Kai Coffee baristas imbue each cup with Hawaii’s famous Kona coffee. // © 2017 Kai Coffee
Feature image (above): Coffee Lounge’s light-filled setting and emphasis on local brews create a sense of community. // © 2017 Coffee Lounge
Here’s some eye-opening trivia: Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee commercially. That’s good news for java fans, who can find high-quality local brews on all the major islands.
Since personal tastes vary, we’ll stop short of saying these five spots pour Hawaii’s best cup of joe. Across the board, however, they promise to serve satisfying coffees with a sense of place.
Coffee Lounge, Hawaii Island
Kailua-Kona boasts plenty of caffeine-centric cafes, but this one stands out thanks to its custom blends, all of which are hand-roasted locally. Regulars rave about the Kona coffee pour-overs, although its espresso frappes draw a thirsty following as well.
The food menu showcases healthy breakfast and lunch items such as yogurt parfaits, acai bowls, panini and salads. Attracting a congenial clientele, Coffee Lounge displays works by artists in the area, injecting the ambiance with a neighborhood mood.
Kai Coffee Hawaii, Oahu
Baristas wearing bow ties greet guests at this hip coffeehouse, home to Hawaii’s famous Kona coffee in all its forms. Its signature item, the Kai latte, enhances rich espresso with macadamia-nut whipped cream and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Equally impressive are its Aeropress beverages and 12-hour cold brew.
Kai’s hearty breakfast sandwiches complement the perky drink experience. Its original cafe occupies the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, with a newer location in downtown Honolulu.
Little Fish Coffee, Kauai
In the sleepy hamlet of Hanapepe awaits this lively haunt, whose bold brews bring a kick to the day. It focuses on Hawaii-grown, fair-trade coffee, including Maui products and Hawaii Island’s revered Kau coffee. In addition, the menu features a seasonal, organic blend. The food here is fresh and fun, with bowls, bagels, sandwiches and smoothies to accompany the cappuccinos and lattes.
Little Fish is the perfect perch before or after a tour of Hanapepe’s many creative galleries.
Maui Coffee Roasters
Located conveniently close to Kahului Airport, this spot serves a bevy of beverages, caffeinated and not. Traditionalists opt for pure Kona coffee pours, but visitors can shake it up with a Hawaiian blend or flavored island brew. No matter what the request, each cup comes from the day’s freshly roasted beans, which are cultivated only in the Aloha State.
Colorful tables and singular artworks set an appetizing tone for tasty treats including homemade muffins, sandwiches, wraps and salads. Clients who stop by between 2 p.m. and closing score $2 cappuccinos.
Morning Glass Coffee & Cafe, Oahu
Discriminating Honolulu sippers swear by Morning Glass. It always offers a Hawaiian coffee of the day, sourced locally and roasted in-house. Every order takes at least five minutes to prepare, as the barista personally grinds and brews it, but it’s worth the wait for the ultimate Americano, macchiato or iced toddy.
This popular hangout demonstrates the same dedication to its food, with breakfast and lunch fare made with seasonal ingredients such as island eggs and alii mushrooms. Look for it in the neighborhood of Manoa, near the University of Hawaii.