Catching the Buzz

A guided tour teaches clients the history of Molokai’s special crop

By: Marty Wentzel

In ancient times, islanders grew sweet potatoes in Kualapuu (Sweet Potato Hill), an upcountry Molokai spread rising 800 to 1,000 feet above sea level. These days, the same fertile soil grows coffee, which thrives in the abundant sunshine of the area. This is the home of Coffees of Hawaii, where clients can catch the buzz about Molokai’s own joe and what makes it special.

Since the 1920s, when the first Molokai coffee was produced, the crop has really blossomed, so much so that Coffees of Hawaii recently introduced a 100 percent harvest. In other words, every single bean in the bag was grown on the island, a rarity in Hawaii.

During a recent Morning Espresso walking tour, guide Dorothy Quintua reminisced about how she and her family members actually worked in the fields, helping to plant coffee trees and building the reservoir which supplies water for the crops. She described the coffee process from its inception, with beans forming on the trees in May and the harvesting running from October through January.

In the wet processing area, Quintua showed us how huge, noisy machines separate the ripe, overripe and immature beans into different bins. The coffee is spread out to dry about two miles away in Palaau, an arid locale which Quintua referred to as “our desert.” Next, in the warehouse, Quintua pointed out the dry mill, where the bean husking, polishing and sorting takes place. The final stop was the aromatic roasting room, where beans are roasted, blended, flavored, packed and hand-labeled for shipment. The tour also included a stop in the cupping room, the coffee-maker’s research lab where brews are compared by aroma, body, acidity and aftertaste.

Coffees of Hawaii features a must-see gift shop with handmade crafts and a variety of coffee products, from French presses to mugs. Clients can order a specialty drink from the attraction’s espresso bar and relax on the wide front lanai, knowing that they’re savoring an authentic taste of Molokai.


Coffees of Hawaii
1630 Farrington Ave.
Kualapuu, Molokai 96757

On the one-hour Morning Espresso Tour, clients get a look at the sorting and processing procedures. The Mule-Drawn Wagon tour takes two hours and includes a ride through the fields. Every participant gets a bag of coffee and both tours pay agent commissions. Prices start at $20 per adult, $10 per child ages 5-15 and free for children under 5.