Accolades pour in for Puna coffee farmer

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Summer typically is a slow time on Hawaii coffee farms, but things have been percolating at Big Island Coffee Roasters, whose co-founder Kelleigh Stewart earned a prestigious industry license and was named one of Hawaii’s top young business leaders.

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Summer typically is a slow time on Hawaii coffee farms, but things have been percolating at Big Island Coffee Roasters, whose co-founder Kelleigh Stewart earned a prestigious industry license and was named one of Hawaii’s top young business leaders.

The Coffee Quality Institute recently licensed Stewart as an Arabica coffee Q grader. Established in 2004, the Q grader program is tasked with building a cadre of licensed coffee cuppers around the globe trained to identify attributes, defects and score coffees consistently. Licensed Q graders are qualified to judge cupping competitions worldwide and classify a coffee as specialty or commercial with specialty grade being among the highest quality in the world.

By using a universal system of scoring specialty coffees, Q graders can communicate to farmers how they can improve the quality of their coffees and effectively relay a coffee’s attributes to buyers.

Stewart and her husband, Brandon von Damitz, knew very little about coffee when they bought a rundown Puna coffee farm in 2010. Through hard work and sheer determination, they’ve built an internationally recognized coffee company that’s integrated to encompass everything from farming to roasting, garnering critical acclaim and awards along the way.

Stewart recently was named as one of Pacific Business News’ Top 40 Under 40. Chris Manfredi, Hawaii Farm Bureau past president, praised Stewart as “the best of her generation.”

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“This has been such a surprise and gift,” Stewart said of the award. “I love finding solutions to problems, and to me, this honor means I’m on the right track.

Big Island Coffee Roasters is a grower, roaster and micro-mill of award-winning Hawaiian coffees. For more information, visit bigislandcoffeeroasters.com.

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