If you're a coffee connoisseur, there's a good chance you already know what Kona Coffee is. For those who don't know, it's one of the most sought-after coffees in the world for its smooth, low-acid, and vibrantly complex flavor. It gets it's name from the location in which it's grown: The renowned Kona District in Hawaii where climate conditions are near perfect for growing this kind of coffee. One of the first things newcomers to this type of coffee will learn is that not all Kona coffee beans are created equal. This is technically true for every coffee bean but it's especially true when dealing with beans regarded as the cream of the crop. Genuinely pure Kona coffee beans can be hard to find as a majority of options out there will be a blend of some kind with as little as 10% of Kona being used. And even so, the Kona beans themselves may be just average.
Having said all of this, we recently had an opportunity to review a Kona coffee brand called Carta Coffee. They offer 100% pure Kona coffee, a claim that you won't find on many Kona blends out there. What first grabbed my attention about them was the fact they're based right in Hawaii giving them convenient and immediate access to small-batch family farms. The company was generous enough to send us some of their Kona for an objective review.
Background on Carta Coffee
I always find it beneficial to know at least a brief history of a given coffee brand. Carta Coffee was founded by Scott Burr, who has deep roots in the grape growing and wine making industry. He had a 20-year career in advising vineyard owners on how to literally create the best wine possible. We're talking about an industry where every detail of the process must be incessantly scrutinized in order to yield the best product. The slightest error can be the difference between total success and total failure. The parallels between producing good wine and good coffee are pretty obvious. Scott's travels to the islands of Hawaii sparked a love for specifically the region of Kona and its coffee. He would then go all in on creating Carta Coffee while applying all that he had learned in agriculture and food science.
Captain Roast Details:
- 100% Pure Kona Coffee
- Dried in the Kona Sun
- Natural and traditional drying processes
- Deep roasting technique
As soon as I opened the bag, I was greeted with an enticing aroma. The fragrance of these pure Kona coffee beans was pleasant to the senses as it wasn't too overwhelming for me. Some people like a smell that will literally knock their socks off while others tend to favor a more balanced aroma. I'm the latter. Well-balanced is generally not a term used to describe smells, but it's the only word that accurately describes my olfactory experience.
Carta Coffee Review: The Roast
This is a very dark roast. Typically, dark roasted coffees are more about tasting the roast than the actual flavor expression of the original coffee bean. This isn't always the case but a general rule to go by. ( Learning more about the differences in roasts can help you identify coffees that are a good match to your flavor profile.) What surprised me about this artisan brew was that despite it being a dark roast, I could still discern a variety of complex and subtle notes. Most dark roasts are so strong that the roast simply overpowers the taste of the natural bean. However, Carta Coffee has done a wonderful job bringing the best of both worlds together in their Captain's Roast.
Carta Coffee Review: Brew method
I used a Bodum Pour Over brewer to make this coffee using a medium grind. While I was grinding the coffee in my manual JavaPresse burr grinder, I noticed it was especially easy to grind the beans. Dark roasted beans will be more brittle than light roasted ones and thus, break down more easily in the grind process.
Carta Coffee Review: Taste
This coffee delivers an impeccably well-balanced, full-bodied brew that captures the essence of the true Kona experience. Of all the reasons to appreciate this coffee, I admit I was most attracted to it for its unmatched smoothness. Carta Coffee's Captain Roast is extremely smooth as to be expected from any legitimate Kona coffee company. I was treated to a brew that was as smooth as butter. As I mentioned earlier, I was particularly impressed by how complex the coffee was given its dark roast profile. It's not only a dark roast but a deep dark roast. For those with sensitive stomachs, you should know this coffee is a low acid coffee. This is the type of coffee with such resounding depth that I could drink in both the mornings and evenings.
Ever heard the phrase “you can taste the purity of something”. Well, that's a very fitting description of this coffee's flavor. There's purity and crispness about the subtle flavors of this coffee that I found very attractive.
Carta Coffees: Other Flavors
Carta Coffee doesn't offer just a single take on the Kona coffee bean. They offer a variety of options processed and roasted to meet the varying preferences of their coffee-loving customers. One of their brews is as popular as it is unique. Their Latitude Roast is a blend of light and dark roasted pure Kona beans. This uncommon mix results in a diverse coffee experience that yields the punch of a dark roast while being perfectly balanced by the sweetness of a lighter roast. I personally thought this was an ingenious decision by the Carta Merchants as it brings an entirely new approach to coffee.
For those who prefer a lighter roast, we recommend trying their Meridian Roast. Although this is the lightest roast they have available, some may still consider it darker than most light roasts. Nonetheless, this coffee offers mild and consistent citrus notes throughout the full duration. The flavor tapers off cleanly leaving just the right amount of refined acidity on the tongue. This serves as a great complement to the Captain's Roast.
I've said this before and I'll say it again. In my experience, coffee companies that actually care about transparency and ethical sourcing tend to produce better coffee than those that don't. Carta Coffee has proven themselves to be another shining example of this by simply sharing their passion for coffee with their customers.
The Verdict: Carta Coffee is a relative newcomer in the Kona Coffee space. However, in a short time, they've earned a reputation for providing some of the most pure Kona coffee available. Having tried their coffee, I can say it's a very well-deserved reputation.
Recommended: If you'd like to explore other Kona coffee options that make the grade, check out our list of Best Kona Coffees available.