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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Eating and Drinking our way around Kauai

Michael and I are known for planning vacation days around food and drink and today was no exception.

We went to the Kauai Coffee Company Plantation. The coffee flowers smell like gardenias.

The food in Kauai has a rich and varied history of unique food and is a mixture of many different ethnic cuisines. People from all over the world have made a home on Kauai, and they brought with them the traditional dishes of their homelands. Over time, these foods have blended with the traditional fare of Kauai, and today there are a number of unique and delicious foods available on the island that you simply can’t leave without trying.

If you were hungry in ancient Hawaii, grab your spear and head to the nearest ocean — sort of your version of raiding the fridge. the fact that the Yeti Cooler had not yet been invented meant the moment you caught a fish, however, it would need to be eaten.

One of the breakfast items and a local favorite was the Loco Moco. Loco Moco consists of a wagyu beef hamburger topped with an egg cooked over easy. The whole thing is served on a bed of rice and smothered in a mushroom brown gravy. This is a favorite for any and every meal of the day.

I had the Loco Moco. Now, this is the way to start the day!!!!!!

Michael had the boring scrambled eggs, Portuguese sausage, rice and sourdough bread.

Some other traditional fare of Kauai:

Poke: Poke is a raw fish dish that’s often served as an appetizer. Two of the most common types of poke are tuna (ahi) and octopus (tako). The fish is cubed, seasoned, and served as a salad.

If you caught an extra-large reef fish, to keep it fresh you would skin, gut and debone the fish, and “poké” it into chunks.

The word “poké” in Hawaiian means “to cut crosswise into pieces.” You would probably season these chunks with some sea salt you’d collected and/or some seaweed to help preserve it a little longer, creating a nutritious, high-protein and delicious snack. Eventually, recipes would be exchanged and you might crush up some kukui nut on top for special occasions.

Lomi Lomi: Lomi Lomi is another fish dish, but in this case it’s smoked salmon instead of raw tuna or octopus. It’s traditionally served with tomato, sweet onion, and green onion.

Poi: Poi is a dish made from mashed taro root, and has the consistency of runny mashed potatoes. It’s eaten on its own, made into desserts, baked into sweet breads, and sometimes even blended with hummus.

Saimin: Saimin blends Japanese, Filipino, and Chinese traditions to create a soup and noodle dish that’s often accompanied by fishcakes, pork, spam, eggs, and onions.

Spam musubi: Spam musubi is a Hawaiian take on sushi, but instead of raw fish, you can expect your rice to be topped with a piece of teriyaki fried Spam and wrapped in nori.

Kalua pig: Kalua pig is something that you may get to experience if you attend an island luau because this delicacy is usually reserved for parties and special occasions. To make this dish, a whole pig is cooked in an imu, which is an underground oven.

Plate lunch: Plate lunch is, as the name suggests, a local favorite for lunches. The dish is made up of separate portions of rice, meat, and macaroni salad.

Malasadas: Malasadas were brought to Kauai from Portugal, and they are essentially deep fried dough balls rolled in sugar. Depending on where you go for these sweet treats, they may be made fresh to order or stuffed with tasty fillings.

Lilikoi: Lilikoi is a type of passion fruit that’s used in a variety of desserts on Kauai, including crème brulee, meringues, chiffon pies, and more.

Many different crops are grown on Kauai for both local consumption and exports. If you’re looking for a fresh food extravaganza, be sure to try the locally grown coffee, coconut, sugar, and pineapple.

Also check out the amazing food trucks, to support local businesses. I lost count on how many trucks we have seen.

A world of tasty delights awaits you on Kauai, and if you’ve got a taste for exotic cuisines, then you’re in for a special treat. Many of the local and traditional dishes on the island involve favorite ingredients like pork, spam, and fish, and pull inspiration from cuisines around the globe to create delicious and unique dishes. If you’ve got a trip planned to Kauai, make sure you try as much of the local fare as possible, including the sushi, burgers, pork dishes, and desserts.

We drove out to the Kauai Coffee Company Plantation. When we took the exit to the plantation, we were surprised to see two and a half miles of coffee trees planted on either side of the road. We learned they have four million trees on this plantation. Actually, all the coffee plants are called an orchard.

We were greeted with Aloha e komo mai. On the Island of Kauai, this means “Welcome!” All guests received a warm greeting and a deliciously hot cup of Kauai Coffee.

Michael does not drink coffee so I was shocked when he tried some Estate Reserve Big Braddah. I tried the Estate Reserve Kauai Sunrise. I took mine with milk and sugar and he had his black.

All decaffeinated Kauai Coffee products use the Swiss Water Process, which was introduced in Switzerland in the 1930’s. This process relies on caffeine solubility (dissolvability) and osmosis to remove caffeine from green coffee beans, without the use of chemicals. Our Swiss water decaf coffee is up to 99.9% caffeine-free.

We strolled through the coffee orchard on the free walking tour. We also learned all about how the coffee is grown, harvested and roasted right here on the island.

Walking tour signs identify the five different coffee varietals, as well as the entire coffee process from initial blossoming, through harvesting and processing, to the final roasting.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy the tour.

I wish we were here when the whole orchard was blossoming


This cat came right to Michael.

The Visitor Center is one of the few places in the world where you can taste the entire line of 100% Hawaiian, estate-grown coffees. Every coffee bean is grown and roasted right here. No foreign or imported beans are ever used, giving our Hawaiian coffees a truly unique flavor and an unmatched character.

"From the soft, fruity Kauai Blue Mountain to our intense, chocolaty, dark-roasted Peaberry, we have an exceptional range of coffees to satisfy any palate. We also offer flavored coffees, including Coconut Caramel, Vanilla and Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Hazelnut and Toasty Banana Nut Cream. Tasting our coffee varieties is free and deliciously satisfying."

About Kauai Coffee Company:

"The warm Pacific sun, rich volcanic earth, abundant mountain rain and cool trade winds of Kauai create ideal conditions for growing outstanding coffee.

With over 4 million coffee trees grown on 3,100 acres, Kauai Coffee Company is Hawaii’s largest coffee grower, and thus the largest coffee grower in the U.S.

Kauai Coffee Company is a true Hawaiian coffee estate. From growing the coffee to roasting and packaging, we employ sustainable, environmentally sound practices throughout every step of the process. Above all, we focus on assuring the highest quality and delivering our customers the consistency and excellence they deserve."


"Kauai Coffee began in the early 1800s as McBryde Sugar Company, one of the first sugar farmers in Hawaii. The transformation from McBryde Sugar Company to Kauai Coffee in 1987 represents Hawaii’s largest diversified agricultural project in the past 50 years.

The Kauai Coffee venture experienced a severe setback in 1992 when Hurricane Iniki inflicted $8.5 million in damages to the coffee crop. The future of Kauai Coffee, and all of Kauai, looked bleak. Fortunately, both made a comeback, and in 1996, Kauai Coffee’s harvest exceeded the volume of coffee produced by the entire Kona region.

Two Roast Masters:Mike Shimatsu and Tadashi Muratake

Mike Shimatsu has been with the company since 1990. He’s the Manager of Roasting Operations and Institutional Equipment as well as a Certified Licensed Q Arabica Grader. His subject matter of expertise is focused on roasting, cupping and quality assurance. Mike established Kauai Coffee’s roasting program and is a Certified Lead Instructor for the Specialty Coffee Association of America. While traveling throughout the United States, he’s volunteered as a Station Instructor at the Specialty Coffee Conferences teaching Orientation to SCAA Cupping, Taste Testing for Production, Triangulation Cupping and Green Bean Grading. He’s also held cupping workshops for the Hawaii Coffee Association, the local community college as well as a Taste Discovery Workshop for the Maui Coffee Association and the Maui Coffee Farmers.

Recently, he established Kauai Coffee Company’s Food Safety, Food Defense and HACCP Program with the assistance of his Food Safety and Food Defense Team. This program ensures the products being manufactured are safe and meet Kauai Coffee’s high quality standards for its distribution centers.

Tadashi Muratake has worked for Kauai Coffee Company since 2008. Prior to joining the team in 2010 as a Roast Plant Operator, he spent a few years working on equipment in the maintenance shop. Over time, he worked his way up to Associate Roast Master.

Today, Tadashi is the Roast Plant Supervisor and is responsible for production scheduling, overseeing daily operations and scheduling preventative maintenance on all equipment. He’s also on the cupping panel to ensure the roasted coffees are consistent and meet our high quality standards.

In addition, he’s responsible for training our personnel to properly and safely perform their jobs. He assisted in establishing Kauai Coffee Company’s Food Safety Program and continues monitoring our HACCP Program.

The Roasting Experience

Harvesting and Production Process

Over the past 15 years, Kauai Coffee has invested in all aspects of coffee production and processing. Although a relative newcomer globally, we are proud to be at the leading edge of coffee production technology and the sole producer of more than half of the coffee grown in the United States.

From the time our plants blossom to when the coffee is shipped to you, our beans undergo a rigorous quality control process to ensure that every cup you enjoy is of the highest quality, worthy of the Kauai Coffee name.


Coffee starts like many other fruits we enjoy — as a beautiful, fragrant and delicate blossom. These blossoms eventually develop into the coffee cherry, and it is the seeds of this fruit, usually two to a cherry, which become the coffee bean familiar to most of us.


On Kauai, the blossoming begins in February or March, and by May, the young fruit begins to form. The fruit ripens around late September, and harvesting begins.

Kauai’s harvesting period runs from mid-October through early December. We harvest 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using 3 shifts — a practice unique in our industry. Due to the size of the estate and the existence of several micro-climates, we rely on daily scouting reports to select the fields with maximum ripeness.

Wet Processing

After the coffee cherries are harvested, trucks deliver them from the fields to the wet processing plant within two hours, eliminating the chance of fermentation and damage to the coffee. At the wet processing plant, the cherries are separated into three types as determined by stages of maturity — ripe, natural and immature coffee. These stages are decided by noting inherent differences in density and hardness of the cherries. We produce five grades of coffee from our wet processing plant, with an average daily capacity of 650,000 pounds of cherries.


Next, the ripe coffee cherries are “pulped,” (the skin and fleshy fruit of the cherry are removed) in a pulper, whose pulping pressure is set to liberate the beans from the ripe soft cherries. The ripe, pulped coffee is then given several more chances to “fail” quality tests, primarily based on bean density at this stage. Passing through density channels and “cribas,” the selection process of the best coffee continues.


Next, the pulped beans are hydrowashed to remove the sticky mucilage that coats them, then sent to pre-dryers, a fluidized bed of air that is the start of the drying process. After this, the beans are gently dried in heated drying elevators for 18 to 36 hours. The bean temperature is carefully monitored during drying, and the heat is turned off for 8 or more hours per day to simulate cool night breezes associated with patio drying. The result is parchment coffee, or pergamino, at about 11–12% moisture.


The coffee rests in parchment for a while and is then milled to remove the parchment and silverskin, again taking great care to monitor bean temperatures and preserve each bean’s flavor and quality. Sizing screens and density tables further sort out the best beans.


The final sorting step in the dry mill is the color sorter, where an electronic eye scans each bean for color, selecting the finest colored beans and rejecting those that don’t pass with a blast of air.


Each batch of coffee is graded and cupped and inspected by the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture. The DOA inspector officially certifies each batch of coffee by grade quality and origin.


Once certified, the bag’s tag is marked to indicate grade and origin, and the 100% pure Kauai coffee is ready for roasting! The coffee is roasted and packaged on our estate. It is then shipped to coffee lovers around the world!"


"Kauai Coffee is committed to following environmentally friendly and sustainable farming practices. We’re proud to be the largest drip irrigation coffee estate in the world with over 2,500 miles of drip tubing. Our efficient drip irrigation system applies water and fertilizers directly to the roots of the trees, so we do not have to spray or dust fertilizer on our coffee farm.

During the harvest period, we divert water from the drip irrigation system to the wet plant where it is used in processing. Because we only use our water in processing, it can easily be cleaned using a filter system and then reapplied to the coffee fields. Our cherry pulp and the mulch from pruning the coffee trees are put back into the land as soil amendments. In addition to adding nutrients to the soil of our coffee plantation, this mulch also serves to reduce weeds in the fields."

"We plant contoured hedgerows and diversions to mitigate runoff and soil erosion; therefore the native forests and plants in our estate’s valleys and ravines are protected. We comply with all EPA regulations including the Clean Water & Clean Air laws.

At Kauai Coffee, we are fortunate our trees are not prone to disease and insects unlike other crops. We have the potential to reduce our herbicide use by 75% through our cultivation practices and our 3,100-acre coffee plantation is GMO free."

Cover Crop and Composting Program

"With nearly 3,100 acres of coffee production, Kauai Coffee has instituted an orchard sustainability program that will create healthier soils, reduce synthetic fertilizer and herbicide use, reduce irrigation requirements, and produce even better coffee cup profiles. The two main components of the sustainability program are the use of farm-wide cover crop and a massive composting program.

Conversion to full cover crop orchard operations:

  • We are combining grasses, nitrogen fixing legumes, and deep root plants to minimize or eliminate herbicide use, increase moisture retention, aid soil microbiology, and boost soil organic matter

  • Healthier soil means healthier trees, better coffee fruit quality and ultimately better tasting coffee that’s also better for the earth

  • Increased soil organic matter will reduce water requirements by nearly 20%

Beginning stages of an engineered composting program:

  • Making the best use of approximately 4 million pounds of coffee fruit pulp and processing by-products

  • 100% of the food and organic waste from our Visitor Center will be processed in the compost program

  • Annual output would treat 450 acres per year, which is about 1/6th of our farm

  • Potential to blend with 35,000 cubic yards of municipal green waste

  • Carefully monitoring the compost to reach ideal thermophilic emperatures to sterilize weed seeds and supercharge the soil microbiology

  • Compost will dramatically boost soil microbiology and add key micronutrients"

The Cupping Experience

What makes Estate Reserve coffee different from 100% Kauai Coffee?

Each year approximately 5% of Kauai Coffee Company’s crop is selected to become one of our premier Estate Reserve coffees. These coffees are available exclusively to our Coffee Club Members, our Visitor Center or in very limited quantities at our online store.

What is the difference between Kauai Coffee and Kona Coffee?

Kauai Coffee is generally less acidic with broader flavor profiles than its cousin bean from Kona (a geographical distinction on the Big Island of Hawaii). Also, as a product grown on a single estate, Kauai Coffee has a natural consistency that you can count on year after year, cup after cup!

Some beautiful plants also to enjoy while taking the walking tour.

Next stop was the Kōloa Rum Company.

"The Kōloa Rum Company is a single-batch, craft distiller and bottler of premium Hawaiian rums. They have been serving “The Spirit of Aloha” to the world since the very first batch of Kōloa Rum was distilled and bottled in 2009. Crafted from pure cane sugar and rainwater from Mount Waiʻaleʻale, their products are a testament to the long and colorful history of commercial sugar production in Hawaiʻi and the abundant natural resources that make Kauaʻi – The Garden Isle! Kōloa Rum Company was founded to create superior Hawaiian rums and ready-to-drink cocktails using locally-sourced ingredients. In doing so, the Company provides meaningful employment opportunities for the people of Kauaʻi, while diversifying the local economy and preserving important agricultural land.

Kauaʻi is the natural home for the Kōloa Rum Company. Sugarcane came to Hawaiʻi with ancient Polynesian voyagers as they migrated to Hawaiʻi from the South Pacific. Commercial sugar production operations in Hawaiʻi were first established in the town of Kōloa in 1835. The initial harvest in 1837 produced two tons of raw sugar and rum production began around this time as well.

The legacy of sugar and rum in Hawaiʻi lives on today through Kōloa Rum. They were the first licensed distillery on the island of Kauaʻi, where sugarcane production has been a traditional way of life. In addition, they fully promote sound and sustainable agricultural practices to provide meaningful support and diversity to the local agricultural industry and serve to stimulate employment, increase cultivated acreage and preserve open space.

Everything they do is deeply rooted in their Hawaiian heritage and reflects the commitment to support and build their ohana – by bringing people together, creating great memories and sharing the Aloha way of life."

When you see as many chickens as we did today, you start thinking about having chicken for dinner. You also don't know how many times we passed a Chicken in a Barrel location the last couple days.

Here is the story for Chicken in a Barrel in their words.

"With about 35 years experience in this cooking style, owner and founder of Chicken In A Barrel, Mike Pierce started this establishment in 2010 with one intent; which is to spread the love of God and this extraordinary culinary joy. With God as the center of this business, family and dedication bloom all around. Family owned and run, quality is an essential standard here."

BBQ beans with tomato chunks

Onions rings and French fries

This is such a unique way to serve beer. You are charged by the amount you pour. You can mix different beers together to create your own favorite.

This keeps track of the amount.

We walked along the beach near our hotel.

And so another day comes to a close.

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