Starbucks Doubling Its Order for Ka‘u Coffee
by Denise Laitinen
Ka‘u Local Products recently announced that Starbucks Coffee Company has doubled its order of Ka‘u coffee to be sold across the US, Canada, and Japan.
Chris Manfredi, owner of Ka‘u Local Products, said he received word last month from officials at the coffee store chain that they want to expand the number of locations that feature the Hawaiian-grown coffee from 250 to 500.
“We are extremely pleased and proud to see Ka‘u offered by Starbucks; clearly the leader in specialty coffee. It’s very exciting,” said Manfredi, who brokered the deal.
Currently, Ka‘u coffee is featured as part of Starbucks ultra premium reserve line.
”It’s only released in stores that participate in the reserve program, usually flagship stores,” said Manfredi.
He noted that the Ka‘u coffee sold to Starbucks comes from up to 50 small lots throughout the Ka‘u district.
Ka‘u Local Products acts as a facilitator for the coffee growers.
“There are numerous growers that grow exceptional coffees that don’t want to develop their own brand, they just want to grow coffee,” said Manfredi.
“Ka‘u Local Products does the marketing for them so they can focus on growing coffee.”
Manfredi, who is also the founding president of Ka‘u Farm Bureau and vice-president of the Hawaii Coffee Association, says the Starbucks partnership came about in 2011 as the result of three things.
“It was a combination of persistence, third party verification in receiving awards, and being in the right place at the right time.”
Manfredi started entering Ka‘u coffee in coffee competitions in 2007 and the coffee has been winning awards ever since.
Ka‘u coffees earned both the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Coffee of the Year Award and Grand Champion of Hawaiian Coffee in 2010 and 2011.
Last month two Ka‘u coffees placed in the top 10 worldwide in the Roasters Choices awards at the 2013 SCAA awards in Boston.
Manfredi pointed out that despite a slew of challenges, the price Ka’u coffee growers receive for their product has tripled in the past eight years and doubled in the past three years.
“We’ve been challenged by fire, drought, vog, the coffee berry borer, and a global economic collapse, and we’re still here.
“We’re still producing some of the finest coffee anywhere and we’re still realizing record high prices for it.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of what Ka‘u can achieve as a community. I think our brightest days are in front of us.”
Hawaii Island residents can sample Ka‘u coffee for themselves at the Ka‘u Coffee Festival, which started last weekend and runs through this Sunday.
“The festival gives us an opportunity to celebrate the successes that we’ve shared together,” said Manfredi, who is the organizer of the annual event.
“It fits into the larger effort of establishing Ka‘u as a premium coffee region.”
There are multiple events being held across the Ka‘u district as part of the festival, including a ho`olaulea in Pahala on Saturday at the Pahala Community Center. The event will feature music, hula, food, local crafts, coffee tastings and farm tours.
For more information on the Ka‘u Coffee Festival, go to www.kaucoffeefest.com.