Hawai‘i Coffee Association names statewide cupping, latte art throwdown winners
Winners of the Hawai‘i Coffee Association’s 14th Annual Statewide Coffee Cupping Competition and the inaugural Latte Art Throwdown were announced during the 28th Hawaii Coffee Association Conference June 15 through 17 at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort & Spa.
Also on tap was a record number of interactive workshops and lectures with seminars covering everything from water sensory to roast theory. Activities included a field grafting workshop with a how-to session guiding growers for implementing varietal replacement along with panel discussions on Coffee Leaf Rust and Farm Profitability.
“The conference was a success and the overall mood was positive and upbeat, despite the challenges facing our industry,” Said Association President Fred Cowell of Kaua‘i Coffee Company. “We were especially pleased to see so many new faces from across our industry that represented a broader spectrum than just growers and processors.”
Headlining the program was a keynote by Certified Q Grader Marc Marquez of Savor Brands and the election of the Association’s Board of Directors. New to the event was a beverage cart serving espresso favorites for attendees.
“Our workshops, seminars, presentations and vendor displays were specifically relevant to the challenges facing our industry,” added Cowell. “The teamwork of the organizers was evident from start to finish; many mahalos to everyone involved.”
Sixty-eight entries, down from 94 in 2022, vied in the 14th Statewide Hawaii Coffee Association Cupping Competition. Brittany Horn, Hawai‘i Coffee Association cupping committee chair and co-owner of Pacific Coffee Research, notes this year’s lower turnout is likely due to increasing challenges during this past harvest season.
“Growers are facing labor shortages, unpredictable weather and climate changes, plus increasing costs of inputs, lower yields and quality due to Coffee Leaf Rust and Berry Borer,” explained Horn. “Yet there were gems that shined bright in this competition.”
The top-scoring coffee with 87 points was a Kona-grown parchment-dried (washed process without use of commercial yeast inoculants) Red Bourbon variety produced by Kopiko Farm. Miranda Farms, of the Ka’u District, entered a parchment-dried Gesha variety placing second with a score of 86.75. Greenwell Farms of Kona earned a score of 86.35 with a fruit-dried (natural process) Gesha variety.
The top 10 highest scoring coffees were recognized and awards were also presented to the top coffees produced in Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture-recognized growing regions located throughout the islands. Top placing coffees by district included Kamaole Ranch of Maui, earning 84.60 with a Red Catuai variety. On O‘ahu, Maunawili Coffee’s Bourbon variety earned 83.50 while Hog Heaven Coffee’s Typica variety of Hamakua earned 81.70.
“There is no doubt that challenges will be present in an ever-changing environment but growers who remain open, adaptable and curious, while sharing in each other’s successes, will provide the path forward for the Hawaii Coffee community,” emphasized Horn. “I encourage all entrants to utilize the abundant resources that exist in Hawai‘i—our universities, our scientists, our professionals and each other— as we continue to navigate.”
Kona-based Pacific Coffee Research organized the competition utilizing a judging panel composed of local licensed Q graders led by Madeleine Longoria Garcia, Pacific Coffee Research co-owner. Other judges included Alaka’i Kapanui, head roaster at Pacific Coffee Research; Marc Marquez, coffee director at Savor Brands; Eric Musil, equipment technician at Pacific Coffee Research; and Alex Brooks, independent post-harvest processing consultant. Horn served as head competition facilitator and was assisted by Meg Duka and Elizabeth Pietras.
The panel employed the standard Specialty Coffee Association’s cupping methodology and scoring format. The precise and blind judging is a form of scientific sensory analysis where coffees are evaluated and scored based on a variety of subtle characteristics: flavor, aroma, acidity, aftertaste, body, balance, overall cup experience, presence of sweetness, lack of defect and uniformity.
The conference concluded with the Latte Art Throwdown and closing party at Collab Café where participants created beverages judged on creativity, taste and presentation by Tim Kilby of La Marzocco, Carl Wigren of Kona Bae Farm and Madeleine Longoria Garcia of PCR. Earning the top three awards in order were Daryl Fukunaga of O‘ahu, Kymmi Towey of Kaua‘i and Kyla Villamor of O‘ahu.
“The Throwdown was off da hook with lots of knowledge bombs from the folks from LaMarzocco USA, Urnex and the Coffee Tech Guild,” said Ben Fitt of Collab Café.