KAILUA KONA, Hawaii It's only 2½ acres, but it's the best Kona has to offer.
Kona Old Style, a small organic farm at the 2,200-foot elevation in Kealakekua, won the top prize Thursday at the 21st annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival's cupping contest.
Co-owner Una Greenway credits her organic methods and the age of the trees for the win.
"I'm totally shocked. Now I know how Miss America feels," said Greenaway, who owns Kona Old Style with her husband, Leon Rosner. "We had a good year. We love our farm."
The farm has beenorganic for 30 years, which Greenway says definitely affects the flavor.
"Our trees are over 100 years old. I don't know if it makes a difference but for wine they say it does," she said.
Second place was awarded to Malia Bolton, proprietor of Malia Ohana. Third place went to Robert McDonald's coffee, which he markets under the J. Yokoyama Farm. McDonald and Greenaway are neighbors.
"We'll just keep it up on our hill," he said. "We must be doing the right thing up there."
More than 60 farmers submitted entries in the 21st annual competition, a signature event in the 10-day Kona Coffee Cultural Festival that gives bragging rights to one of the more than 600 farmers who grow coffee along the Kona Coast.
The entries were narrowed down to 15 finalists in Wednesday's preliminary round of tasting by four expert cuppers. Judges grade on fragrance, aroma, taste, nose, aftertaste and body.
Willy Pettersson, judging chairman and master taster for Gevalia Kaffe said he was impressed with this year's crop.
"This is a great early crop. It has the maturity and all the characteristics. The appearance of the green beans and the roasted beans are excellent," he said.
He said it was the best crop he's seen in eight years of cupping competition appearances.
John King of Harold King and Co., another judge, also said this year's crop is showing early promise.
"Overall the consistency is really there this year," he said. "The very first coffee in the No. 1 position of the first round turned out to be the winner. After tasting that, I was pretty impressed that it would be a good year."
Each farmer submitted a 50-pound sample from which 10 pounds were entered into the cupping competition. To be eligible, the coffee submitted must have been harvested in Kona between June 1 and Oct. 20.
A second category was added this year to showcase the bigger roasters and processors. Companies submitted 3,000 pounds of coffee for that contest and the winner earned an exclusive contract with Gevalia Kaffe to buy and market the coffee.
Of the 11 original entries, six advanced to the final round.
Ono Kona Coffee won the inaugural Crown Competition, with Aloha Hills and Kulana Farms coming in second and third.
Sharon and Bob Wood, owners of Ono Kona Coffee and Arianna Farms, harvest their coffee from 40 acres in Holualoa. The couple honeymooned in Hawaii in 1993 and named their farm after 10-year-old daughter, Arianna. The farm's elevation is between 1,600 feet and 2,000 feet.
The cupping competition also was one of the first public appearances by the new Miss Kona Coffee, Malia Pucong, 23, a University of Hawaii at Manoa student. She is the grand-daughter of coffee farmers.The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival started 37 years ago to promote Kona's top crop and honor the industry's pioneers.
On the Net:
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival: www.konacoffeefest.com
Kona Old Style: www.kuaiwifarm.com
Ono Kona Coffee: www.ariannafarms.com
Gevalia Kaffe: www.gevalia.com