I've been going wine tasting for over 30 years (yeah, I started when I was 11. LOL. I've been to the Kona District of the Big Island of Hawaii a couple times now to taste at some of the coffee-growing farms. This is what I wrote up from my first trip.
There seem to be interesting similarities between the two. Kona is pretty famous for expensive coffee and draws a number of tourists. Just like Napa is famous for expensive wine. Luckily, Kona isn't choked with traffic and they don't charge you for the privilege of sampling their coffees.
I took a tour at Hula Daddy's Coffee Plantation (yes, it's really called Hula Daddy). I also tried to stop by Kona Lisa, but they were closed. Anyway, the tour guide showed us the coffee plants and how everything is manually picked and sorted for the best beans. Much better than the big guys who mechanically harvest by stripping the plants. Just like with wine. We saw the "production area" which is the roaster. It was cleaning day and they were getting all the gunk out of the roasting machine and the pipes.
There seems to be a bit of controversy over light-to-medium roast vs. dark roast coffee as the local experts seem to think a lighter roast is better. Our guide asked plainly, "Do you want to taste the coffee or the roasting?" And she mentioned heavy roasting can cover up for inferior beans. Ah ha! This sounds like California Chardonnay. Do you want to taste the Chard grapes or oak and butter? Well, I think most Americans like oaky and buttery just like they seem to like dark roasts. Hmmm.
She talked up the Hula Daddy Kona Sweet coffee and all the rave reveiws. Later I saw it on their shelf--$60 a pound! Well, I've lived without $300 Bryant Family Cabernet so I can pass on this.
Plus there's trellis farming, organic farming, and growing at different elevations in Kona. Sounds a whole lot like wine. In fact, Kona is apparently the Napa of Hawaiian coffee as there are actually other areas growing coffee that you never hear about (just like many don't know about Mendocino, Amador, Paso Robles). One coffee farm in Hilo on the other side of the island had a sign saying, "The un-Kona Coffee."
And there are Coffee Cuppers--the experts. There are volumes of writings on how to properly taste and judge coffee. They look for acidity, aroma, body, and flavor. This sounds familiar.
There are coffee judgings with professional and people's choice awards given as I saw several coffee bags with stickers proclaiming such. I even heard one server telling some visitors, "This coffee got a 93!"
|I'm supporting the American economy!|
And there's the controversy over whether Kona coffee is really worth 30 bucks a pound plus-or-minus versus other coffees. Sounds like, "Are Napa Cabs really worth $75?"
So just like the previous trip I came home with a bunch of bags of expensive coffee--just like visitors to Napa bring home high-priced Cabernets.