Hawaii’s no different from any other place in the country when it comes to coffee lovers: Step into any Starbucks and you’ll see — we’ve got lots of ’em. And yet, we’re not like everywhere else because we’re the only state in the nation that grows coffee.
Viewed from that perspective, those long lines at chain coffee bars with their non-Hawaii coffees seem nonsensical. Shouldn’t Hawaii people be drinking Hawaii coffee?
Thankfully, a host of venues in Hawaii do offer locally grown coffees.
But there’s a new shop, just 4 months old, that is taking Hawaii coffee to a whole new level on Oahu.
Beach Bum Café, run by owner Dennis McQuoid out of a storefront in the Executive Centre on Bishop Street, is cutting-edge in what it offers: a selection of 100 percent Hawaii coffees and a choice of five brewing methods.
He calls his place a “microbrew” coffee house, meaning he grinds beans upon order and brews one cup at a time. This ensures the freshest cup possible.
McQuoid offers eight single-estate coffees at any given time, and he keeps just a two-week supply to ensure freshness.
McQuoid also offers a generous helping of customer service. He starts by helping patrons make selections based on their preferences.
“I make the coffee right in front of the customer, and I discuss the farm it comes from, the elevation and the varietal,” he says. “I can tell them where the farm is and what makes it special. I even have a map of the Hawaiian Islands so I can show people as I prepare the coffee.
“Customers are happy,” he says. “People really do appreciate a better cup of coffee, and they like that the coffee has a story that goes with it.”
Kristyn Colon is one such patron.
Colon, a teacher, moved to Honolulu for the summer after her roommate came for an internship and invited her along. “I was looking down Bishop Street for Wi-Fi and found this place. The coffee is great, and I love that it’s grown here,” she says.
What McQuoid is doing is no small thing, says Andrew Hetzel, an internationally known coffee expert based on Hawaii island who helped McQuoid start his business.
Hetzel calls McQuoid’s shop a “modern concept.”
“We usually see this type of place in more developed coffee markets in the world, like Japan, Korea or Australia. There are still only a few in the U.S.”
Through Hetzel, McQuoid consulted heavy hitters on the Hawaii coffee scene to select his lineup of coffees.
One of them, Shawn Steiman, author of “The Hawaii Coffee Book,” says that by exposing consumers to variety, McQuoid is boosting Hawaii coffee.
“Dennis gets his coffee from all over Hawaii,” Steiman says. “He cues people in to the idea that Hawaii has more than one coffee farm — in fact, there are about 830 farms — and that not all coffees are the same.
“His coffees cover an enormous range of taste experiences.”
Standard to McQuoid’s lineup are offerings from Waialua Estate and Coffees of Hawaii on Molokai. He usually carries organic coffee from Hawaiian Cloud Forest farm in Hamakua as well.
“Other coffees are rare and specialty coffees that are available for maybe six to eight weeks and won’t be available again for another six to eight months,” says McQuoid. “I deal with only a handful of really high-quality farms. They’re in the right region and know how to take care of their trees and their coffee beans, and how to roast properly.”
He says quality beans are uniform in size, shape and color.
McQuoid also serves experimental offerings from R. Miguel Meza, another globally renowned coffee consultant, who roasts beans on Hawaii island.
Meza says McQuoid’s shop is perfect for highlighting coffee like his experimental Sumatran- and Kenyan-style roasts.
“The response is very good feedback. What people are interested in we can possibly take from the experimental level to the production level,” Meza says.
McQuoid moved from San Francisco to open the cafe and attended the American Barista and Coffee School in Portland, Ore., to learn the craft. He keeps himself sharp in part by participating in monthly cuppings with coffee buffs around Oahu.
But technical know-how is only part of the picture, says Steiman. “Dennis’ persona is calm and jovial. He is the atmosphere of his shop, and that’s huge.”
For McQuoid the cafe is a natural fit. “I wanted to do something social in nature, and you can’t get more social than a coffee shop. All day long I see happy people. They come in and like the coffee. It doesn’t get much better.”
COFFEE BREWING METHODS
Offered at the Beach Bum Café
>> Espresso: A small amount of coffee is brewed with high pressure and high heat for intense flavor. Espresso is often served with steamed milk and foam in different ratios for drinks such as cappuccino and latte.
>> French press: Grounds are fully immersed, and brewed coffee is filtered through a screen that allows sediment through. Coffee is muddy, rich and thick-bodied.
>> Sock pot: Hot water is passed through a reusable fabric filter holding grounds. The resulting brew “offers the best of everything,” says Dennis McQuoid: some oils and body, and both light and dark tones.
>> Chemex: The large flask holds a paper filter that removes oils, which makes for a clean-tasting, bright, acidic flavor.
>> Vacuum pot: Invented in the 1820s, the method involves two glass vessels, an upper and lower chamber, connected by a seal, and a burner. Coffee is housed in the top vessel, and water is in the bottom one. When the water boils, pressure builds in the lower chamber, forcing the water to the upper chamber. Heat is then turned off, and the lower chamber cools, creating a vacuum that pulls the water from the upper chamber, through the coffee, into the lower chamber. Coffee that results is smooth with a medium range of flavors.
Beach Bum Café
>>Where: 1088 Bishop St.
>>Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays
>>Call: 521-6699 or visit beachbumcafe.com