2009

Agtron: 49/69

Aroma: 9

Acidity: 9

Body: 8

Flavor: 9

Aftertaste: 10

Blind Assessment:

“An absolutely mind-blowing coffee” for co-cupper Andy Newbom (93). “Utterly pure yet soaringly intense,” for Ken (97). “Say fruit ten times,” Andy reports, and then he does, mainly variations of grapefruit, apricot and melon with green apple and Bartlett pear thrown in for the finish. For Ken that entire nuance is wrapped up in the extraordinary, singular explosion of cedary, pungently sweet berry, the quintessential Bourbon character. The acidity is enveloped in sweetness; in Andy’s colorful language it “startles and snuggles all at once.” For mouthfeel Andy suggests “crème fraîche Meyer lemon chiffon”; Ken sticks with a pedestrian “syrupy.” Ken awarded a perfect 10 to the long, balanced, deeply flavor-saturated finish.


Ka’u is a newly emerging Hawaii coffee growing district centered 30 miles or so south of the famous Kona region. This extraordinary coffee is the result of a deliberate experiment isolating coffee from fifty or so trees of the Bourbon variety growing on a section of the small farm of Lorie Obra in Ka’u. Its unusual character doubtless derives from its Bourbon heritage, but its quality is owing to the sort of artisan meticulousness that rarely happens in such a thorough-going way in the practical, cost-driven world of coffee: Ripe fruit was picked by Lorie herself, not by hired pickers, the fruit removal was performed by the traditional ferment and wash method, and the sun-drying was particularly watchful. Lorie hopes to produce about fifty pounds of this coffee next year, at which time at least a few others besides the Coffee Review reviewers will have an opportunity to enjoy it. Lorie does roast and retail other coffees from her Rusty’s Hawaiian farm, by the way, produced from trees of the Typica and Caturra varieties. Visit www.rustyshawaiian.com or call 808-928-8916 for more information.

Who Should Drink It: Everybody should but nobody can, given Lorie Obra only began separating fruit from her Bourbon trees near the end of the last harvest. We should have more next year. Nevertheless, a paradigm‑breaking experiment. This impeccably harvested and traditionally processed Hawaii Bourbon out-Kenya-ed most Kenyas.

This review originally appeared in the July, 2009 tasting report: Botany and the Cup: The Bourbon Conundrum

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