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.
Given the many difficulties that Hawaiian crops have had over the past several years, it’s rare to see such high praise awarded to these Hawaiian coffees. And today, we’re trying the rarest of all of Rusty’s offerings—their Typica Peaberry. What makes this sample the rarest of their classic Ka’u coffees? Peaberries only account for about five percent of their harvest.
Like their Classic Medium and Classic Dark roasts, these peaberries are of the Typica variety, grown in the rich soil and cool climate of the Mauna Loa Volcano’s southern slope. After picking and processing the cherries, the Obra family sorts the coffee to separate the peaberries from the more typical flat beans, then roast, taste, and evaluate the individual peaberry lots during their cupping sessions.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Ka’u Typica Peaberry, from Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee in Pahala, Hawaii. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Ka’u, Hawaii, United States of America
farm: Rusty’s Hawaiian Farm
producer: Lorie Obra
elevation: 500 – 650 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma of the Ka’u Typica Peaberry is sweet; subdued and mellow, but sweet. Candied milk chocolate and brown sugar introducing scents of raisin, roasted almond, and citrus.
Huh. What an odd coffee. As I’m taking my first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew, the coffee is presenting my palate with a really interesting profile that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. First off, the coffee presents itself with a wonderfully creamy texture, highlighted by sugary sweet toffee and candied milk chocolate. It’s really fantastic. But the other thing about it is that those great flavors are wrapped up in a shell of funkiness that rises to the roof of the mouth and streams down the sides of the tongue.
As the cup cools off, the coffee starts to taste a lot more like trail mix. Creamy milk chocolate flows down the center of the tongue, bringing along with it flavors of raisin, brown sugar, caramel, and orange juice, but lifts in the back to reveal a long, lingering aftertaste of roasted peanut shells.
Full body; creamy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; somewhat dry finish, with lingering roasted nut aftertaste.
Believe it or not, despite having been in and around the coffee industry for nearly ten years, I have never once tried Hawaiian coffee. I know, I know… It’s shocking. It’s just that Hawaiian coffees were well out of my price range when I first got into coffee several years ago and now that I can afford them, Hawaiian crops have taken so many hits over the past few years that I’ve been too wary of the quality to buy it.
So I had no idea what to expect going into this cup of Ka’u Typica Peaberry, from Rusty’s Hawaiian; but I certainly wasn’t expecting what I got.
From beginning to end, this coffee had me perplexed. Over all, I was happy with it; but there were some moments that really had me scratching my head. It was 90% brilliant and 10%… I don’t know what; something kinda funky. It wasn’t over roasted, it wasn’t papery, it wasn’t stale, I don’t think it was any sort of obvious defect or fault… But maybe I’m just going crazy.
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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.