I’m here with Cortez Hughes. He is a 20+ year resident of Hawaii and is very familiar with the mores, norms and traditions of island life. He is also a certified and award-winning “Coffee Master”.
Mr. Hughes served as a General Manager for Starbucks in Hawaii. For several years he opened new stores and directed training and operations in this state, ultimately starting his own coffee distribution company.
KONA IS KING
Q: I’d like to talk coffee with you and I’d like to start by tapping into your experience and your knowledge of Hawaii. Please, share your thoughts on Kona coffee grown on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Mr. C: I am a very familiar with Kona coffee and when you think about Kona, there’s many different grades of it. A lot of options you’ll find is are blends, with as little as 10% Kona blended with other types. You really need to look at the packaging make sure that it’s 100%. 100% Kona will obviously be much more expensive. In blended coffees you’ll usually have Robusta and/or Arabica coffee. Arabica is considered a superior blend.
There are other coffees as well here in Hawaii besides Kona. You also have Kawaii Estates, coffees from the island of Maui and also, coffee grown right here on Oahu. Those coffees would be Arabica coffees and they’re grown at higher elevations and so you getting the best coffee of the blends.
Going back to Kona coffee for a second the reason why it’s so superior is because of the rich volcanic soil to create the flavor profile that makes a Kona coffee so popular.
QUALITY CUPS FOR EVERYONE
Q: What do you consider to be the most premium coffee accessible to the average person?
Mr. C: If you’re trying to cover every flavor profile – from a medium body coffee to the bold coffee to something that’s a pretty mellow, definitely look at rich and delicious Kona coffee.
Then there is also Jamaican Blue Mountain which is also a very premium coffee. It is a more expensive option, but its a great coffee like Kona coffee. It’s a good dessert coffee or breakfast coffee and even a nice after after-dinner coffee if you want that nice full but mellow blend with a piece of chocolate cake.
Then you have your bolder coffees. The first of which comes to mind for me is Kenya. Kenya coffee is considered full body, it has a very earthy tone of full-mouth fill. As for me, I like to smoke a pipe, so pairing a cup of Kenya coffee with my pipe is excellent.
GOOD CUP. BAD CUP.
Q: What makes a cup of coffee a GOOD cup of coffee?
Mr. C: Let’s start with the good. In a good cup of coffee you’re going to have hints of nuts, maybe a pop of berry, a fruity (even citrusy) type of note. Just like with wine or food tasting the first thing to do is smell it. The olfactories in our nose will “taste” it before our tongue actually tastes it, so you’ll pick up a lot of those notes. Then once you sip the coffee and let it spread over your palate, it’s going to hit certain areas on the tongue. That will verify the notes that you smelled before your first sip. If your nose is happy, it’s a good chance your tongue will be also. Also, like I mentioned before, a really good cup starts with good water.
A bad cup is often described as tasting gritty or dirty. What they’re really tasting is maybe a smokiness from the coffee which a lot of times is giving it a full body. The full body may not agree with a person who’d prefer a medium blend. A bad cup may also be old or overcooked.
The way you prepare coffee is also pretty important. Using purified water and a French press will give you the full flavor and all the oils of the coffee with in every cup.
THE BLACKER THE COFFEE – THE SWEETER THE…
Q: I know coffee afficianadoes prefer their coffee straight, no chaser for maximum enjoyment. Can you advise the readers on how they can enjoy coffee without the additives?
Mr. C: Basically, people add cream and sugar to compensate for what they are missing with the coffee, which we refer to as “the pairing”. If you want to pair your coffee, you’ll want to drink the coffee black and pair it with a pastry or whatever flavor profile that you like, for instance, an apple turnover.
First, you bite your treat and take a sip of the coffee. If it mellows in your mouth and the flavors come together perfectly, you know it’s a perfect pairing. I actually won a pairing competition by pairing two liquids (not very common). I paired berry flavored Marinelli’s drink with the presented coffee. I wanted to live on the edge. Ha-ha. The berry flavor and the soft carbonation was an awesome match for the richness of the coffee.
I’ll give you something that normally goes well with any type of coffee is chocolate. Milk chocolate generally goes well with just about any type of coffee. Dark chocolate pairs just as well for bolder blends.
After the interview I tried this. I didn’t think I could be a black coffee drinker. I paired black coffee with a graham cracker. It was YUMMY.
Q: What is your personal preference?
Mr. C: A good cup of strong black coffee. I don’t need to add anything because I just really enjoy coffee and its natural profiles.
The coffee that’s a favorite of mine right now is called Organo Gold. It is a medium bodied coffee and it is an instant coffee. I’ll tell you I used to be an instant coffee snob. I was against it you know because I do the French press and you have to go through the processes and so on and so forth. Now, I start off with good water just pour packet makes me a 16oz cup. They also make an Organo Gold Latte that only needs water. One thing I love about the coffee is that it is it’s an anytime coffee. I get the full body of the coffee, there’s a little bit of nuttiness, there’s a little smokiness is but there’s also a slight citrus note. It’s like I’m getting all these worlds coming together and it’s kind of colliding in a perfect harmony with makes my mouth happy. And no this is not a paid testimonial. Ha-ha.
Aside from the flavor, the thing I like most about Organo Gold is that one of the ingredients is the Ganoderma mushroom, a derivative of the reishi mushroom. This mushroom is at the top on the hierarchy of healing herbs. It’s an adaptogen, meaning it adapts to address many physical needs, such as sugar issues, improving circulation, and balancing of mood. I feel good when I drink it.
SMALL BUDGET. BIG IMPRESSION.
Q: Your favorite sounds like a good choice for most people. If people are trying to serve a large amount of an impressive coffee on a limited budget, what do you suggest? What brand or store should they shop?
Mr. C: Actually, going to Sam’s Club or Costco you can get large bags of coffee and this is probably one of the better places to go for coffee on a budget. Seattle’s Best is a pretty good coffee. They are owned by Starbucks and it’s available at Sam’s Club.` Starbucks also sells various types of coffees by the bag.
If you’re trying to please a multitude of people, a medium body coffee called Pike Place is available at Starbucks, it’s also their flagship coffee. I also recommend their Veranda coffee. You can grind coffee fresh at these and many other coffee shops and grocery stores. Starbucks will even grind coffee purchased from elsewhere – just bring you back and tell them what kind of grounds you need; filters, French press, even Turkish.
ICE, ICE, COFFEE
Q: You said you were a bit of a coffee snob. How do you feel about iced coffees?
Mr. C: They’re fine. Basically, it just kind of boils down to preference. Just remember when making your own, that you’ll need to prepare it at double strength if you want the same flavor you’re accustomed to with your hot coffee. The ice will definitely dilute the coffee strength and flavor.
Q: What’s the deal with Turkish coffee? It seems that it’s becoming a home entertaining trend.
Mr. C: Okay, a couple of things about Turkish coffee. First, “Turkish” not only refers to the type of coffee (origin, flavor, etc.), it also is a type of grind. It’s very fine, almost like a baby powder. For instance, you could ask for Starbucks Veranda coffee with a Turkish grind. Secondly, it is a very bold coffee. What makes it bold or gritty or “dirty” is the primarily the grind of the coffee. It is usually prepared via a percolator as opposed to an electric coffee maker or French press. You put water in the bottom of let’s say an Italian styled coffee pot, put the grinds in and then everything kind of boils up to the top. You’re going to get a purer form of coffee.
Q: Would it be odd to add milk and sugar or anything to it?
Mr. C: No, that wouldn’t be frowned upon. It’s served up like any other coffee, but will generally be more potent.
NO FOLGER’S IN MY CUP
Okay, so Kona coffee is where it’s at. Organo Gold is your jam. Turkish coffee is a sophisticated trend. Seattle’s Best is great for a party. My last question for the Coffee Master…
Q: What coffee brand, or coffee type or coffee anything are you NOT going to drink?
Mr. C: So, there are a few that I won’t do. I will always decline, Sanka, Folgers and Maxwell House. Besides flavor, some coffees just have bad side effects for me, like headaches. So, Folgers will never be in my cup.
But remember, coffee doesn’t have to be expensive to offer up a good cup. Go with whatever gives you the results you’re looking for.
Thank you to Cortez Hughes, Coffee Master for his insights about a very important commodity here in Hawaii.
And thank you dear reader for checking out this coffee chat.