Generally speaking, we have always seen Hawaii as an exotic land. Today we take one of the most interesting journeys across the globe to head to this wonderful archipelago to experience Kona coffee.
Hawaii Kona coffee happens to be one of the best coffees globally, and that distinction is certainly not granted by chance. Much of its fame, apart from its undeniable quality, comes from its exclusivity. Almost all Kona coffee production in Hawaii comes from small farmers grouped into several hundred small plantations. There are no large corporations.
And the other part of the blame lies with the unique climate of these islands. In addition to the innate characteristics of the volcanic soil, there are mild temperatures, with very little cold, sunshine and rain all year round. In addition, the walls of this towering mountain act as a natural barrier to protect the crops from strong winds—ideal conditions for planting coffee trees.
With these conditions, one can only expect excellent results, as is the case with coffee from Hawaii. Not surprisingly, many of the harvests are also used to experiment with blends for unique speciality coffees.
What is Hawaii Kona coffee?
There are several clarifications to be made when referring to Hawaii Kona coffee. Kona coffee is an appellation of origin, as is the case with wines, cheeses, or other foods. There are coffee plantations on several Hawaiian islands, but not all coffee produced in Hawaii is Kona.
True Kona coffee is only grown on the western slopes of two volcanoes (Hualalai and Mauna Loa) on the island of Hawaii, the largest island and the namesake of the entire archipelago. This area is known as the Kona Coffee Belt, a statement of intent.
This explains why there are only a few hundred Kona coffee plantations in Hawaii and why its production is so exclusive (and incidentally, its price is so high).
Getting to know Kona coffee: essential characteristics
There are actually two types of Kona coffee: Fancy and Peaberry. Translated into our language, the distinction is as simple as Fancy Kona coffee has two beans per cherry (i.e., the norm), and Peaberry Kona coffee has only one bean per cherry (known as caracolillo). And as you might expect, both have different qualities and nuances.
Kona Caracolillo or Peaberry coffee is rarer (usually no more than 5% of the total crop) and has milder, more chocolatey notes than regular or Fancy Kona.
In general, Hawaii Kona coffee is a well-rounded coffee with a balanced profile without nuances (acidity, oils, body…) that stand out above others. If prepared with a manual drip coffee machine or pour-over with a paper filter, the result is a very clean and unctuous coffee, silky, delightful to the palate.
Kona coffee beans from Hawaii also stand out for their aroma: sweet, smooth, in line with the clean mouthfeel mentioned above.
Beware of Kona blends: not 100% Kona coffee
Due to the aforementioned scarcity in the production of Kona coffee beans, various Kona coffee blends are often marketed, in many cases to obtain speciality coffees as mentioned above.
Kona coffee blends are not Kona coffee; this is important to be clear about. They usually contain around 10% pure Kona coffee mixed with other types of arabica beans. They were more common a few decades ago. Still, from 1970 onwards, the Kona coffee bean started to be processed more individually – without blending – and in this way, the “brand” and the image of Kona coffee as a gourmet speciality was also greatly enhanced.
Where can I buy Kona coffee from Hawaii?
To find out where to buy Kona coffee, as is the case with other premium or gourmet coffees (we have already talked about several on our websites, such as Java coffee or Geisha coffee from Panama, to name a few), you have no choice but to go to gourmet establishments or centres that specialize in imported coffees.
Kona coffee from Hawaii is very exclusive, and annual production is not abundant, so prices soar and stocks dwindle at breakneck speed. As you have seen throughout this article, it is not easy to buy Kona coffee on Amazon. There are not too many manufacturers or brands that sell this origin coffee, Hawaiian.