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Hawaii Ka'u - Natural Process - Will & Grace Farm

May 23, 2008

This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.

Last year, the K'au region, and Will and Grace Farm in particular surprised the coffee world by scoring 6th in the SCAA Coffee of the Year competition. When Coffeecuppers reviewed it, we were even more positive, and scored it at 91. Miguel Meza has been working with the K'au farmers, and this hand prepped dry process lot is the result.

Bob's Review:
This coffee begs two comparisons; one with the better of the Ethiopian natural-processed coffees, and the second, with the better Kona's - the so-called "island coffees" that are touted as having perfect flavor, balance and acidity. This coffee is playing to win in two ball courts at the same time.

It does surprisingly well. It's a super-sweet coffee with the unmistakable flavors and aromas of a "natural" - deeply fruity - citrus, pears, bananas, apricots and more. Even the green beans smell like bananas. The coffee flirts with over-fermentation but does not quite go over that dangerous edge.

On the other side of the flavor profile, there is enough classic coffee flavor - chocolate, hazelnuts and caramel to balance all that fruit. It's a treat in any configuration - brewed or run through an espresso machine. As I sipped the cappuccino, I was transported to the corner candy shop with a soda fountain, of my childhood. It has all that, with good acidity to carry the flavors forward. We look for more extraordinary coffees from this farm in the future.

Jim's Review:
Everyone knows what an island coffee should taste like: sinfully sweet, lots of tropical fruit, with hints of flowers, almond and chocolate, maybe a touch of smoke or cinnamon. The problem is that they almost never do, not even the most fabled Blue Mountain or Kona lots. The surprise with the Will and Grace K'au from last year was that it did taste like a perfect island coffee.

And this year's dry process lot has added a twist -- petrol nose, as British wine lovers call it. This is a borderline cloying, aldehyde-like flavor of over-fermented honey which, in just the right quantity, turns simple sweet fruit into something complex and mysterious. People who like an ultra-clean cup will probably not agree, but to me, this is the ultimate in island coffee. Think of it as a cheap Trockenbeerenauslese.

The espresso shot accentuated the highs and the lows of the flavor profile, but the overall balance remained superb. This is a great SO.

Bobs Score
Dry Fragrance: 4.7
Wet Aroma: 4.5
Flavor: 8.8
Finish: 7.8
Acidity: 7.9
Body: 7.6
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 91.3

Jim's Score

Dry fragrance: 4.5
Wet Aroma: 4.7
Flavor: 9.3
Finish: 8.4
Acidity: 8.2
Body: 7.3
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 92.4

  • Lighter Roasts: Desert wine sweetness with Riesling like raisin, citrus and "petrol nose" and cinnamon-like roast flavors.
  • Darker Roasts: Candied cinnamon and clove notes will increase at darker roasts, but not too far.
  • As Espresso: Ever taste a carmel and cinnamon mandarin?


UPDATED: May 23, 2008