Microbrew in Honolulu: the place for Hawai‘i-grown coffee

Some two-odd years ago, I was introduced to Dennis McQuoid via coffee god Andrew Hetzel of Cafemakers.  He had begun planning his dream café and wanted some consultants to help him out.  On Friday, January 27, 2011, Dennis opened Beach Bum Café (BB Café, herein, in deference to the British Broadcasting Corporation).

In full disclosure, Dennis did eventually hire me.  I helped him source his coffee (and am continuing to do so) and have helped with the grand opening promotion.  Believe me, I know how awkward it is that I’m trying to write an objective blog about a café I’ve been hired to promote!  Please, bear with me.

Dennis calls BB Café a microbrew coffee house.  As far as he knows, Dennis coined this term as it relates to coffee (heisted from the beer industry).  Essentially, it means each cup of coffee (or espresso) is brewed individually, on the spot, for the customer.  There’s neither an airpot nor a carafe in sight, just a myriad of brew methods that the customer gets to choose from.  On the mainland, folks think of this sort of place as a pour over bar, although, here, not all of the brew methods work on that extraction principle at all.  There are similar café experiences elsewhere: in San Francisco, Ma’Velous, owned by Phillip Ma and in Baltimore, Spro Coffee, owned by Jay Caragay (there are probably others out there, too).

Not only do customers get to pick the brew method, they also get to pick the coffee.  This is where BB Café stands out.  All the coffees available in the café are grown in Hawai‘i!  Even the espresso blend, designed and crafted by Miguel Meza of Isla Coffee, is 100% Hawai‘i-grown.  The coffees, sourced from single estates from around the islands, display an eclectic mix of flavor profiles and experiences.  Many of the coffees are rare- unavailable anywhere else in the state.  Moreover, the menu is dynamic; new coffees will be rotated in to keep things fresh and novel.  As an exciting aside, there are no flavors in this café; chocolate and flavored syrups are not allowed.  This café is about coffee and nothing else, although, espresso-based milk drinks are available.

No other café in Hawai‘i, possibly the world, is doing anything like this.  The now-closed Brewalalai Café in Kona tried a variant of this.  They had a multitude of single-farm Kona coffees for on-demand brewing using an Aeropress.  However, they were (justifiably) Kona-centric and only used one brew method.  BB café explores and supports the coffee industry statewide.  

Dennis realized that Hawai‘i coffee can be more than a tourist’s romantic memory or a swanky, high-priced gift.  He recognized that Hawai‘i has some intriguing, thought-provoking coffees.  BB Café is not just another café, it is a place to discover secrets that you never knew coffee held.

This is, perhaps, the greatest thing to happen to Hawai‘i coffee since the rise of the estate farm.  The estate farm created the opportunity to diversify and produce unique coffees, even from adjacent farms.  Oddly, until fairly recently, this opportunity didn’t produce the expected market competition that should have produced wildly different coffee experiences.  

Now, with a business like BB Café, farmers have an incentive to produce interesting, complex coffees.  There’s an eager customer, interacting with many more customers, in Hawai‘i’s largest consumer market, in the heart of downtown Honolulu.  Farmer’s who produce extraordinary coffees that are discovered by BB Café have an easy path to the hearts and mouths of coffee drinkers.  No longer must they rely on Internet sales, word-of-mouth, and good luck.

BB Café is doing a great service for coffee lovers and Hawai‘i coffee farmers with such a wonderful way of showcasing amazing coffees.  For a few years, some of us have realized that Hawai‘i has intellectually stimulating coffees.  Now, you don’t just have to take our word for it.  You can discover them for yourself.

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