What’s the Best Hawaiian Coffee?

by Ron

Perhaps as we approach the All-American holiday of Independence Day, it’s appropriate to consider what the “best” American coffee is.  And, given that Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows commercial quantities of coffee, it might naturally lead to the question “What’s the best Hawaiian coffee?”

That is a question raised in a recent reader search on CoffeeReview.com.  First of all, as objective reviewers, we always shy away from the term “best” because it somehow suggests absolute superiority and fails to recognize the subtleties and ambiguities of coffee appreciation.  But, that said, clearly some Hawaiian coffees are better than others, both within and among the main growing regions.

The most famous of Hawaiian coffees are from the Kona growing area of the Big Island.  However, coffee is grown on other parts of the Big Island (Ka’u and Puna, possibly others) as well as all of the major islands of Hawaii, including Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and Molokai.  Each of the coffees have their own distinctive qualities, driven by significantly different growing conditions and processing methods.  We’ve reviewed coffees from Kona, Ka’u, Maui, Kauai, and Molokai.  However, it’s been roughly a decade since we’ve evaluated coffees from Kauai and Molokai so we would caution readers that these reviews are almost irrelevant when considering the quality of current coffees produced on these islands.

So, we’ll focus our attention on the other growing areas where we have at least several sample points – Kona, Ka’u, and Maui – let’s say since 2010.  If you average the scores of all reviews that meet our criteria, the data is inconclusive in trying to determine the “best” Hawaiian coffee.  Since 2010, the average Coffee Review rating for Hawaiian coffees are as follows:

Maui (3 reviews) – 92.3 points

Ka’u (8 reviews) – 92.2 points

Kona (16 reviews) – 91.4 points

In short, they are all excellent, but a couple observations….

I’m not sure averaging three reviews from Maui is statistically significant but it might be surprising to some that all three reviews from Maui were 90 points or higher.  And two of these excellent reviews are of the distinctive Maui Mokka produced by Kimo Falconer at MauiGrown Coffee.

All 8 reviews for Ka’u coffees also scored 90 points or higher.  That’s quite impressive for a coffee growing area that until 5 years ago was largely unknown to consumers.

Kona coffees also scored very well but four of the 16 coffees reviewed earned 89 points.  That is still an excellent coffee but it explains the slightly lower average score for Kona coffees.  My takeaway is that you just need to be a little more careful when choosing coffee beans from Kona because you will find greater variation in quality.

Aloha and Happy 4th of July!

Here are some recommended resources for Hawaiian coffees:

MauiGrown Coffee (Maui)

Hula Daddy Kona Coffee (Big Island)

Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee (Big Island)

Coffees of Hawaii (Molokai, others)

Waialua Estate Coffee (Oahu)

Miguel Meza’s Isla Custom Coffees


This entry was written by:Ron and posted on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 at 8:56 am and is filed under Green Coffee Origins and Issues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “What’s the Best Hawaiian Coffee?”

  1. Notes: Produced on the Maui Grown Coffee farm, a slimmed-down revival of the older, larger, now-defunct Kaanapali Coffee estate. Barrington Coffee is an artisan roaster dedicated to elite coffees, fresh delivery and roasting that foregrounds the coffee and not the roast. Visit http://www.barringtoncoffee.com or call 800-528-0998 for more information.

  2. Ron says:

    Thanks for your post. It’s fairly straight forward to identify the coffees and reviews that were included in this comparison by using the search feature in the upper right of the CoffeeReview.com site. For the Maui coffees, simply enter “maui” as the search term. The first three search results were included. For Ka’u, use “ka’u” as the search term. It’s the first 9 results, excluding the 89 point blend. For Kona, type “kona”. You’ll need to cull the search results a bit to pull out the Kona blends and a couple Ka’u results that include the word “Kona” in their tasting notes.

  3. Colin Jevens says:

    Can you share a list of the coffees that were previously reviewed for this piece? It would be good to know which got to play in the game.
    There are many amazing coffees in Hawaii and I often suggest to people to try as many as possible, and support farm direct.

    To anyone else: Be careful that the Kona you purchase is not a blend. Demand 100% when buying Kona coffee.

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