Cupping competition crowns Kona coffee’s best

  • Shawn Steinman announces the winners of the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition with the newly crowned Miss Kona Coffee Tatiana Macomber and Miss Aloha Hawaii Tehina Slade Thursday at Daylight Mind Coffee Company. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — An internationally recognized panel of judges had the daunting task of selecting the best Kona coffee had to offer from 76 entries Wednesday and Thursday at the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Cupping Competition at Daylight Mind Coffee Company on Alii Drive.

Farms submitted two pounds of 100 percent Kona green beans to be judged in a blind taste test. Commercial entries had to be able to reserve 1,000 pounds of Hawaii Department of Agriculture certifiable prime or better green bean coffee.


Choosing the best wasn’t easy.

“There’s a wide range of profiles,” said Kona Coffee Cupping Judge Andrew Hetzel. “We have more traditional coffees and we have a lot of dried, natural processed coffee that we are tasting as well, which is something that didn’t exist here in Kona five or six years ago.”

According to organizers, this year reimagined the scoring system. The Kona Coffee Cupping Competition moved away from national blanket standards for judging coffee characteristics and moved toward a scoring system that established what characteristics were important for judging Kona coffee on its own as a region.

Launched this year, two flavor profiles took the stage: Heritage Profile, a classic Kona coffee profile, and Modern Profile, one that would be celebrated by modern, specialty coffee consumers. While both are quite valuable, one represents the legacy of Kona coffee while the other explores Kona coffee as a competitor on the international specialty coffee scene. Kona Coffee Cupping Competition organizers chose to use the classic profile for both divisions (commercial and artisanal) but inserted the modern profile in the artisanal division as well. Though two competitive divisions, Commercial and Artisanal, both divisions share common rules for entering the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition.

The organizers also determined the judges would use a 10-point intensity scale for measuring characteristics to define the profiles. The characteristics used in the 2017 Kona Coffee Cupping Competition were acidity, body, coffeeness, sweetness, floral, complexity and defects.

Cupping Chair Shawn Steinman put on the competition.

“It’s been great to organize this celebration of coffee in Kona and run a competition that challenges our conception of Kona coffee,” said Steinman.

Cupping Competition Results

Commercial Division, Heritage profile

1st place: Pele Plantations

2nd place: Arianna Farms ‘Ono Kona

3rd place: Imagine 100% Kona

Artisanal Division, Heritage profile

1st place: Castaway Bay Kona Coffee

2nd place: Paradise Found Estate Coffee

3rd place: Yamasawa Farms

Artisanal Division, Modern profile

1st place: Onila Farms


2nd place: Hula Daddy Kona Coffee

3rd place: Mahina Mele Farms LLC/Kona Rose Coffee