About Rusty's Hawaiian Typica Natural
Rusty's Farm and mills are located in the rural Ka'u region, located on the south side of the Big Island. They grow and process their own cherry but also coffee from other local members of the Ka'u Coffee Growers Cooperative, a group of 30 Ka'u farms. Rusty's was originally purchased by Rusty and Lorie Obra as a retirement venture; they came from New Jersey, both with scientific and technical backgrounds. In 1999, they planted Arabica coffee varietals such as Bourbon, Guatemala Typica, Red Caturra and Yellow Caturra. At 2,000 feet above sea level, the trees thrive in rich soil, morning sunshine, afternoon mists and cool nights. The plot of growing land was formerly a sugar plantation that was converted to coffee. Processing is done in a Penagos micromill in their backyard, with drying tables in the front yard. Because of their science background, the two ran the farm like a laboratory. They tested different processing methods and roasts, looking for ones that would bring out the best flavors in Ka'u coffee. They worked the farm together until Rusty died in 2006, leaving Lorie with a decision of whether to continue their efforts without him. Shortly thereafter, Miguel Meza, who had been making great strides as coffee roaster in the midwest, joined Lorie on the farm. He saw the potential for Ka'u coffee, there for the unlocking, and with help from Lorie the pursuit went forward once more.
A view of the farm
Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee has been attracting a lot of attention from coffee cogniscenti and for good reason. They have taken Hawaiian grown and processed coffee to a whole new level.
They are a company with extreme quality standards and they are also very experimental, pushing the envelope with processing techniques and varietals uncommon to the region. The
experimentation, combined with a pursuit of excellence, has provided them with several significant awards as well as very high scores in reviews.
They were the winner of the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe's 2010
Outstanding Producer Award, and the winner of the Hawaiian Coffee Association's
2011 and 2010 Cupping Competition. Their coffee was also used by the winner of
the 2011 United States Barista Champion, and also used by the 2nd place winner
in the 2011 World Barista Championship.
Owner of Rusty's Farm, Lori Obra
We have purchased coffee from Rusty's a number of times over the past several
years and this year they called us offering a very small amount of a natural
processed coffee they prepared with us in mind. The owner of Roastmasters has
had a chance to visit
the folks at Rusty's: Lori (Rusty's widow), their daughter Joan and her husband
Ralph, at their home in Ka'u. Ralph recently wrote and asked if we had interest in a single bag, 100 pounds, of this
Typica Natural coffee they had produced and processed. Like any coffee we
are offered, a sample was sent, roasted, cupped and subsequently purchased. It is
the only coffee that we will see from them this year and we were quite
pleased with its character. Typica is coffee's original varietal, its base DNA,
if you will. It was first discovered in the wild in the Great Rift Valley of
cultivated in Yemen and has since spread to many places in
the world. Many of the trees in Hawaii are Typica derived from seeds that
originated in Guatemala.
- Producer: Lori Obra
- District: Ka'u
- Altitude: 1900 ft. above sea level
- Coffee variety: Guatemala Heirloom Typica
- Processing: Natural/Dry Process
- Drying: Mostly sun, but finished in a low-temp mechanical dryer
- Harvest: December 2017, hulled March 2018
Cup Characteristics: Extremely smooth and very cleanly processed, not overbearing as can sometimes happen with natural processing. Chocolate and cherry cordial flavors with some tropical fruit, notably guava, both in flavor and texture. Low acidity with a long, unctuous finish.
Roasting Notes: Because of the bean size and moisture content this coffee will need considerable heat to develop the roast, although it is important to remember that natural processed coffees do tend to roast faster than washed. If roasting on a Behmor, try P2 first, and perhaps P1. As for roast development, we recommend you roast up to Full City; while there are fans of darker roasts of this type of coffee, we are not among them. Sweetness and floral notes are maximized at lighter levels, whereas at darker levels the roast itself dominates.
Hawaii coffee facts:
Population (2006) State of Hawaii: 1.21 million people
Coffee Production: 50,000 bags (60 kg)
Local bag capacity: 100 pounds
Cultivated Area: 8,000 acres (3235 hectares)
Harvests: August to November
Arabica Introduced: Coffee initially introduced from Brazil by Samuel Ruggles; it was later in the 19th century that better coffee was planted.
Specialty Coffee Regions: Kona. Production also in Kauai, Maui and Ka'u.
Grades: Extra Fancy, Fancy, #1, Prime, Peaberry.
Farms: In Kona, about 600 farms, most 3 to 7 acres.
Botanical Varietals: Kona Typica, Guatemala.
When Hawaii became a state in 1959 the price of land rose sharply and Kona coffee could no longer compete on a price level with coffee produced in less developed countries. Kona is also gifted with an unusual micro-climate wherein morning sun mixes with moisture filled air from the Pacific. When this air reaches the mountain slopes, it rises. Cloud cover then blankets the slopes at around 2,500 feet. Early afternoon brings rain. This climate with cloud cover makes it unnecessary to grow shade trees.