Rusty and Lorie Obra started their famous coffee farm on the Big Island of Hawaii in the Ka’u region in 1999 on a small parcel of land near the Mauna Loa volcano. Rusty, a retired chemist, and Lorie, a former medical technologist, both had backgrounds in science, which contributed to the overall quality produced on the farm. They started testing different processing methods to get the best flavors out of each variety grown on the farm. Hawaii has long been famous for coffee grown in the Kona region. Rusty had always dreamed of making coffee from the Ka’u region some of the best in the world.
In 2006, Lorie was left at a crossroads, Rusty had been diagnosed with Lung Cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. Lorie was left with the difficult decision to sell the farm or try to run it herself. Faced with the daunting decision, she could not let go of Rusty’s dream, to make Ka’u coffee some of the best in the world. Lorie’s determination and hard work allowed Rusty’s Dream, and hers, to be realized in 2007. Rusty’s Hawaiian placed in the top 10 of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s top 10 coffees for Hawaii / Asia / Indonesia regional competition. Miguel Meza noticed the success in the region, and could see the potential in Ka’u coffee. He moved to Hawaii and became a coffee consultant for the Ka’u Coffee Growers Cooperative. His guidance and encouragement helped Lorie refine her processing and experimentation.
Lorie is now recognized as one of the leading innovators and producers in the coffee world, making Rusty’s Hawaiian one of the most decorated award winners over the last few years.
Lorie was recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe as the 2010 Outstanding Producer. The same year, Rusty’s Hawaiian was recognized by the Hawaii Coffee Association as the Grand Champion of the statewide cupping competition. In 2011, Rusty’s Hawaiian repeated and won the competition again. Champion barista, Pete Licata, formerly of PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. Overland Park retail outlet, worked with Rusty’s Hawaiian in 2011 developing his competition espresso blend on the farm using coffee hand-picked from Rusty’s Hawaiian. Pete won 1st place in the United States, and took 2nd place in the World Barista Competition in Bogota Colombia, garnering international recognition for himself and Rusty’s Hawaiian coffee.
Lorie’s son, Rusty Obra, has followed his parents passion for coffee and experimentation and applied it to the culinary world. With a decade of experience in hotel and restaurant kitchens, and with a degree from New York City’s French Culinary Institute, he has become known for interesting dishes incorporating coffee, such as foie gras and coffee cured bacon.
We are excited to be a continuing partner of Rusty’s Hawaiian and are proud of Lorie and her many accomplishments. Jeff and Maritza Taylor, owners and coffee buyers for PT’s, visited Lorie and Rusty’s Hawaiian in May of 2012 for the Ka’u Coffee Festival where Jeff was a featured speaker.
Below is an interview Jeff and Maritza had with Lorie and Miguel at Rusty’s Hawaiian in May of 2012.