Categorized | Agriculture, Featured

Ka‘u celebrates its own special brew

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

More than 1,500 people turned out the third annual Ka‘u Coffee Festival over the weekend in Pahala.

The festival is designed to celebrate Ka‘u coffee and its farmers, but also is a family-friendly day of food and entertainment.

“This is a chance for them to step back and congratulate each other. A chance to say ‘this is my job and I’m proud of what we do,'” said Shawn Steinman, coffee scientist and owner of Coffea Consulting. “A festival like this helps promote a certain level of healthy competition, but it also sends a unified message to the rest of the world about Ka‘u coffee.”

Steinman said the Ka‘u coffee industry has grown to include 50-60 farms and has been making a name for itself since it exploded in the late 1990s after the island’s sugar plantations closed.

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

For example, Kailiawa Coffee Farm scored top marks for a U.S. coffee and was judged 10th in the world by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, an international coffee trade association.

“What makes Ka‘u coffee unique is the region’s micro-climate. The level of humidity and temperatures of coffee-growing regions definitely have an influence on the quality,” he said.

“Every region has a bell curve distribution with some really excellent coffees and some that are not so good,” Steinman said. “There no magic secret. It’s hard work.”

The savory table. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

One of the highlights was the recipe contest, with sweet and savory categories.

Dan Nakasone, co-founder of, helped judge the savory category.

“I thought three of them were very good dishes,” he said. “I enjoyed all of them.”

Nakasone has attended all three coffee festivals in Ka‘u.

“I’m from Oahu, so this is an escape weekend for me,” he said. “Its a great event in the classic, old style, small town way. And, of course, the people are wonderful. And the coffee. Usually Ka‘u coffee is very full-bodied, but this year it’s fruity and light. Outstanding.”

Judges Dan Nakasone and Joan Obra taste the savory creations. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Over on the sweet side, judge Sonia Martinez of said the dessert entries scored well.

“Overall, they were very good,” she said. “Two of the desserts were outstanding. And one of them used a whole bunch of Ka‘u ingredients, not just coffee.”

The winner: Strawberry mocha trifle. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

The recipe contest winner was Crystal McIntosh for her strawberry mocha trifle.

McIntosh shared her recipe:

* Brownies: 1 cup butter, melted; 2 c. sugar; 4 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla, 2/3 c. cocoa, 1 1/3 c. flour, 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 c. white chocolate chips, Ka‘u macadamia nuts chopped, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp. salt, 1 c. Ka‘u coffee, Hershey’s syrup, 1 pint whipping cream, 6 Tbs. sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 5 c. strawberries soaked in 2 c. melted strawberry jam.
* Garnishes: 1 Ka‘u strawberry, 2 chocolate leaves (1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips melted + 2 Ka‘u lemon leaves, clean)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 13X9 pan. Stir butter and sugar until blended. Beat in eggs, then vanilla, until well blended. Stir in cocoa, mixing well.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowls; stir together. Add flour mixture to chocolate batter, mixing until smooth. Stir in semi-sweet and white chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake 25-30 minutes or until firm. Cool, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Place half of brownie cubes on bottom of large glass bowl.

Brush with coffee, then drizzle with Hershey’s syrup. Layer ½ of strawberries using slotted spoon, then ½ of whipped cream. Repeat layers, garnish with strawberry and chocolate leaves.

Whipped Cream – beat whipping cream and sugar in chilled bowl until stiff. Add vanilla in last minute of beating.

Chocolate leaves – brush melted chocolate onto 1 side of clean leaves until covered. Freeze overnight or until firm. Peel off lemon leaves.

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Reigning over the festival were Miss Ka‘u Coffee 2011 Brandy Shibuya, Young Miss Ka‘u Coffee Dayse Meleani Andrade and Miss Ka‘u Peaberry Rebecca Lynn Kailiawa-Escobar.

The weekend also featured coffee tasting, a coffee recipe contest, farm tours and a slate of seminars on Sunday.

— Find out more:

(Additional reporting special to Hawaii 24/7 by Julia Neal |

Butch Light won the Pupu category of the Amateur Division of the Ka‘u Coffee Recipe Contest for his Coffee Smoked Chicken, second in the Dessert I category for his Flourless Mochamac Cake with Cafebar Glaze, tied for second in the Dessert II category with his Coffee Souffle recipe and third in the Entree category for his MacCoffee Chicken.

Light is the cooking teacher at Ka‘u High School. He encourages his students to enter the festival recipe contest every year. The timing of this year’s event only allowed for two teams to enter. Students in the class are encouraged to use their imaginations when cooking.

Light said the school is adopting the national safety standard set by the American Culinary Federation and used by chefs across the nation. Using these standards sets Ka‘u High above most U.S. public schools offering cooking classes.

Contact Light at 928-2011 or

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

One Response to “Ka‘u celebrates its own special brew”

  1. Fern Gavelek says:

    Great coverage Karin of our hard working ag industry. Your pics really capture the flavor of the event. mahalo!


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