SCAA exposition 2009, part 2

Apr 13, 2009

Shawn Steiman, author of The Hawaii Coffee Book: A Gourmets Guide from Kona to Kauai is a coffee scientist and consultant based in Honolulu. His company, Coffea Consulting, aims to improve coffee quality and sustainability around the world.

This will be my third SCAA exposition and I expect it to be more interesting and more exciting than the others. As time progresses and I crave all-things-coffee more and more, I find the SCAA exposition affords me many opportunities to think outside my box. Like many people, I occasionally grow complacent in my own thoughts. At the exposition, the labs and lectures offer me new tools and ideas. More importantly, around every corner is a different coffee fanatic able to test my limits and challenge what I thought I knew about coffee.

This is especially important as I currently hail from our topical state of Hawaii. Were a small place and we dont have the magnitude of coffee geeks that many places on the mainland have. In fact, even our understanding of the specialty coffee industry on the mainland is incomplete. After all, with more than 2600 miles between us and the rest of the country, were bound to miss out on a few things.

Still, we have our own coffee fanaticism and expertise. Out here, we tend to think of coffee differently than most other people. We have the unique vantage point of being one of the rare coffee hotspots on Earth that is both an origin and a serious consumer. It is one thing to have a direct relationship with coffee farms halfway around the world. It is quite another when your friends and neighbors are those farmers!

Attending the exposition is a benefit for everyone. I (and other attendees from Hawaii) have the chance to catch up on the latest news and information from the mainland and schmooze with a myriad of coffee lovers. Concurrently, we get to bring our knowledge and experience of Hawaiian coffee to everyone else. As the only U.S. state that grows coffee, we have something special to bring to the exposition.

Our industry is quite diverse. We have over 800 coffee farms ranging in size from 10 trees to over 3000 acres! This coffee is grown in 10 regions on 5 islands at elevations near sea level to 3000 feet. There is more to coffee in Hawaii than Kona! With farms and cafes all over the state, we work with coffee from seed to cup.

The specialty coffee movement is as alive in Hawaii as anywhere. With numerous Arabica varieties, a multitude of climatic conditions and a diversity of processing methods, we have plenty of flavor nuances and descriptors in our brews. Without question, we have some remarkable coffees. Were an under-noticed origin but hopefully that is changing.

I can go on telling you about the Hawaii coffee industry for a long time. However, Ill spare you. Instead, Ill plug my book, The Hawaii Coffee Book: A Gourmets Guide from Kona to Kauai. Published by Watermark Publishing in June 2008, this is the first book to explore the whole scope of the Hawaii industry, from seed to cup. Not a single area of our industry is left out. In addition, it has some fun extras like a list of farms that give tours, cafes that roast their own coffee, coffee events that occur in the Islands, and recipes using Hawaiian coffee.

Actually, the book is much, much more than just telling the tale of Hawaii coffee. It is a comprehensive guide to coffee in general. While it covers the basics that other coffee books discuss, it has quite a bit of new and unique material. It provides a look at coffee farming and management, cupping, coffee quality on both a theoretical and practical level, and ethical coffees. Honestly, even though Im the biased author, this book really is a worthy addition to all libraries.

I look forward to seeing you Atlanta this week. Of course, if you need a bit more time to play with coffee, perhaps you should make your way to Hawaii. Get in touch with me and Ill make sure you have a fantastic coffee-infused trip!

Contact Shawn at


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