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Kau Coffee Festival Draws Specialty Coffee Leaders From Mainland

Media release | Fern Gavelek Communications

Leaders of the specialty coffee industry are traveling to the stateʻs largest agricultural district this weekend to learn about award-winning Ka‘ū coffee.

Representing three areas of the US Mainland, they include specialty coffee guru George Howell of Terroir Coffee in Acton, Mass.; Skip Fay of Dunn Bros Coffee in Minneapolis, Minn. and James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland, Calif.

The notable coffee experts are participating in Ka‘ū coffeeʻs inaugural reverse trade mission as part of the third Ka‘ū Coffee Festival May 14-15 at the Pahala Community Center. They will learn first-hand about Ka‘ū coffee during Saturday festival activities, including guided tastings and farm tours. On Sunday, the men will give guest lectures to local coffee farmers at the free Ka‘ū Coffee College.

“We’re pleased and proud that these notable industry leaders are traveling to Ka‘ū to share in our community”, said Chris Manfredi who serves as lead festival organizer. “This strategic initiative to create collaborative relationships will benefit Ka‘ū growers and moves us another step forward on the path toward establishing Ka‘ū as a premium coffee growing origin.”

A pioneer of the specialty coffee movement in the early 1970s, George Howell founded The Coffee Connection, a high-end coffee retailer that was acquired by Starbucks in 1994. He is an expert on single-origin coffee and is a living legend in the industry.

Marshall “Skip” Fay is executive vice president of Dunn Bros Coffee Franchising, Inc. He opened Dunnʻs first franchised coffee house and roastery in 1994. Today there are 90 locations.

Named one of the New York Times’ “Nifty 50,” James Freeman is on coffee’s radar for his Blue Bottle coffee company in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Freeman’s network of coffee carts and cafes offer carefully made coffee drinks and he is committed to selling beans “less than 48 hours out of the roaster.”

The Ka‘ū Coffee Festival comes on the heels of recent coffee industry awards garnered by brews that hail from the rural southern end of the Big Island. Kailiawa Farm earned a Coffee of the Year award in the 2011 Specialty Coffee Association of Americaʻs (SCAA) annual international cupping competition. More than 120 specialty coffee submissions, representing 17 countries, competed in Houston. This marks the fifth consecutive year Ka‘ū coffees have placed at or near the top of international competition. Manfredi first introduced Ka‘ū to intentional competition in 2007 and his company, Ka‘ū Farm and Ranch, LLC, has sponsored the entries every year since.

On May 3, Hawai‘iʻs Pete Licata used Ka‘ū and Kona coffees to be the first from the 50th State to win the U.S. Barista Championship. The event is the culmination of 10 regional competitions organized by SCAA in which competitors produce espresso, cappuccinos and original signature drinks to exacting standards. Licata, of Honolulu Coffee Co., travels to Bogota, Columbia, June 2-5 to vie in the prestigious World Barista Championship.

All coffee-industry related activities at the Ka‘ū Coffee Festival are open to the general public; some require a fee.

Guided coffee tastings are $5 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and will be led by Licata and a host of coffee experts: Miguel Meza, coffee-quality consultant and co-owner of Isla Coffee Company; Dr. Shawn Steinman, coffee scientist and owner of Coffea Consulting; Andrew Hetzel, founder/director Cafemakers LLC; and Lorie Obra of Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee, 2010 Grand Champion Hawaii Coffee Assoc. Cupping Competition.

Coffee farm tours are $10 throughout Saturday and Sunday and the Ka‘ū Coffee College is free. With the exception of the 1 p.m. recipe contest sampling for $5, all other festival activities are free, including a full day of entertainment headlined by Cyril Pahinui.

The Ka‘ū Coffee Festival is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. For a complete lineup of activities for the entire family, visit; and follow the Ka‘ū Coffee Festival on Facebook and Twitter at kaucoffeefest.

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