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For Coffee Aficionados, More to Hawaii Than Kona

KAUAI — For people habitually accustomed to wine tasting and not particularly motivated by rum tasting, coffee tasting is the appropriate alternative on an island that has become known for the bean and the liquid it creates. Where better to do Kauai coffeethat than at an estate where four million coffee trees each produce a pound of coffee a year?

When it comes to coffee in Hawaii, Kona is the big kahuna in the minds of most coffee drinkers. However, the Kauai Coffee Company reportedly supplies more than half the coffee produced in the Hawaiian islands, which means it's the biggest producer in the U.S. 

Hawaii is the only state that produces coffee. It has something to do with the weather.

For passengers emerging from the collection of cruise ships — Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Norwegian — that park in Nawiliwili Harbour in Lihue, it's a 17-mile trip (one way) west to Kalaheo across the southern tip of Kauai. On a two-lane highway, that means about a half hour and if it's not included in a cruiseline shore excursion a car rental is a good option…in part because it would enable you to go another half-hour on to spectacular Waimea Canyon, which Mark Twain once dubbed "Grand Canyon of the Pacific."

The coffee stop is not a long one.

We took the 20-minute walking tour to work up an "appetite" for taste the dozen and a half or so coffees on display, and both the tour and the coffee are free. A Kauai Coffee Companywalk through the coffee fields is interesting, to say the least. Among the things we learned were: 

• The intricate and natural irrigation from this rain forest disguised as an island deposits enough water for the equivalent of 1.7 billion shots of espresso — every day!

• While there are two beans in every coffee "cherry" sometimes there is only one, a rounder bean called "peaberry" that makes a more intense, full-bodied coffee that is so rare it is first offered to members of the Estate Coffee Club. Naturally, just like an exclusive wine, peaberry coffee is more expensive.

• Before it was a coffee farm, this was — like many farms in Hawaii — a sugar cane plantation. After it became cheaper to import sugar than to grow it, sugar cane was replaced by coffee plants in 1987 and the Kauai Coffee Company turned into a huge business…not to mention a great place to taste coffee.

As we said, you don't need a lot of time once you get here. But then, that depends on how much time and money you want to spend in the gift shop, right?

It is, after all, a once-in-a-lifetime coffee experience.

Holland America Eurodam
4 nights
December 18, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestNassauHalf Moon Cay
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.hollandamerica.com

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