This coffee was cupped blind, side-by-side with another very fine 100% Kona (extra fancy) and a control sample. It was roasted to a level between light and medium (430 deg F bean temperature) and rested for about 12 hours prior to cupping, and 3 days prior to brewing. This roast level is close to how it is sold by the farm's owner. For more information on my roaster and method, see our reference page.
LavaRock is located in the south Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii and is a small farm producing big beans (their signature beans, "Pele's Passion" are very large in size). They're categorized as Extra Fancy and yet they were larger than the extra fancy beans against which I compared their sample. The prep is immaculate and these beans are solidly in the SCAA Specialty Grade (1) category. The beans roast absolutely evenly; a roasters dream. LavaRock won a gold medal in the local "Cream of the Crop" competition in 2004.
Some folks talk about "classic Kona". For my part, I have never found two Konas from different farms that tasted the same. The weather there is very regional and thus the coffee, a product of its environment, is different, according to the terroir where it was grown. Mark, the owner of LavaRock tells me, "We have micro-climates (even a few miles distance can make a world of difference in weather), and just a short distance away they may get better results with shade than other farms. In fact, my farm is 230 feet by 1400 feet long and varies by at least 50-100 feet altitude from top to bottom. It can rain on the top part of the farm and not rain down at the house".
I preferred this coffee to the other 100% Kona against which, this was compared but the best qualities of this coffee are elusive and change significantly from one type of preparation to the another. Generally, it's not a fruity coffee but what it lacks in fruit and floral qualities, it makes up for in intensity and nutty, smoky low tones. It's aromatic, medium bodied, extremely well balanced and becomes nuttier as it cools. It made a decent SO espresso but lacked sweetness. This could have been a function of the medium roast. It was just a little too intense for me as a cappuccino, the coffee, steam-rollering through the milk.
Where this coffee really shines is in the brewed cup. As a vac pot, it became lighter and more tansparent with its better qualities, nuts and hint of spice (cinnamon?) shining through. It was also very good as a French press brew. I imagine it would make a superb drip brew as well.
Some additional remarks by Jim:
This Kona went to Cuba ... Fine peat and smoke base,
with allspice notes, balanced with a clean edged acidity.
Buttery body. Not sweet, but appropriate to the taste. Very
clean. Not at all a classic cup; I would have guessed an
excellent Cuban, Haitian, Puerto Rican coffee, or a low toned
Antigua. Moreover, this Kona is
obviously better processed than Cuban beans, and has a more
Dry Fragrance: 4.2
Wet Aroma: 4.0
TOTAL (subtotal + 50) 88.3