The coffee aficionado who sojourns around the world, as small as it seems with today's communications technology and travel industry, can still stumble across hidden or little-known pockets of excellence when it comes to the globe's favorite morning brew. In a remote corner of the Pacific Ocean, for instance, in the heart of Polynesia, one will find Ka'u and its increasingly well-recognized arabica beans, which have consistently placed among the top ten world coffees at Specialty Coffee Association of America events since 2007.
Nestled in the southern volcanic valleys and plains of Hawaii Island (also known as the Big Island), Ka'u District has a terroir and other growing conditions that are distinct from the island's other two coffee growing regions--the world-famous Kona District (found on the hot and dry west coast) and the lesser-known, lush tropical district of Puna to the southeast. The well-drained, acidic soils of Ka'u partly consist of young deposits of ash from the nearby, and still active, Kilauea volcano. Cool evenings, regular light rains, and hot mornings are other unique variables contributing to the taste of the local bean, which is mostly grown between 1,000 and 2,500 feet above sea level.
There are only 600 acres of land dedicated to growing coffee in Ka'u, making it a rare commodity outside of Hawaii. Those lucky enough to try this unique brew comment on its richness, and official cupping results often contain judges' descriptions that include words like "lime," "spice," "jasmine," and "currants."
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