Aside from visiting farmers’ markets, we had another foodie goal in mind when we went to Hawaii. Well, maybe this could be called a “drinkie” goal. You see, we were in search of the perfect Kona coffee. Having tasted Kona coffee in the sun-spattered morning kitchen of my in-laws some time ago, I knew what dark depths of delight could be found on this green and verdant island.

It’s sort of hard to have a piece on Hawaii without indulging in hibiscus or plumeria porn.

After reading our guidebooks and consulting with friends and family, we were familiar with names like Bong Brothers and Holualoa Kona before we even got there, but that didn’t stop us from pit-stopping at places like K’au Organic Fruit and Espresso Stand on Highway 11. While in the midst of a long drive from Volcanoes National Park to the southernmost tip of the United States to our final destination of Mauna Lani, we felt the need of caffeinated refreshment. Plus, at this point I was still hoping to run down some mangosteens and sort of insisted in examing every fruit stand that juiced across our path.

Of course the San Franciscans in us thrilled to see this sign prominently displayed

K’au enticed us with espresso and fruit but entranced us with jazz, low-slung hammocks, and mac nuts under the minimal shelter of a picturesque wooden lean-to. Let’s face it, even when it rains in Hawaii, you never need much shelter. In fact, it’s much nicer to have your newly burnished skin perfumed with warm tropical rains than to huddle. Standing at the cool granite-topped bar, we sipped paper cups of espresso and cracked mac nuts with this hardy device while we talked to the farmer about his jazz-oriented visits to the Bay Area.

Of course, while we reveled in the Hawaiian rains during our visit, Barney Frazier told us how recent heavier rains had all but wiped out his citrus crop. He had a few limes knocking about but not much else. Remembering the dangerous heavy rains that pelted the Bay Area last spring, I nodded in understanding.

Seems to me that living in Hawaii is all the therapy you’d need.

Right behind the little espresso lean-to is about ten acres of Barney’s certified organic land. On this emerald patch, Barney and his wife, Elizabeth — both San Francisco imports to Hawaii — put out a large variety of citrus, apple bananas, coffee beans, home-roasted mac nuts, and honey. As various painted wooden signs around the area proved, Frazier and his wife cultivate a delicious sense of humor as well.

I’m sure you can guess this, but ‘okole’ means ‘butt’ in Hawaiian pidgin.

While we enjoyed hanging out and filling our tank with K’au’s eye-popping espresso, we weren’t quite done window sipping and had miles to go before we didn’t sleep.

Tracking Kona Coffee on Hwy 11, Part I 28 December,2006Stephanie Lucianovic

  • Anonymous


    I too have tracked coffee on those grounds (sorry couldn’t help myself). The Big Island is a fantastic place for grub and hearing about your adventure in Ka’u was a treat to hear about. My last adventure there I stopped by the local store in Na’alehu and picked up their killer and cheap macnut shortbread for fuel on own way to see madam pele. While sampling the coffee there my sis and I stumbled on some local stuff, I believe it was Rusty’s Hawaiian, that the store sold for something like 8 or 9 bucks for a half pound. Should you venture that way again, it’s on the mauka side of the road in Na’alehu.


  • Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

    Oh, thanks so much for the tip! Next week I will write about the coffee we found, consumed, and restocked for Christmas. I am definitely looking for both that mac nut shortbread and the Rusty’s Hawaiian next time I go.

  • Anonymous

    Rock on with that hibiscus porn. I see no problems with it, given that all food blogs essentially provide food porn for their readers.

    That’s one sexy flower.

    – Chubbypanda

  • cucina testa rossa

    did you happen to have the lobster nachos at the mauna lani? the best i’ve ever had! you’re right, just watching the sunset from their deck is all the therapy one needs in a lifetime. mahalo ma belle.

  • Gourmet coffee

    Wow thats a amazing place to one to stay and I feel like to have a coffee at such locations.

  • Anonymous

    I have found your site very interesting. Please give the updates.



Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for,, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

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