The Hawai‘i coffee industry is doing something right. For the first time, a statewide cupping competition was held (July 9-12 at the Maui Tropical Plantation). Sixty-nine farms, from 9 regions, submitted samples for the event. The Hawaii Coffee Association, host and organizer for the event, brought in three mainland coffee professionals (Shawn Hamilton, Paul Thornton, and Warren Muller) to roast and judge the coffees. After a very close competition, Onouli Farm (Kona, Hawai‘i) took first place. For the official press release, click here. For the official results, click here.
I want to congratulate the 69 participating farms and the Hawaii Coffee Association for holding the event. It isn't easy putting one's coffee on the line to be rated against neighbors and competitors. Kudos to the brave! Fortunately, no matter where a competitor placed, everyone benefits.
As I said in a previous post, Hawaii coffees aren't well respected. By having unbiased competitions like this, though, the outside world will begin to see that Hawaiian coffees are no joke. It is true, none of the scores reached 90 (based on the SCAA cupping form). Still, the 15th placed coffee scored 83.1. That's a pretty reasonable score in a region where quality hasn't always been the defining factor. Those inexperienced with Hawaiian coffees, take heed! Your senses are soon to be surprised.
Most importantly, from this friendly, coffee-soul bearing experience, we can expect to see a rise in scores as the competition continues through the years. As we've seen from Cup of Excellence competitions, quality increases, aggressively, as farms discover the benefits of having high competition scores and remarkable coffees to back them up. In Hawai‘i, expect the 90-point barrier to be broken within the next 2 competitions. I also foresee a greater percentage of Hawai‘i's 830+ coffee farms participating. Optimistically, I hope to see 150 entrants by the 2011 competition.
The Hawai‘i coffee industry is moving in a new direction. The excitement is being felt across the state. Hopefully, everyone else will start feeling, too.