Blue Bottle and Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee
ALL PHOTOS REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE BLUE BOTTLE CRAFT OF COFFEE: GROWING, ROASTING, AND DRINKING, WITH RECIPES, BY JAMES FREEMAN, CAITLIN FREEMAN, AND TARA DUGGAN, COPYRIGHT © 2012. PUBLISHED BY TEN SPEED PRESS, A DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE, INC.
PHOTO CREDIT: CLAY MCLACHLAN © 2012
Above: Coffee bean processing at Rusty's Hawaiian.
Hawaii coffee has been noticeably absent (at least to me) from the uber-hip, brew-by-the-cup cafes and craft roasters on the Mainland. On my Mainland trips to Ritual, Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Stumptown and Intelligentsia, I've never seen a single Hawaii bean.
Here, we make a big deal of our locally-grown coffees, our Kona coffee in particular. So is it just unfounded pride or is Hawaii coffee being overlooked?
There are a couple of factors that prevent Hawaii coffee from reaching Mainland cafes: that Hawaii coffee is of uneven quality and that it's much more expensive to produce—due to labor and land and everything else involved in business here—than any of the Third World countries where coffee is grown (such as Ethiopia, Brazil and El Salvador).
But, it turns out, Hawaii is not being shut out entirely from these exalted temples of coffee.
Left: The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee. Right: Blue Bottle's pour-over coffee
Recently, Rusty's Hawaiian, a coffee farm in Kau, sent me The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee, a book on the makings of Blue Bottle, probably San Francisco's most famous and popular boutique cafe. In it, Blue Bottle highlights Rusty's Hawaiian as one of the growers deemed worthy enough to work with. The amount Blue Bottle buys is probably really small—I haven't seen it at its cafes, at least as of a year ago—but it gives hope that Hawaii coffee, farmed meticulously, can still find a foothold in the coffee world.
Lucky for us here in Honolulu, however, we have easy access to Rusty's coffee—our own craft cafes such as Beach Bum Cafe, Morning Glass, Downtown Coffee, and believe it or not, the K-drama actor's Gorilla in the Cafe regularly serve Rusty's.
By the way, the The Blue Bottle book is gorgeous. It's also a book of the obsession and perfectionism of James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle. He fastidiously outlines how to roast your own coffee and brew your morning cup. While I don't share his slavish devotion to coffee (of using a burr grinder, gram scale, thermometer and pouring kettle with a fine spout to brew my coffee every morning), I can certainly appreciate his, and will gladly pay places like Beach Bum and Morning Glass to do it for me.
The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee available at R&D, 691 Auahi St., interislandterminal.org/rd and online at Amazon.com
Beach Bum Cafe, Executive Center, 1088 Bishop St., (808) 521-6699, beachbumcafe.com
Morning Glass Coffee, 2955 East Manoa Road, 673-0065, Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., also inside R&D
Downtown Coffee, 900 Fort Street Mall, 599-5353, dtcoffee.com
Gorilla in the Cafe, 2155 Kalakaua Ave.