What Makes Kona Coffee so Special
Praised throughout the world for its full-bodied, pleasing flavor and distinct aroma, genuine Kona Coffee is one of the prized outputs of Hawaii’s Big Island.
Grown along the slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa mountains in hearty volcanic soil, the western side of the Big Island is the one microclimate in the United States suitable to growing coffee beans. In this unique environment, Kona Coffee has an advantage over other coffee crops in the world for a simple reason: consistency. The weather is reliable season in, season out and year-round. The island’s coffee trees bloom following dry winters and are harvested in late autumn before being pulped, dried, hulled, sorted, and graded in the following descending order: extra fancy, fancy, No. 1, and prime.
Once the coffee trees are harvested and graded according to quality, they’re sun-dried and custom roasted to the desired effect depending on the size and moisture of the beans. While the source material is incredibly important in determining the quality of the end result, the roasting process is considered an art form and a major determining factor in just how flavorful the beans will be in the hands of the consumer.
Different Types of Kona Coffee – and What to Watch Out For
While there are over 600 different coffee farms on the Big Island, there are still a few things to watch out for when buying Kona Coffee.
– It’s expensive. Due to the labor-intensive nature of growing coffee, the costs associated with coffee production in the U.S. means means consumers will ante up 4-5 times the cost of a specialty whole bean roast at your local grocery store.
– There are blends and branding issues to look out for. Some coffee sellers will repackage beans from Colombia, Ethiopia, or Brazil as “Kona Style” or “Kona Roast,” which means they put the name “Kona” on the bag. There’s no guarantee the beans were sourced from the Big Island at all.
– Kona Blend, which is required by law to contain at least 10% Kona-grown coffee beans, is sometimes cheaper, but ultimately not the same experience as 100% Kona Coffee, which is the authentic Kona product.