As a seasoned barista for a very popular coffee chain, I have come to have a love for the smaller coffee shops. The local spots that are unique and pride themselves on high quality coffee, and a completely different atmosphere than your quick in and out coffee chains. On this Friday, I figured we would keep in Kauai since it's still fresh in my mind and palette.
4-1384 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI
Hours: 6 am - 7 pm
Similar to NOM Kauai, we actually went here twice. The first time was the morning of our wedding, and the second time was on our way to Waimea Canyon. There is nothing like waking up in the morning when you're tired and walking into a coffee shop in inhaling that caffeine that has become a part of the air. Java Kai is a very cool and modern spot that makes everyone feel welcome. The sweet smell of delicious coffee, the light fog in the air from the steamed milk, and the sound of "Hotel California," all adds to the experience of everything you look for in a local coffee shop. While you wait in line, you can take a look (and smell) at all of the unique coffees they have hand-roasted in small batches that are packaged in a way that pulls your eyes and mind in.
When you think about your typical coffee shop, they usually have some food options. Those food options are typically scones, bagels, and coffee cakes. And Java Kai has all of your traditional snacks to go with your coffee, but they also have some pretty unbelievable food options. They serve breakfast and lunch until 3 pm. My wife had their Acai Berry Bowl that you see up top, which is acai berries blended with bananas & pineapple juice, topped with granola, fresh fruit & coconut cream. Easily the best acai bowl I've ever had, the ingredients used from the island were fresh, sweet, and delicious. Just looking at that picture is making my mouth water because I can remember exactly what it tastes like.
Now that first morning, I decided to try the Tropical Waffles, which is homemade belgium waffles with bananas, papaya, mac nuts, coconut, whipped cream, and syrup. I already told you about the fresh fruit, but the waffles were ridiculous. If you like your waffles sweet, then these are perfect for you. I licked that plate clean, I honestly don't even know if I shared any with my wife because I just remember eating it so fast. I felt like that episode of SpongeBob when Patrick was like "I think I'll eat it now..." and he swallows it in one bite. The second time we went I ordered the Surfer Girl, which us scrambled eggs, spinach, onions, cheddar cheese, pesto aioli, bacon, and tomato all on a toasty bagel. The sandwich was better than I could've imagined, and what really put it over the top was the pesto aioli which I found myself licking off my fingers after every bite.
Did I even mention this place serves coffee, smoothies, and juice, too? Yeah, they do, and it's fire. I mean, their slogan is "drink coffee or die" and honestly they're hella right about that. Now I'm all about trying anything that has macadamia nuts or flavoring, especially when I'm in Hawaii. So that first time we went, I tried the hot Mac Nut Latte with Almond Milk. The espresso was smooth and sweet, the sweetener was everything I wanted it to be, and the presentation was top notch! My foam was perfect and when it got stuck in my mustache, I just left it because I wanted to save it for later. My wife had the Iced Coffee with Vanilla and damn that shit was good. The second time we went, I got the fresh squeezed orange juice. Now I'm picky with my rage juice when I order it from places, like if you say it's "Fresh squeezed" that shit better about it. And about it, it was.
Places like this are so vital to the future of our culture. If we don't continue to support these local spots, all we'll have left are popular food chains that will monopolize everything around us, including our taste buds. Don't let them win! Support local man, this shit is so important. But obviously don't support them if they're trash, in that case you should have a conversation with the shop owner and just be like "Hey bro, this probably not for you. Maybe you should stick to dancing, or something." But spots like Java Kai need to constantly be celebrated, because what they are doing for us is so much bigger than just giving us coffee and food, they're fighting The Man, bro. And to the awesome staff of Java Kai, if y'all hiring let me know. Like fareal fr.
Just a man trying to make the most of his time on this planet.