Big Island Coffee Roasters Kona Noir Review

By

Bryan Huynh

on May 23, 2024

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With the expansion of popular chain coffee shops, it appears that finding outstanding coffee with authenticity and backstory is becoming particularly difficult. Supporting companies like Big Island Coffee Roasters makes the coffee taste even better, knowing that they represent a smaller chain. Unless you live in Hawaii or visit quite often, getting your hands on these Kona coffee beans can be hard. Big Island Coffee is an award-winning coffee roaster run by Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon von Damitz with hands-on enthusiasm.

I was lucky enough to try the whole bean Kona Noir offered by Big Island Coffee Roasters. The Kona Noir coffee was fruity, floral, and complex. If you would like to hear a full review on the Big Island Kona Noir, continue reading below! Check out our Coffee Club page to compare and read reviews of our favorite coffee clubs!

Background

Big Island Coffee Roasters is a coffee producer in Hawaii's Puna region. Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon Damitz, the founders, discovered a small coffee farm on Craigslist and delved further into the challenging world of small batch coffee. Big Island Coffee Roasters' founders worked with other local coffee producers and won several Hawaiian coffee prizes. Their main objective was to spread the word about the various, genuine Hawaiian coffees and the narratives behind them. Each box is milled in small amounts, roasted to order, and is of the highest quality.

Big Island Coffee Roasters delivers Hawaii's flavors and feelings right to your front door. Established in 2010, Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon Damitz's objective was to exhibit the uniqueness of Hawaiian coffees from various locations while also sharing the stories underlying them. They strive to promote regional excellence, distinction, and Hawaii terroir in regions other than the famed Kona district.

I absolutely adore how Big Island is an environmentally conscious organization. The business works hard to source sustainable coffee from Hawaiian growers and runs entirely on renewable energy. They provide fair rates to local farmers and donate to wildlife rescue and habitat restoration groups.

Big Island Coffee Roasters has invested over $2 million into coffee farmers since 2015. They run give-back initiatives every year, with proceeds benefiting organizations including national parks, Project Hawai'i, and the Ocean Film Festival, among others. The company has also given back to the Puna community, which has historically been underserved, and was awarded a Hawaii Senate Certificate for their services!

Summary 

This 100% Kona Noir SL34 coffee received the highest grade in a cupping of Hawaiian coffees for Coffee Review's May 2022 tasting report. If you enjoy the fruity-floral complexity of Geisha coffees or the currant and wine-like tastes of Kenyan coffees, you will definitely enjoy Kona Noir.

Kona Noir is made from a coffee type found only on the Hawaiian Islands: SL-34. This cultivar was developed in Kenya and quickly spread throughout the region because of its great flavor, huge beans, and output potential. It has since evolved into the quintessential Kenya taste profile coffee, with notes of Black Cherry, Currant, Ginger, Molasses, and Jasmine.

Growing this type on Hawaii Island soil alters the profile, as do the producers' growth methods. Based on the roast level, you may notice molasses and ginger (darker roast) or red wine and currants (lighter roast). Kona Noir was planted by two great neighboring farmers in Kona, Kraig and Franc, and fermented using a wine yeast frequently used to ferment Riesling, Viognier, and Chardonnay. The farmers are bringing out the flavor and aroma of the coffee in the same manner that winemakers do with wine by utilizing this wine yeast.

The whole bean Kona Noir from Big Island was delicious and aromatic, with a superb medium-light roast. In a nutshell, this coffee is a must try!

Region: Holualoa, Kona, Big Island of Hawai'i

Processing: Yeast Fermentation

Variety: SL-34 

Roast: Medium-Light

Tasting Notes: Black Cherry, Currant, Ginger, Molasses, Jasmine, Bright and Juicy

Pros

  • Choice of roast level and grind size
  • Steeping sachets are fully compostable
  • Great for pour-over or French press brewing
  • Eco-conscious company
  • Fully Hawaiian coffee
  • Hawaiian Coffee of the Month Club available

Cons

  • Pricey, like most Kona coffee
  • Shipping fees for smaller orders

Buying the Product

Big Island’s coffee is packaged in high-quality bags with essential information such as tasting comments, roast dates, and processing techniques. Big Island Kona coffee is an excellent choice for a gift of Kona coffee. It's a little pricey, but given the quality of the beans and the company's sustainability practices, I would say it’s completely worth it. However, it is your money so maybe test out a few coffee varieties and see which one is worth stocking up on.

One of the best things about Big Island Coffee Roaster’s is that you can buy the precise coffee bean that you desire! You may also create your own bundles or simply sign up for the Hawaiian Coffee of the Month Club. The club is perfect for folks who don't mind being surprised. You'll get access to the widest range of 100% Hawaiian coffees in the world. Members get to try new Hawaiian and Kona coffees every month.

You have the option to choose your favorite roast level and grind type, and the highlighted Hawaiian coffees will be freshly roasted to your specifications. Your order is sent every four weeks, and arrives freshly roasted. If you want to add a month to your membership or skip a month, Big Island makes it easy for you to make that change.

This Medium-Light roast coffee compliments the delicate, subtle Kona Typica flavor. I strongly suggest getting freshly roasted coffee beans if you have the possibility. This will prevent you from purchasing the ones that have been sitting on shelves for a long time. Orders are roasted from Sunday to Friday and mailed from Monday to Friday. Each order's bags contain roasted dates printed on the back. 

Big Island Coffee Roaster - $19.00 (Free shipping on orders over $79 to all U.S. states. 

Orders under $79 ship via USPS for $5.95.)

Standard: 5 - 8 business days after your order is placed.

Fastest: 2 - 4 business days: $25.50

Learn more about Big Island Coffee Roasters here!

Results

The packaging of this coffee bag was high quality, but I do wish it was resealable. I knew this was going to be a fantastic experience the instant I opened it. This medium-light roast is incredibly easy to drink and will quickly become addictive. I've been drinking this every day since I opened it, and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon.

This cup was elegantly fruity, with a hint of spiciness. The aroma and cup characteristics include notes of date, clove, blood orange, baked chocolate, and cedar. The bittersweet structure is complex, with winey acidity and a velvety, syrupy texture. The lingering aftertaste is dominated by aromas of date, blood orange, and clove.

The beautiful cup made up of Big Island Coffee Roaster’s Kona Noir, the rare Kenya-derived SL34 Arabica type, was well worth checking out because of its assertive fruit and delicate spice characteristics.

I loved everything about it, from the complex aroma of the beans after opening the bag the first time, to the amazing taste after grinding and brewing a fresh cup. 

I would give the Big Island Coffee Roaster’s Kona Noir a cupping score of 94/100. In accordance with the Total Score Quality Classification, it would be considered outstanding, also known as a specialty coffee.

Cupping Scores

Published by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The Cupping Form allows you to note the following coffee flavor qualities: Fragrance/Aroma, Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, Balance, Uniformity, Clean Cup, Sweetness, Defects, and Overall. These are evaluated on a 16-point scale indicating quality levels in quarter-point increments ranging from 6 to 9. To score your coffee, go through each specific flavor attribute and mark the points based on your own personal appraisal. 

Quality Scale

  • Good: 6-6:75
  • Very good: 7 - 7.75
  • Excellent: 8 - 8.75
  • Outstanding: 9 - 9.75

The Final Score is calculated by adding the individual scores for each of the key criteria in the "Total Score" box. Defects are then subtracted from the “Total Score” to arrive at a “Final Score.” The Scoring Key below has shown to be an effective technique to represent the range of coffee quality for the Final Score.

Bottom Line

Hawaii is a hotspot for millions of visitors every year. However, with COVID and travel restrictions, it might be harder to take that trip. Nevertheless, there are still ways to help those Hawaiian businesses such as Big Island Coffee Roasters. Members of their Coffee Club monthly subscription enjoy exclusive coffees and deals not offered to the general public — all tailored to your preferred roast level and grind setting! To help you get the most out of your coffee, Big Island offers an outstanding brewing guide that teaches you everything you need to know about the various brewing methods and how to make the most of them.

Coffee lovers out there, this is your sign to ditch your old brews. If you aren’t scared to try something new, then why not give it a shot? This is best suited for those who enjoy medium-light roasts. The Big Island Coffee Roasters 100% Kona SL34 Kona Noir brewed a great tasting AND smelling cup of coffee. This medium-light roast develops tasting notes of black cherry, currant, ginger, molasses, and jasmine. You can expect this cup of coffee to be bright, juicy, and fruity. If you don't believe me, try it yourself and try to taste each flavor with each mouthful. If you are not really interested in Hawaiian coffee, return to our coffee reviews! We've sampled a lot of coffee. Check these out to see if their more your taste: 

Big Island Coffee Roasters Kona Peaberry Review

Atlas Coffee India Roast Review

Atlas Coffee Ethiopia Roast Review

Atlas Coffee Ecuador Coffee Review

Atlas Coffee Tanzania Blend Review

About the Author

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a determined Product Tester & Writer. Being a coffee addict, it is only right that he mainly tests and reviews different coffee from around the world and coffee subscription services.

Bryan Huynh is a determined Product Tester & Writer. Being a coffee addict, it is only right that he mainly tests and reviews different coffee from around the world and coffee subscription services.