KALAHEO — Dark Roost Coffee owner Jon Estep focuses on one cup of brew at a time.
From grinding the beans to measuring portions to even putting in the milk, it’s his craftsmanship of the popular beverage that separates Estep’s coffee from others on the island.
“Every cup really does matter,” Estep said. “I really do care about every cup, and I wanna feel that every cup is the same and everybody is getting that good product.”
After years of traveling, and sampling and tasting coffee from different cultures and countries along the way, Estep came home, took that mana‘o and pours coffee on the island.
“I realized that good coffee is out there. Some countries — Australia and even Europe — their style of coffee is a lot different than the U.S.,” said Estep.
“That’s where I became more interested in coffee than I was previously. Over the years, I started doing coffee at home and that’s how it’s started.”
The 30-year-old Kauai High School graduate recently opened shop in Kalaheo, taking up space in The Right Slice pie shop after spending the past two years making coffee in a vintage truck in Lawai.
The newfound space for Estep has been refreshing.
“In the truck, your space is really limited,” he said. “You try to pack it all in and you’re almost forced to be more efficient and more simpler.”
The setup in his new location is sleek, simple and offers Estep more space to deliver coffee.
“Having a place for people to come and meet, I think is the most enjoyable part,” he said. “Having people come here and meet here for the first time and leave having new friends, leave having a relationship that they never had — I think that’s always what the most rewarding: seeing that happen.”
Though most coffee drinkers have gotten used to drinking bitter coffee, Estep wants to change that perception.
“Once you step away from that and dive into some more medium roast where it’s not bitter and you can taste the flavor of the actual bean and where it’s grown,” he said. “You can taste little subtleties of blueberry and chocolate and all those different things. You start to really enjoy that.”
A good transition coffee for people who have gotten used to the bitter variety is a medium-dark roast.
“You still get a little of that bitterness, but you get a good transitioner to some of the more medium and light roast,” he said.
Estep works with Kauai Roastery out of Waimea to provide his customers fresh beans weekly.
“They’ll work with you and create the roast that you want,” Estep said.
Focusing on the community as well as working with local business to provide a fresh, local brew has been key for the success of the Kalaheo coffee house.
“We want to cater to the people here first and foremost. A lot of the business doing well year around are very much in the local scene,” he said. “ People sit over coffee and talk about ideas and talk about ways to make those ideas happen. That’s exciting. It’s nice to be a facilitator of that.”
The grand opening for Dark Roost Coffee is slated for late June. In the meantime, the shop is open Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.