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Big Island beans best of brew

A Hawaii Coffee Co. display makes scents. A Hawaii Coffee Co. display makes scents. (DAVID LYON FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)
Email|Print| Text size + By David Lyon
Globe Correspondent / August 5, 2007

HONOLULU -- Tour guide Masa Nemoto makes the understatement of the year. "There's no excuse to be tired working here," he says. Every employee at the Hawaii Coffee Co. can drink all the coffee he or she wants.

The Kalani Street facility processes seven tons of green coffee beans daily under the Lion and Royal Kona brands. Nemoto says 70 percent of hotels and restaurants in Hawaii brew the company's beans. If you get hooked while you are visiting the islands and want to bring some home, the company's factory, store, and cafe are conveniently located between downtown and the airport.

Take one of the free tours of the facility and you almost get a rush from the scent of the two roasters, which process 600 pounds in 11 minutes. One machine handles the imported coffees and those grown on the islands of Maui , Kauai, and Molokai . The other is reserved for Kona coffee, which is grown only in strictly delineated regions on the Big Island. The company isolates tiny round beans from the Kona crop -- Kona Peaberry -- for premium treatment. The less acidic brew is prized by coffee connoisseurs.

You can sample several varieties in the combination cafe and store before selecting bags of vacuum-packed beans to tuck into your luggage. The current price is $15.95 for a seven-ounce bag of Kona Peaberry, half or even less of what you will pay at the airport shops.

Hawaii Coffee Co. , 1555 Kalani St., Honolulu, 800-454-1199, 808-847-3600, lioncoffee.com. Factory tours Monday-Friday 6-6, Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Free. Tour participants receive 10 percent discount on purchases.

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