Rusty Obra had a big dream: turn the Ka‘u District of the Big Island into a celebrated coffee region. After Rusty’s death, his wife, Lorie Obra, devoted their farm, mill and roastery to artisanal quality. Rusty’s Hawaiian has won honors for producing and roasting coffee. Lorie Obra is one of ten worldwide winners of the 2012 Roasters Guild Coffees of the Year Competition. She is also the Grand Champion of the Hawaii Coffee Association’s 2011 and 2010 statewide cupping competitions and received the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s 2010 Outstanding Producer award.
For these reasons, Natural Yellow Caturra has turned into one of our most popular coffees. And with only a few hundred trees on our farm, it’s also one of our most limited. We only roast and sell about 80 pounds a year on our website.
It wasn’t always this way. Lorie first tried her standard washed process on the Yellow Caturra variety. She pulped ripe, yellow cherries to release the seeds, or coffee beans. After the beans fermented in water, they dried in the sun and rested for a few months to balance the flavors.
The results were disappointing. “Thin and sour,” Miguel said. “It had far less intensity than Typica or Bourbon.” After more discouraging experiments, Lorie finally tried the natural method. She dried ripe coffee cherries on wire racks, using a rake to turn them. To refine the coffee, they let it rest, tasting and evaluating it at different times in a process called cupping. Then they made more batches to ensure its consistency.
Miguel laughs about the early, frustrating days of working with yellow caturra. “Years ago, I thought it might be necessary to pull these trees out and replace them with a different variety,” he says. “Now I wish we had more.”
The Ka’u Natural Yellow Caturra was actually used by Pete Licata as an espresso when he won the 2011 US barista championship, so I’m really, really excited to have it here at the Table.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Ka’u Natural Yellow Caturra, from Rusty’s Hawaiian in Pahala, Hawaii. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Ka’u, Hawaii, United States of America
producer: Lorie Obra
elevation: 600 meters above sea level
cultivars: Yellow Caturra
method: Kalita Wave
grind: 17, Preciso
coffee: 30 g
water: 310 g
water temp: 206°
pour: 1:45 concentric pour
The aroma of the Ka’u Yellow Caturra is certainly that of a natural-processed coffee; it’s immense, intense, and brimming with liveliness, highlighted by scents of strawberry milkshake, baking spices, tropical fruits, and zesty lemon rind.
Whoa. From the very first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew, I can tell you that this coffee is going to be a roller-coaster. A bed of milk chocolate and honey spread over the tongue, introducing a rush of vanilla cream and tropical fruits—particularly blueberry and strawberry, up front—that actually has a very specific tasting note: leftover milk in a bowl of Froot Loops cereal. Those fruit flavors are most certainly present, but it’s the vanilla cream milkiness that dominates the texture.
As the cup cools off, it gets more and more—I’m just gonna come out and say it—awesome. The coffee has progressed into an all-out deluge of intense tropicalia. There’s an urgency to every sip as the coffee bombars my palate with flavors of guava, pomegranate, passion fruit, and a really sweet lemon meringue note that eventually morphs into a wonderfully tart lemonade acidity that floods the tongue, lifting in the back to reveal a long, lingering finish of floral aromatics.
I’m not too big to admit that I was absolutely wrong: this coffee was nothing like a roller coaster. Rather, it was a non-stop thrill ride; a linear incline that reach an apex but never declined; I finished each cup of it that I made way too fast and it left me clamoring for more.
Full body; creamy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; very slightly dry finish, lingering floral aftertaste.
This coffee is absolutely incredible. It is a coffee that just wrecked my palate from beginning to end. The Ka’u Natural Yellow Caturra, from Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee, is an immensely, powerfully, overwhelmingly flavorful coffee that explodes out of the cup with an intensity that both excites and delights from first sip to last drop.
Dynamite coffee; one that reminded me of a South American Gesha, and one that should definitely not be missed.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.