In with the Brew

Honolulu Coffee’s Ed Schultz sets up shop in the Far East.

Coffee is much like a premium cut of steak, says Honolulu Coffee president Ed Schultz. “You can take a good piece of meat and a bad piece of meat, and it almost tastes the same if you just cook it off,” he says. “Same thing with coffee.”

It’s why you’ll never be able to order anything other than a medium roasted coffee from the company. Honolulu Coffee’s roasting methods coax out a natural sweetness that doesn’t require any added sugar to enjoy its flavor profiles.


Plus, Schultz says, the darker the roast, the less caffeine you’re actually consuming.

It isn’t just the company’s attention to the taste of its coffee that Schultz credits to its success. Basic skills that often are overlooked, like steaming milk to create a top layer of foam for lattés and other espresso-based drinks, is a craft its baristas are trained in. So much so, that in 2011, the company won the U.S. Barista Championship, beating out other mainland competitors.

Most importantly, the company focuses on some basic customer service.

“Our service, I think, is what we focus on every day,” he says. “You know, having a staff that is welcoming and engaging.”

It’s a business model that has allowed the company to excel.

Schultz took over Honolulu Coffee as owner and president in 2008. Prior to that, he had been an investment banker in New York City, where he analyzed Starbucks, and its suppliers and competitors.

Honolulu Coffee café at Waikiki's Moana Surfrider resort

Honolulu Coffee café at Waikiki’s Moana Surfrider resort

Addicted to caffeine since his high school days, he learned something: “Really, the passion is about the taste of the product,” he says, of coffee.

A self-professed foodie, he eventually left his job to pursue his own business ventures.

“I really wanted to do something on my own,” he says. “Coffee was an area that was continuing to grow, and I had a really great opportunity to build a business to compete with Starbucks.”

Then, he met former Honolulu Coffee owner and founder Raymond Suiter.

“What he had started was amazing,” Schultz says. “I thought to be able to expand on that really had a great tremendous potential to grow a brand based out of Hawaiian coffee.

“And it was something that was unique that only could be done here in HawaiÊ»i.”

Honolulu's java king Ed Schultz

Honolulu’s java king Ed Schultz

Since taking over as owner and president in 2008, Honolulu Coffee has opened stores in Guam and Japan, and opened its first location in Shanghai this January.

In September 2012, Honolulu Coffee purchased its own 75-acre farm in Kona, where it grows and processes everything.

The company also recently leased land to created its own experience center, which Schultz hopes to open in the summer of 2015. The center, Schultz says, will feature just about everything someone may want to know about coffee—its history, where it grows, how it is processed and more— and about the company.

“We believe we have a higher quality coffee product than our competitors, and a unique one that is grown in one of the smallest coffee growing regions in the world, which is Kona,” he says. “So we have this amazing story to tell.”

For more information on Honolulu Coffee, visit

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