Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kona: the world's best coffee

We have a very special Sustainable Sunday post today. We're going to discuss all things coffee, since right here in Kona, Hawaii some of the world's best is farmed.  Today's adventure was selected for the Foodbuzz 24x24, I am so thrilled to be part of this fun event once again.

Many coffee farms on the Big Island welcome visitors for tastings and tours. Some are small and humble, some are quite grand. We planned to stop at as many farms as possible, starting with Mauka Meadows. This farm has expansive gardens complete with fountains, gazebos, and manicured walkways that guide you to their tasting area. We grabbed our first tasting of the day and snuggled into a little gazebo to enjoy our picnic breakfast.

Coffee can be paired with foods just like wine. Due to the superior quality and flavor of Kona coffee beans, it is generally gently roasted to medium or dark, never burned to disguise "off" flavors (this can be a common technique for lower-grade coffee roasting). Kona coffee's smooth yet bold flavors pair well with baked goods that are not super-sweet, allowing the coffee to shine. I made some macadamia nut scones for our picnic breakfast (see recipe below) to be enjoyed with lemon curd or fig jam. It was a great pairing, I love that scones have a rich flavor without a lot of sweetness.

Our next stop was Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC). They have a small road-side kiosk that overlooks the gorgeous Kona coast and their well-tended coffee farm. We tasted several different coffees in cute little mugs while the helpful staff clued us in on the hard work that goes into each bean. Kona coffee is picked by hand, and because the beans are only harvested when ripe, each tree must be picked several times before the season ends.

The winding Mamalahoa Highway takes you through the thickest of coffee country, passing family farms and wonderful "old Hawaii" scenery. Don't miss visiting these farms: Hula Daddy, Mountain Thunder, Buddha's Cup, Kona Blue Sky, or Greenwell Farms. There are many, many more if you continue down towards Captain Cook and beyond. Your coffee buzz will keep you going.

We called it a day at Kona Joe, where the coffee trees are trellised like grape vines. They have a beautiful outdoor seating area and coffee bar, perfect for a picnic.

For lunch, I wanted citrus flavors, which also pair well with Kona coffee. It also needed to be something that could sit in a cooler in the car for half a day without going south. A panzanella salad with a lemony dressing seemed like just the thing. I wanted the salad to be hearty enough to serve as our entire lunch, so in went the eggs, sardines, and roasted veggies. See recipe below.

Kona coffee can be found at most fine coffee retailers around the world or online at the websites I linked to above. Expect to pay about $25-$40 per pound, depending on the grade. Or you could always come to Kona and experience this tour for yourself. A great time to join is in November for the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. Hope to see you then! Please see the recipes for our picnics below.

Macadamia Nut Scones
serves 8
base recipe from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup macadamia nuts, crushed
3 cups flour
3 TBL sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
3/4 milk

Pre-heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Add butter pieces to dry ingredients, you want the butter to be cold. Working quickly with your fingers, incorporate the flour and butter until the butter pieces are the size of small peas.

Whisk the egg and milk together in a separate small bowl. Add milk, egg, and nuts to the butter and flour mixture. Mix with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. It's ok if it's not a solid mass as long as the milk moistens all the flour.

Work the dough into a rectangle on a floured surface. You want the dough to be about 1" thick. Use a butter knife to cut out triangular scones. Place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm and slightly browned.

Serve with lemon curd, fig jam, or your favorite spread. Enjoy!

Panzanella Nicoise (bread salad with a French twist)
This salad is featured on Easy Natural Food.
serves 4

zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
salt & pepper

1/2 loaf crusty bread (day old even better)
1 eggplant, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cucumber, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 green onions, both white and green parts, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can sardines in mustard
3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn

This salad is meant to be made ahead of time so that the ingredients can meld together. It's so great for a picnic because the longer it sits, the better it gets. You could even assemble it the night before, but make sure you don't add the bread until up to 30 minutes prior to chow time.

In the bottom of your salad bowl, add the lemon zest, juice, garlic, pepper flakes, and cheese. Whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to incorporate. Taste and add salt & pepper as desired.

Pre-heat oven to 375. Tear or cut bread into bite-sized pieces and place on a baking sheet. On a separate baking sheet, add chopped eggplant, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Toast bread for 10-12 minutes or until browned. Roast eggplant for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool.

While your oven is working, chop up your cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, and onions and toss them in the bowl with the dressing. Remove sardines from can and roughly chop them. Discard any remaining mustard sauce left in the can. Add sardines and sliced egg to salad bowl.

After the eggplant has cooled, add to salad bowl. Place toasted bread in a separate bag until up to 30 minutes before you want to eat the salad, then toss well in bowl with the rest of the ingredients. You want the dressing to coat all the ingredients. Enjoy!


  1. I am a massive fan of Kona coffee but I can't afford to get it very often. Your salad recipe looked so excellent I had to share it with my mother-in-law. She was just asking this weekend if anyone had any good recipes for eggplants. She's growing some in her garden this year and it looks like she'll have more than she knows what to do with. I'll happily take some off her hands and try your recipe out ;)

  2. Yay for kona coffee! That's what fiance's cafe has, along with all sorts of Hawaiian grinds! If you get homesick while you're in NY, you should stop by!

  3. Kona coffee is simply the best!! I can't wait to try macadamia nut scones!!! Thanks for the recipe

  4. Wow - I never even knew these places/visiting areas on the farms existed - looks like an amazing day!

  5. Those scones...OMG. Kona coffee is the best. There is nothing better than a freshly brewed cup of 100%.

  6. How fun to spend a day pairing coffee with different foods, and in such gorgeous locations too!

  7. Hi fellow 24x24 blogger! Your post looks amazing...I went to Hawaii for the first time last September and I have been dying to go back. AND as an avid coffee drinker, this makes me want to go back even more to visit the beautiful places in your pictures. Great post!!

  8. What a wonderful, healthy salad! Love that you included sardines, they're such a super food. I really REALLY want to visit Hawaii! So beautiful! Thanks for sharing this with Summer Salad Sundays, look forward to seeing you again soon.

  9. That looks delicious to me. I would definitely try Kona Joe some day. Have you tried Kopi Luwak? It is considered to be the world's best coffee.


Aloha Saturdays with Maggy reader! Thank you for your comments, I love hearing your thoughts and feedback.


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