Believe it or not, there are many coffee lovers out there who have never heard of much less tried Kona Coffee. What was once a little-known type of specialty coffee has catapulted itself into global coffee stardom. This article will discuss what Kona coffee is along with tips on shopping the best Kona coffee on the market.
Making up just 1% of the world's coffee beans, Kona Coffee is both rare and a favorite amongst coffee connoisseurs. It has appellation status, much like all good Italian cheeses and French wines, and can only be grown on the slopes of Hualalai and Muana Loa in Hawaii. With only 30 miles2 of land within these areas, it's no wonder it is one of the rarer and more expensive coffees.
Kona uses Arabica beans and owes it's reputation to the unique growing environment on the Hawaiian mountainside. The last volcanic eruption in 1801 covered the slopes in lava, and has created a volcanic soil bed which is surprisingly high in nutrients. This coupled with the sunny mornings, cloudy afternoons and mild nights of Hawaii, makes it's incredibly hard to replicate elsewhere. Kona also benefits from being hand picked by generations of coffee farmers which produces better quality coffee than the traditional machine picked and processed beans.
A good cup of Kona will typically be light, sweet and fruity with nutty undertones. It should have an aromatic and smooth finish.
However, all Kona is not created equal and as a result, shopping for the best Kona coffee isn't always as a straightforward as you might think.
Firstly, much like a good Scotch, it's better to buy from a single source rather than blended. A lot of the ‘Kona' coffee beans/ground sold in shops will be a blend, and only have to contain 10% Kona beans. Obviously, having the full 100% will make for a much richer Kona coffee experience. At the same time, it should be noted that just because there's more Kona doesn't mean it tastes better. Every coffee lover has their own specific taste profiles so the best Kona coffee for you may look very different than your coffee-loving friend.
Then you'll need to check on the grading of the beans. All Kona beans are graded by the Hawaiian agricultural society and are rated based on; size, shape, moisture content and the number of defects.
- Extra Fancy – this is the best of the best, with the largest and most moisture rich beans
- Fancy – one step down, this coffee still contains highly graded beans.
- Kona number 1 – this one has smaller beans but contains the same moisture content as the top two tiers.
- Kona Select – this grading has no specifications on bean size
- Kona Prime – if there's no grading label, then it's probably prime. This is the more affordable version of the bean.
Don't get too caught up on the grading though, and just buy the best beans you can afford. Remember, all Kona beans are rare and grown to create an exquisite cup of coffee. Having said all this, it should come to no surprise that some of the most authentic and downright best Kona coffee providers are based in Hawaii. Below are some highly recommended coffee brands that sell literally some of the best Kona coffee on the market.
Formed in 1968, Royal Kona produces exceptionally high quality Kona coffee that's earned a position in virtually every fine-dining and upscale hotel establishment in Hawaii. They offer coffee that's 100% Kona along with the option for a 10% Kona blend.
As a well-established name in the Kona coffee game, Lion Coffee offers 100% Kona blends designed to harness the full flavor and depth of Kona coffee.
Volcanica Coffee's Kona Blend is rated as “Extra Fancy” and offers 100% pure Kona so you can rest assured that you're getting the full authenticity of a true Kona experience.