Maui Mokka & Our Trip to Maui

Rainbow over Ka'anapali Estate

Last month we visited our friends at Maui Grown Coffee on the sunset slopes of the Pu’ukukui Mountains in the Ka’anapali area of West Maui. We are very excited to present their award-winning Maui Mokka as our latest release.

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Note the mokka’s distinctly curled leaves

In 1987, as the Hawaiian sugar industry saw a decrease in demand, the Pioneer Mill sugar company began a study to explore agricultural diversification of their land with an eye toward converting 500 acres to coffee production. Through a joint selection process with the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) they determined which coffee varieties would produce the best cup and yield in Ka’anapali’s dry climate, volcanic soil, and lower altitude. The study recommended the Mokka along with 3 other varieties: Yellow Caturra, Red Catuai, and Typica. Because of this they were able to conserve this land within agricultural use and keep it out of development.

The Mokka from the CTAHR study is a line of coffee that comes directly from Yemen through the Port of Mokha. (Port of Mokha is our next release.) The Yemeni were the first people to cultivate and export coffee and shares the its classic small screen size. Many producers eschew the Mokka variety because its small screen means a lower yield; on average it takes 3,000 beans to make a pound of coffee, whereas Maui Mokka requires over 8,000. This means picking is more labor intensive and therefore more expensive. So it is the Maui Mokka’s ability to flourish in drier climates like West Maui and Yemen that makes it productive and useful here.

Maui Mokka on the western slopes of Pu’u Kukui Mountains
Maui Mokka on the western slopes of Pu’u Kukui Mountains

On a recent visit with Wilford Lamastus of Elida Estates in Boquete, Panama, he explained that of their three farms on Volcan Baru, the bean screen size of the same varieties get increasingly smaller from the northern, wetter farms to the southern, drier farms. This made us think of how the Yemen Mokha variety that was planted in Java by the Dutch in the 1700 and 1800’s eventually produced a larger screen size. Very likely this indicates a correlation between increased rainfall along with the corresponding cooler temperatures that allow for a resting phase at night for the trees and the increased screen size and development of the cherries and seeds.

Maui Mokka flowering
Maui Mokka flowering

Altitude is another aspect of the effect of terroir on cup profile that is evident in the Mokka variety. Maui Mokka is grown at 500 feet which is quite low for coffee. The cup profile is marked by sweetness, soft chocolates, and browned sugar cane notes, and a very smooth body. Compare this to Yemen Mokha grown at over 6000 feet above sea level, where the cooler overnight temperatures produce a cup profile of elegant fruit notes and an array of distinctive acitidty.

Make this exceptional Hawaiian coffee your weekend Chemex brew and keep an eye out for our upcoming Mokha from Mokhtar Alkanshali and Port of Mokha.