The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is Held Each November in Kona Hawaii.

For almost two centuries, Kona-grown coffee has been a well-regarded delicacy among coffee aficionados throughout the world. Light, delicious, and carrying a distinctive taste, authentic Kona Coffee is as sought-after as any Hawaiian export. It’s a unique crop to the United States and can be grown only on the western side of the Big Island perfectly situated along the slopes of fertile volcanic mountains, shielded from excess sunlight and in a unique microclimate that provides the perfect amount of precipitation. For this reason, hundreds of small coffee farmers call Kona home, and many of them gather each year for the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, celebrating art, music, dance, food, educational opportunities, and – of course – coffee!

Processing Kona Coffee

2019 Kona Coffee Festival Schedule of Events – Nov 1st-10th

Daily – Farm tours and events at Greenwell Farms and/or the Kona Coffee Living History Farm
Nov 1st – Lantern Parade and Bon Dance in Historic Kailua Village
Nov 2nd – Coffee & Art Stroll in Holualoa
Nov 1st-2nd, 6th-9th – Art Exhibition & Activities at Donkey Mill Art Center
Nov 2nd & 3rd – Miss Kona Coffee Competition at the Aloha Theatre
Nov 3rd – Hawaii Coffee Picking Experience – UCC Kona Coffee Estate Kiosk
Nov 3rd – Kona Coffee Recipe Contest at Palamanui Campus
Nov 4th-6th Cupping at Pacific Coffee Research
Nov 6th – Cupping Awards & Benefit Dinner at  King Kamehameha Beach Hotel
Nov 4th & 7th – Barista Training & Competition at Kona Coffee and Tea
Nov 4th-7th, 9th – Quilt Show at Quilt Passions Quilt Shop
Nov 8th – Talent Night at the Aloha Theater
Nov 7th-9th Festival Ho’olaule’a, Concerts and Seminars at the Makaeo County Pavilion
Nov 9th – Marathon & Half Marathon at Coconut Grove Marketplace
Nov 10th – Grand Finale – A Taste of Kona at the Sheraton

The Historic Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Over the course of ten action-packed days, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival rewards visitors with historical exhibits and presentations, a lantern parade, a coffee and art stroll, arts and crafts displays, free coffee making tips and tricks, concerts, a farmer’s market, and two main attractions: the Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Pageant and the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Cupping Competition.

Cup of Kona Coffee with a Plumeria Flower

The 2019 Kona Coffee Cupping Competition Winners

Crown Division (for Larger Farms & Professional Processors)
1. Hawaiian Queen Coffee
2. Kona Organica
3. Kona Farm Direct

Classic Division (for Single Estate Farms)
1. Hula Daddy Kona Coffee – Kona Mocca – 86.03
2. Kopiko Estate – Gesha – 85.25
3. Hala Tree Coffee – Red Bourbon – 85.04

Heritage Award (Most Classic Kona Coffee Taste)
Holualoa Kona Coffee Company

What’s “cupping?”
Cupping is a term used by coffee professionals as a method to evaluate and assess specialty coffee in a blind fashion. It’s the formal process for testing the aroma and taste for individual coffees, with testers deeply inhaling the scent, then slurping a small amount of the coffee so that it crosses to the back of the tongue and is absorbed fully into the mouth for tasting. Coffee is measured and graded by texture, sweetness, acidity, overall flavor, and the aftertaste.

Kona Coffee Cherries Growing on the Coffee Trees in Hawaii

Kona Coffee’s characteristics can vary greatly depending on roast and farm, but the general consensus is that Kona Coffees are medium-bodied with floral aromas, a bit of acidity, and a hint of sweetness. Like Napa Valley wines, for instance, not all Kona Coffees are alike – thus the cupping competition. All coffee entered must be 100% Kona coffee, grown specifically in the district of Kona on Hawai‘i Island. They are judged using the Specialty Coffee Association scoring system.

Hand Made Leis Using Various Parts of the Kona Coffee Plant
What to Know About The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Attendance
Attendance to the festival is one of the most enlightening and rewarding experiences you can undertake on the Big Island of Hawaii. You may come and go as you please (after all, the event lasts ten days and is spread among several venues).

Kona Coffee Festival Dancers

A festival button ($5 per person) is required for entrance to the various events, this modest fee helps support the festival & event coordination. The buttons are also fantastic collector items, as they have the new festival artwork featured on them each year. Buttons can be purchased at most of the event locations as well as at many local businesses around Kona.

Vendors offer Coffee Samples at the Kona Coffee Festival

Some of the highlights of this year’s festival are the lantern parade through downtown Kona, a coffee art competition, a variety of farm tours, the cupping competition, Hawaiian Craft demonstrations, and several concerts and cultural events. You can learn more about this year’s festival by visiting the official website.

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