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Kauai Coffee Shops
Ever since the night that revolutionary patriots dumped British tea into Boston Harbor, coffee has been the beverage of choice for Americans. Over the years, it has become an obsession, an addiction of ours. Most of us cannot function until the morning cup has been brewed and sipped (or slurped, depending on style). Coffee has seeped into all aspects of our lives, and the coffee shop has become a permanent fixture in our world.
On Kauai, the Garden Isle, at least 3400 acres of land is dedicated to the growth of coffee plants, producing 60% of Hawaii’s coffee. The one plantation on the south shore is relatively new, compared to those on other Hawaiian islands.
Being as vulnerable to the bean as anyone, I have compiled a list of my favorite coffee shops on Kauai.
Kauai Coffee Company
Bundled rows of coffee trees roll down to the sea. The trees thrive in this climate and land, with its sea breezes and the volcanic soil. Kauai Coffee Company in Ele’ele on the south shore, is a great place to sample the coffee grown on the island. Out on the lanai behind the gift shop (which has a good selection, by the way), tables are set up for free coffee-tasting. Refill your coffee cup as much as you desire. Chocolate macadamia coffee comes highly recommended. If, after sampling every roast of coffee from light to dark, you still need more caffeine, order a blended coffee drink at the snack bar. Try mocha or caramel or ask to have both combined. Once you taste a blended coffee at Kauai Coffee, a frappuccino at Starbucks will never taste the same. Although the Kona coast on the Big Island generally takes the fame for Hawaiian coffee, Kauai Coffee Company is in fact the largest coffee plantation in America.
Hanalei town is at home below the verdant mountains and the saturated taro fields, nestled along a wide overreaching bay of the same name. Days in Hanalei are unpredictably sunny with a good chance of clouds or rainy with no chance of sun. The smallness of the town provides easy walking from shop to shop to beach to pier.
Java Kai is in the center of Hanalei Shopping Village on the lawn, next to the shave ice stand which is next to the popular Bubba’s Burgers. The quaint plantation-style building was converted into a coffee shop from a building used on a taro farm. Up the wooden steps and through the ever open door, you’ll find that Java Kai (which means "coffee by the sea") serves not only coffee, but also giant breakfast waffles and Italian cream sodas and smoothies. Java Kai roasts its own locally grown coffee. While such staples as iced mochas and lattes are great remedies to ward off the tropical heat, for a change try an iced Thai latte, which contains a dangerous quantity of caffeine and sugar. Sip your beverage on the wrap-around lanai or while rambling through the shopping center. Another Java Kai is located on the main street in Kapaa.
Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Co.
Kalaheo, about a ten minute drive inland from Poipu, is not exactly a tourist destination. The town holds a couple of gas stations, a pizza place, a post office, and most importantly, my favorite little café. Kalaheo Café is open for breakfast and lunch and occasionally for dinner. Be forewarned, parking can sometimes be a hassle during busy hours. Order the freshly brewed, locally roasted coffee flavor of the day or a hot or cold espresso drink. A selection of delicious baked goods (muffins, scones, biscotti) is available, as well as hot breakfasts and sandwiches at lunchtime. The breakfast bakery items often dwindle toward the later morning hours. You can take your coffee to go, but I recommend drinking in your coffee and the morning sitting out on the lanai. Enjoy the Hawaiian atmosphere, even if you are right on the highway.
The Marketplace (Marriot's Waiohai Beach Club)
Hotels on Kauai sometimes have their own miniature coffee shops. Hotels are always near the ocean, providing a lovely spot to enjoy a cup of coffee. The Waiohai on Poipu Beach is in a particularly beautiful location. Inside the hotel, you’ll find a minimart serving Starbucks coffee and espresso. Take your beverage out onto the lawn. Sitting on a lawn chair, above the black tumbling lava rocks, enjoy an amazing winter sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Although I recommend exploring local coffee shops, all of us feel the need for Starbucks once in a while. We are all so familiar with the earthy-toned walls that enclose friendly baristas and oversized chairs and jazzy music. We all enter with confidence and rattle off a list of adjectives describing a drink like we’re repeating the alphabet (see “You’ve Got Mail”). No matter where we are, Starbucks brings us into a secure home. When in Hawaii, ask for tropical flavors added to ordinary beverages (such as Mocha Coconut Frappuccino).
There are four Starbucks that I know of on Kauai: one in Poipu, one in Kapaa, one in Lihue, and one inside the Lihue airport. The Starbucks in Poipu Shopping Center is the newest of the stores on the island. It’s a great location for those who live on the South Shore and who are tired of driving to Lihue to get a coffee fix. The Starbucks in Kapaa is located in the same strip mall as the Safeway. The Lihue store is situated at the Kukui Grove Mall, adjacent to Jamba Juice.
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