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Creativity in Cultivars and Processing at the 23rd Hawaii Coffee Association Conference

The Hawaii Coffee Association‘s 23rd annual conference and 10th annual Statewide Cupping Competition took place late last month at the Kauai Beach Resort in Luihe, showcasing some of the state’s finest coffees while supporting a robust, science-heavy education program for producers.

Though the state’s numerous growing districts may not have the natural characteristics of some of the world’s most prized coffee origins, particularly in terms of elevation, the state’s coffee growers do have distinct advantages in the areas organizational support, infrastructure, market access, and, as the latest HCA show demonstrates, technical acumen in variety/cultivar selection and processing.

For the cupping competition, 92 submissions came from growing regions throughout the state, while the Kona-based Pacific Coffee Research Center organized qualified judges using the Specialty Coffee Association cupping methodology and scoring format.

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Photo courtesy of the HCA.

The grand prize winner of the event was a Geisha variety processed with wine yeast from the farm of Kona’s Monarch Coffee, receiving a score of 85.5. The second place coffee was a cultivar called Jeni-K by its producer, Kona’s Greenwell Farms, that scored 85.25. The top 10 scoring coffees, which all hailed from Kona, represent a remarkably wide variety of coffee types (Geisha, Jeni-K, Typica, Pacamara, SL-28 and Progeny 502) processed in a similarly wide variety of methods (washed, yeast fermented, pulped natural, wet fermented and wet demucilaged). A complete list of coffees scoring over 80 points is available here, and here is a list of all the winners from each of the seven growing districts represented.

In a couple years’ time, the HCA may see a new coffee type on those lists, a cultivar called Mamo that was presented at the show. According to the HCA, Mamo is the first stable Hawaiian cultivar bred in-state since the Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center began investigating breeding novel and potentially rust resistant varieties in the 1990s. Meaning “descendant” in Hawaiian, Mamo is a cross of the Mokka and Marogogype varieties, and results have shown exceptional flavor and a large bean size.

“It is inspiring that so many Hawaii coffee producers are striving to make coffee better; whether by exploring experimental processing techniques, unique varieties, or other innovations,” PCR Cupping Committee Chair Brian Webb said in a press release following the event. “The future of specialty coffee in Hawaii looks very bright.”

The next major HCA event is a green coffee auction, coming in the Spring.

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