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Kona Coffee Cultural Festival preliminary cupping results

Judges begin the process of testing and tasting 60 Kona coffees. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Marian Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

It appears neither drought conditions nor the coffee berry borer bug have dented the quality of Kona coffee this year.

Four expert judges sampled coffee from 60 farms Wednesday during the preliminary round of the Gevalia Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. The signature event of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is considered the year’s most prestigious award.

“The drought certainly didn’t hurt in terms of quality. In fact, it might have helped,” said John King, of Harold L. King & Co.

The potential impacts of the recently discovered coffee berry borer beetle, which eats cherry beans, “weren’t noticeable,” King said.

King, who is judging the Kona coffee contest for the 12th year, said two coffees had defects or problems that were apparent immediately.

“Usually we find more than that right off,” he said. “I would say the average coffee today was a bit above the average of years past.”

Farms submit between 50 and 70 pounds of Kona coffee judged at various stages. Ten pounds of roasted coffee from each farm submission end up on the judges table waiting to be tasted by very sophisticated palates. Judges are looking for high marks in fragrance, aroma, taste, nose, aftertaste and body.

Cupping entries are blind tastings of Kona’s finest coffee and are assigned a random number to assure anonymity. To keep the judges’ palates alert between Wednesday’s preliminary and Thursday’s final round, these numbers are changed as the entries progress in the competition.

“This year, we are getting a higher quality bean that is resulting in higher cup scores,” said Trent Bateman, Gevalia Kona Coffee Cupping Competition event chairman. “A few entries are already standing out in the competition.”

Sixteen Kona coffee farms were selected to advance to Thursday’s final round of competition.

“We’ll see, but certainly some of those 16 will shine above the rest,” King said.

2010 Finalists:

* Aloha Hills Kona Coffee
* Big Island Coffee Connection
* Brazen Hazen Kona Coffee
* Buddha’s Cup
* Imagine Coffee Farm
* Kona Bob’s Coffee
* Kona Earth
* Kona Kulana
* Kuaiwi Farms/Kona Old Style
* Leihuula Farms
* Mauka Meadows
* Moki’s Farm
* Onuili
* Pyramid Family Farm
* Sugai Kona Coffee
* Yamagishi Farms

The public is invited to attend the final round of the coveted Gevalia Kona Coffee Cupping Competition beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday at Keauhou Beach Hotel. The cupping contest is held in conjunction with an art exhibit and the website and label competition.

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Judges Shawn Steiman and John King evaluate the coffees. (Photo courtesy of Kona Coffee Cultural Festival)

Judge David Holfve swishes and spits during Wednesday's preliminary cupping rounds. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Marian Stanton)

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