Leaders of the specialty coffee industry are traveling to the state’s largest agricultural district in early May to taste and see all the effort that goes into award-winning Ka‘u coffee. They include a leading voice for seed-to-cup sustainability, Mark Inman of California, and Blake Hanacek of Canada, a proponent of sustainable rural development and agribusiness management.
The men headline the Ka‘u Coffee Festival’s annual reverse trade mission. The reverse trade mission is part of the sixth Ka‘u Coffee Festival Saturday and Sunday, May 10-11, at the Pahala Community Center. The coffee experts learn firsthand about Ka‘u coffee during Saturday festival activities, including guided tastings, farm tours and the opportunity to “talk story” with growers at their booths during the day-long ho‘olaule‘a. On Sunday, the men give guest lectures to local coffee farmers at the annual Ka‘u Coffee College.
“This strategic business initiative creates collaborative relationships for our Ka‘u growers while promoting Ka‘u as a premium coffee-growing origin,” says Chris Manfredi, lead festival organizer and president of the statewide Hawaii Farm Bureau. “We’re pleased and proud that notable industry leaders come to Ka‘u to share in our community.”
Inman has been a major voice in the specialty coffee industry for sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship and social justice and served as president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America in 2008. His campaign to improve conditions in the coffee industry has taken him to local U.S. classrooms, the remote hills of Nicaragua and the floor of the United Nations. Since 2010, Inman served as president of World Coffee Events, which manages seven international coffee competitions, including the World Barista Championship. He is a trader at OLAM Specialty Coffee.
Hanacek is the founder and CEO of A.G.R.O. Roasters and AGRO Café and has extensively researched the current methods of production and consumption of specialty coffee. He has worked and studied in multiple countries and has met with international growers to discuss his crop-to-cup method. An accredited roaster, Hanacek has 5,000 hours behind a variety of coffee roasters.
In addition, Robert Curtiss, acting plant pest control manager with the Division of Plant Industry at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, will give a presentation Sunday at the Ka‘u Coffee College. Serving as the entomologist for West Hawaii, Curtiss has experience working with insect taxonomy, semiochemicals and insect biological control. In its fourth year, the reverse trade mission has hosted numerous other specialty coffee gurus including George Howell of Terroir Coffee, Skip Fay of Dunn Bros Coffee, James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee, Anthony Carroll of Starbucks, Jeff Taylor of PT’s Coffee Roasting Company, Po-Jung Hsieh of Soaring Phoenix Trading Company and Jim Munson of Brooklyn Roasting Company. All coffee-industry related activities at the Ka‘u Coffee Festival are open to the general public; some require a fee.