Sunshower Farms Dawn 100% Kona Light Roast

posted in: 2017, reviews | 0

Just about everyone who works eventually has the thought, “Why can’t I just leave, sell my place, move to a beautiful place and live off the land?” I’m sure it sounds more idyllic than reality, but this is exactly the story behind Sunshower Farms and I must admit the second thing out of my keyboard after I met co-owner, Kate Hickey, was, “Do you need an intern?” LOL I’m super excited about today’s coffee because it’s the first time I’ve had coffee from Hawaii that wasn’t roasted into second crack and I feel like I’m tasting the origin for the first time! Let’s check out Sunshower Farms’ Dawn! Make sure you see the 15% off coupon code and giveaway they’ve offered to readers, too!

Sunshower Farms

Buy this coffee directly for $23/8oz (prices range from $6/2oz to $40/lb) – a lot more on pricing in the article, so read on

Inspired Life interview with Kate Hickey

Sunshower farms was generous to offer 15% off all orders for readers. Use the coupon code “KCCoffeeGeek” until 4/1/17!


I have a feeling the lead is going to get buried on this story, so for you TLDR people: this coffee is really good. It’s complex and interesting and it’s a unique opportunity to taste Kona coffee rather than roasty notes that just happen to be laid onto Kona beans. Buy! Also, in addition to the coupon code above, Sunshower Farms are giving away a 12oz bag of coffee of their choice or a tasting pack, so buzz over to our Instagram accounts to participate in that! Instagram: Sunshower Farms and KC Coffee Geek (GAW announcement probably not until tomorrow or Thursday)

The Sunshower Farms story is almost too good to be true. In 2012, Kate and Doug Hickey were living in Chicago making good livings (presumably) as an attorney and proprietary futures trader, respectively. The idea to leave the beautiful, but notoriously poor weather environment of Chicago and do more physically fulfilling work was hatched and a year later they found themselves moving to Hawaii without much of a plan. They found a coffee farm for sale in Holualoa, in the heart of the Kona coffee belt, and the next thing they knew they were owners of some land and were now coffee farmers, vegetable growers, goat herders and garden gnome hoarders!

Photo from Instagram
Photo from Instagram

In addition to growing coffee, Sunshower Farms does farm-to-table dinners that look amazing, have a beautiful patio area that is the centerpiece for weddings and other events, they grow microgreens and vegetables for farmers’ markets and hotel/restaurant use in the area and even have one of the island’s only homebrewing supply stores! Kate and Doug obviously can’t sit still and it sounds like a Renaissance paradise since it’s all tucked into the big island’s western slope.

Getting to the coffee, I “met” Kate by chance on a Reddit group and she was excited to send a couple of their coffees my way. They had their first harvest in 2015 and Sunshower Farms is eight acres. They grow, roast and sell their coffee themselves and currently they are doing all washed process, although they may try some natural processing next year. Their coffee grows at about 732 meters above sea level, or 2400 ft. By worldwide standards, this is very low, but Kate says that the latitude of Hawaii factors into altitude and that’s very high for Hawaii, where only a couple farms grow higher than 2500ft.

And, you can’t talk Hawaiian coffee without mentioning price. Yes, Hawaiian coffees are always quite dear, and here’s why: labor laws and the cost of doing business in the USA. Hawaii is the only producer of coffee in a “first world” nation, meaning that the rules are quite a bit different than for the rest of the market. Sunshower Farms employees make 13-20 times the worldwide average for coffee farms! They have health insurance, workers compensation, get paid overtime, etc. and the laws of economics dictate that the price of this coffee must reflect that.

This is an “Estate”-grade coffee, which is a blend of Kona’s three highest grade coffees of Extra Fancy, Fancy and Kona #1 as well as some peaberry thrown into the mix. A lot of other farms mix in Kona Prime, but Doug and Kate feel like there are too many defects in that grade of coffee and they keep it out of their Estate blends. They roast to five different levels, with Dawn, what we have today, on the light end and Midnight on the dark end. They roast to order so coffee leaves the farm as fresh as possible and Kate does the roasting on a Sonofresco fluid bed roaster.

Photo from Instagram

Kate sent me extensive tasting notes for Dawn. She said to expect, “ripe plum, juicy cantaloupe, black tea, light raisin” at hot temps and at cooler temps, “rye increases, raisin finish, lingering sweetness.” I used my standard 1:16 pourover ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino dripper with Kalita 185 filters. I used my usual 3.5 setting on a Handground grinder and the bitterness of the lime acidity was a little over-emphasized. Dropping my grind size to a 3 produced a sweeter, more mellow cup.

I don’t want to disparage any of the other Hawaiian growers who’ve sent me coffee in the past, but I feel like this is the first real taste of Hawaiian coffee I’ve ever had, even after drinking what I consider more than my fair share of coffee from that region! I like a good dark roast and Hawaiian producers obviously know that their market does, too. When I conversed with Kate I wondered if it was because the coffee is such low altitude and maybe it’s “boring” and so serves as a better vehicle to emphasize the roast. She certainly proved me wrong with her Dawn roast, I am happy to report!

In the aroma in my cups I found a lot of sweet baked bread with hints of spice. As the cup cooled, this aroma got more cocoa and chocolatey. With a more coarse grind, a lime acidity and bitterness was really the primary player in the cup, but with a finer grind I was able to boost the sweetness and round out the cup a lot, so I’m going to focus on my notes from that experience. This is a medium-bodied cup with a lot of black tea notes. In the front end there is something tea-like in the bitterness of the cup (don’t be turned off, coffee is bitter, inherently, and this is normal and desirable and tastes GOOD!) and on the back end it’s more of a “feel”… there is a slightly dry finish that reminds me of drinking tea.

With Dawn, Kate has certainly showed me that Kona coffee is not roasted dark to make up for a boring flavor profile! This is a dynamic cup. There are some dark chocolate and plummy, raisiny notes throughout the flavor and it’s way more complex than I thought it would be! It’s a clean and structured coffee that is bright and balanced, too, and it kept striking me as “sophisticated” and “adult” in its overall character. LOL I know that is about as vague of a coffee description as you can get, but hey, whatever! Now my only question is why the HECK aren’t more Hawaiian growers offering lighter roasts?

Photo from Instagram
Photo from Instagram (I mean, COME ON!)