STAR-BULLETIN / 2001
This full bag of cherry coffee beans was picked at a farm worked by Latino bean pickers.
Desire for Kona coffee brewing in Japan
Growers and Big Island officials seek to capitalize on the growing interest
KAILUA-KONA » If you grow it, we will drink it.
At least that's what Japan seems to be telling the Kona coffee industry.
Japanese trend-loving and fashion-conscious consumers believe they have found the next big thing in Kona coffee, which is increasingly coveted by a nation of consumers always hungry for the best.
Growers and the local government are looking to capitalize on Japanese interest at the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.
Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is one of the farms taking the initiative by introducing a Japanese-language Web site, hiring a Japanese-speaking concierge and offering special tours targeted at Japanese visitors, said co-owner Trent Bateman.
"They like to have expanded knowledge of how we get the quality and how we actually do the labor," he said. "It just so happens that Japanese people pioneered this industry. Now they might have faded a little bit and the newcomers outnumber them, but the allure of Hawaii and of Kona coffee has not gone away."
The Hawaii County Research and Development Department helped produce a Japanese edition of the self-guided Kona Coffee Country Driving Tour brochure.
The map highlights nearly 60 farms that offer tours, tastings and retail. The brochure also provides background information on the 180-year Kona coffee heritage, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, coffee roasting and processing, and the list of Kona coffee farms that have won the festival's cupping competition over the last 20 years.
The state also has recognized Kona coffee as a marketable product. A three-year Hawaii Tourism Authority grant totaling $225,000 was awarded to the festival, with the first installment of $75,000 coming this year.
"The younger generation is drinking more coffee," said Shunta Baba, a master purchaser for UCC Ueshima Coffee Co. Ltd. "Japan does think about Kona coffee as a premium coffee."
They also what to know how it gets into their cups.
"Most people in Japan don't know about how to process coffee, so visitors here are very interested to see that," Baba said. "For them, it is a first time to be able see this. When you are selling coffee in Japan, you are also selling how coffee is made."