The 37th annual Kona Coffee Festival kicks off November 2 through 11, and this article, published in the October edition of Hemispheres Magazine at about half the length so it could run as the lead Update, gives you plenty of notice to plan a trip over. Check out the longer version below.

Cultural Icon: Kona Coffee
By Christine Thomas

The coffee of Kona keeps the eyes from sleeping, claims a Hawaiian proverb. Like most Hawaiian sayings it has two meanings, but let’s just say that between love and caffeine, Kona residents haven’t rested in nearly 200 years of coffee production.

The “Napa Valley of coffee” is home to more than 90% of Hawai`i’s coffee farms and is the only U.S. commercial coffee site. Grown like wine since 1828 on the volcanic slopes of Mauna Loa and Mount Hualalai, Kona coffee is rare and handpicked, boasts worldwide distinction and fetches the highest prices.

Aside from its gastronome cachet, Kona coffee’s unique heritage mirrors Hawai`i’s extraordinary historical past and multicultural society. Native Hawaiians, Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Koreans, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans, have all played important roles in fostering the Kona coffee legacy. Today, coffee culture and lifestyle are little changed since the 1800s, with many farms still small and family-owned and –operated, with many farmers boasting 5th generation ancestry. Drive through the 16-mile coffee belt on Old Mamalahoa Highway, and you’ll still see wooden stands where backyard growers drop off burlap bags of coffee cherry to sell to larger farms.

The 37th Annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival: “Kona Coffee Tradition of Excellence,” will again celebrate this traditional harvest November 2-11, 2007. Hawai`i’s oldest food festival unites local community and visitors in 50 events, including art exhibits, tastings, competitions, farm tours and more. The festival reveals that inside and out, Kona coffee is one of Hawai`i’s cultural icons—an enduring Island legacy that lives on in each cherry, bean and brew.

SIDEBAR:

The 37th Annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival: “Kona Coffee Tradition of Excellence”
November 2-11, 2007. This 10-day festival offers 50 community events honoring Kona’s coffee pioneers and multicultural heritage. Visitors and residents are invited to enter the Coffee Picking, Cupping and Recipe contests, attend the Miss Kona Coffee Pageant, shop at the farmer’s market for your favorite roast, and much more. http://www.konacoffeefest.com/

Kona Coffee Driving Tour: Visit working farms and gain insight into this unique lifestyle at any time of year by taking the self-guided driving tour along the 16-mile Kona Coffee Belt, from Holualoa to Honaunau.

Sample Kona Coffee in Your Town: In 2004, Starbucks brought 100% Kona Coffee back into stores after a 7-year absence, signaling a permanent presence. Coffee farmers and gourmands say only 100% Kona allows you to taste what Mark Twain in his 1866 “Letters from Hawai`i” called “a richer flavor than any other.”

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