The Oscars of the Hawaii coffee industry brewed a lot of interest Saturday at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.
Between cupping and roasting workshops, tours, receptions, silent auction and exhibits, the fourth annual Statewide Cupping Competition was held during the Hawaii Coffee Association's 17th annual three-day conference.
Emcee and conference Chairman David Gridley announced the district winners from the eight recognized coffee growing regions in the state, including the "granddaddy of 'em all," Kona, along with Ka'u, Puna, Hamakua, Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai. There were 117 entries in all.
Statewide competition judge Warren Mueller performs a blind cupping test to determine the winners prior to the awards ceremony for the state Coffee Cupping Competition on Saturday at the Maui Tropical Plantation.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
The Maui District first place winner was Tambra Gardens of Kula 200 with its Kula Beans Estate Coffee, followed by Keokea Farms in second place and Upcountry Farm Specialties in third place.
The first place winner of the Molokai District was Coffees of Hawaii, owned by Mike Atherton, who also runs Maui Tropical Plantation.
The Statewide Awards were divided into two categories: Commercial, with a production of 300 pounds or more annually; and Creative, that includes smaller and more experimental farms.
Again, Tambra Gardens of Maui rose like cream to the top to garner second place in the statewide Creative Division.
Other Maui coffee farms of note in the Creative category were Keokea Farms and Upcountry Farm Specialties. In the commercial division, MauiGrown Coffee Co.'s Yellow Caturra Washed did well.
The first-place statewide commercial winner was Wood Valley Coffee Co. of Ka'u with its aptly named No. 1 Peaberry. It also took second place with its No. 3 Washed Typica, according to Gridley.
"David Gridley of Maui Oma Coffee Roasting Co. is so much of an unsung hero to the Hawaii coffee trade," said Jeff Ferguson, managing partner of MauiGrown Coffee Co. Store in Lahaina. "He is the one who set up the cupping contest, and he's the force behind the bean."
But Ferguson also credited his boss, Kimo Falconer, as the one who revived coffee culture on Maui.
"The whole Maui coffee industry wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for Kimo," he said. "He brought Kaanapali Estate Coffee under his brand. Otherwise, Maui's industry was dead in the water. But he fostered it."
Currently, Maui has more than 50 coffee farms and more than 500 acres in coffee production. Many smaller estates and startups are starting to sprout up on the landscape.
In the state, the earliest known records were of coffee being grown on the Big Island. Don Francisco de Paula Marin wrote about it in a journal entry in 1813. Next year marks the bicentennial of coffee in Hawaii, and big plans are in the works.
In addition, the Maui Coffee Association in conjunction with the Maui Farm Bureau will offer samples and talk story Aug. 4 at the Shops at Wailea. The event is free and open to the public.
"It will be another opportunity to meet growers and sample and buy 100 percent Maui Coffee," said Ferguson.
* Carla Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.