A Mobile Coffee Shop In Kauai, Founded By Jon And Stasia Estep, After
Traveling The World In Search For The Perfect Coffee
Jon Estep has traveled enough of the world to know exactly what to look for in a
great cup of coffee. Before he and his wife, Stasia, were married, they explored much
of Europe and the Middle East.
“You could say I traveled a bit of the world searching for that perfect cappuccino,”
Jon explains.
Among the best coffee Jon’s tasted are some of the less conventional types.
“My favorite coffee would be--gosh, we had some great coffee in Israel. They don’t
have iced coffee, it’s more like a slushie. I had some great coffee in Turkey.” Jon
fondly recalls the traditionally unfiltered coffee. Fine grounds settle to the bottom
of the cup; the drinker sips only from the top.
The coffee available in Jon’s home state of Hawaii isn’t too bad, either. In fact,
Hawaii is the only state in America that grows coffee commercially. There are over
800 coffee farms in Hawaii, with Kauai, the island where Jon grew up, being home to
the largest coffee farm in the U.S. Today, Jon runs his business very close to where
he grew up, and he works with roasters on Kauai to stock the coffee he sells in his
mobile coffee shop, Dark Roost Coffee.
“We work a lot with some local roasters on Kauai--small, family roasters. We don’t
work solely with one. I try to support other local businesses.”
When Jon began seriously considering opening a coffee shop, his sister, the
successful owner of a shaved ice mobile business, encouraged him to try a coffee bar
run out of a vintage trailer. It seemed like a reasonable venture for Kauai, an island
only 25 miles long and 33 miles wide, and a place that is already very familiar with the
food truck business.
“There are tons of [mobile businesses]. The food truck scene has exploded on Kauai.
In part because rent for a brick and mortar space is ridiculously expensive. We
probably have 90 food trucks here.”
So, with the decision made to join the food truck scene, the search for the perfect
vintage camper began.
“We started researching small trailers. Most small trailers have small windows, pretty
standard. There is a specific trailer--has a larger window than most. We scoured the
U.S. for it. It took about eight months to find this particular trailer--which we found on
Craigslist out of Seattle. Then we put it on a boat and brought her over. “
The perfect trailer was a 13-foot long 1986 Perris Pacer. Jon completed all the
renovations himself, teaching himself along the way. He completely gutted the
trailer, removing the heater, stove, and other non-essentials to create the perfect
space for serving coffee.
“I kind of just went for it,” he recalls. “Spent a little money learning how to do things,
but finally figured it out.”
Dark Roost Coffee was opened in 2015. The business is a full-time operation for Jon,
where he combines his extensive knowledge with the final necessary ingredient to
achieving a great cup of coffee.
“I used to say great water and great beans make great coffee which is true, but after
that it requires a skilled barista along with a passion to serve others to really take
things to the next level.”
Jon’s excellent coffee, unique venue, and genuine service have captured more than
local attention. Just last year, Cosmopolitan magazine compiled their picks for the
best coffee shop from each state. Dark Roost was their top choice for Hawaii.
However, the camper--which is lovingly called Perris--is much more than a coffee bar.
Since opening, Jon has found that the camper is useful for lots of other events
around the island.
“We do a lot of weddings, but we also turn it over into a bar and do full bar services-beer, wine, etc. with bartenders. So, we’re pretty busy with that. Coffee by morning,
bar by [evening].”
Though Perris is functionally not limited to a single job, the name of the business
itself is all about the primary goal--bringing great coffee to the people of Kauai.
“My wife came up with [the name]. She’s a songwriter, so she likes plays on words. I
said I wanted something simple but unique at the same time. She said what about
Dark Roost? We have a lot of chickens here, too, so there’s that correlation to a
chicken’s roost.”
For someone unaware of Kauai’s history with wild chickens--the island is home to
thousands of them-- the name might seem unusual at first. Jon has many stories of
tourists stopping by the trailer and laughing at what they believe is a misspelling of
“Dark Roast.”
Jon assures his customers that it’s not an error--instead a playful nod at one of the
many things that makes his island home unique.
“We’re still in paradise, so we can’t complain. At the end of the day, I have to remind
my friends, we’re still living in Paradise.”
For anyone with plans to visit Hawaii, make sure to spend a day on Kauai. Jon can be
found on Koloa Road, serving his pour-overs and cold brews. He’s sure to have a great
cup of coffee waiting.
Kailyn Clay
Make S ure T o Che ck Out :
A graduat e of Trinit y
Christ ian College wit h
degrees in English and
Polit ical Science, Kailyn has
writ t en for GEMS Girls’
Clubs, Spark Hire, The Grand
Haven Area Convent ion &
Visit ors Bureau, and ot her
sources. She enjoys reading,
writ ing, and camping.
Dark Roost Coffee, born of a
dream t o serve excellent
coffee. Inspired by his
sist er's shave ice business
served out of a vint age
t railer, Jon Est ep and his
wife St asia began a search
for a unique vint age t ravel
t railer of t heir own.
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