What Is Kona Coffee? All coffees that originate in the very small Kona District of Hawaii are termed Kona coffee. The state of Hawaii mandates that only coffee grown in this region can be referred to as 100% Kona coffee.
You may have tried a Kona blend (or even a Hawaiian Kona blend) but if you have not had 100 Kona coffee, you don't know what you're missing! In this review we will explore how this coffee is grown, what makes it different, and where you can find and buy from the best Kona coffee brands in mainland USA.
Quick Review: Our Top Picks Of The Best Kona Coffee
Kona coffee is especially rich because of the unique soil quality and perfect climate found in the Kona coffee region.
Coffee was brought to Hawaii by the Rev. Samuel Ruggles in the early 1800s. It took a while for coffee to be recognized as a profitable agricultural crop; however, by 1899 there were a number of successful coffee plantations on Mount Hualalai and Mauna Loa. Today, Hawaii is home to approximately 500 small (5 acre) coffee plantations.
Although, the climate in Hawaii is generally excellent for growing coffee because of its typically cloudy afternoons, the climate in the Kona coffee region is ideal.
This is why Kona coffee is number-one in flavor and balance when compared with other coffee – even the many other fine coffees that hail from different areas in Hawaii.
Even the best grocery store coffee can't compete.
How Is Kona Coffee Grown?
In the Kona coffee region, Hawaii, coffee plants are in bloom and are pollinated between February and March. Coffee berries develop between April and August and are harvested from September through January.
Each coffee tree produces between 20 and 30 pounds of coffee berries.
From September to January, the coffee mills are in operation 24/7. Workers are kept busy testing the berries for color and freshness before sending them to be pulped.
The pulper is a machine that strips the flesh (which will be used as fertilizer) from the berries leaving only the coffee beans. The beans are then fermented, cleaned and dried.
What's Different About Kona Coffee?
You really have to taste Kona coffee to understand its unique quality. You can always count on Kona coffees to be smooth, sweet and flavorful with citrus or nutty aftertaste.
Sipping a cup of Kona coffee is unlike drinking coffee of any other type because it is simultaneously a relaxing and energizing experience.
Unlike most coffee, when you finish your cup of Kona coffee you will feel rejuvenated rather than jangled!
Pure Kona coffee is distinct other types of coffee; however, you may not know this because adulterated coffees are often sold as Kona coffee. You must read labels carefully to determine where your coffee comes from.
Pure Kona coffee comes from the Hawaiian Islands. Adulterated mixes containing only about 10% Kona coffee come from Brazil or Colombia.
The very best, classic Kona coffees are organically grown and come from mainstream tree varieties such as the Kona Typica. Additionally, they are carefully prepared and processed to create the perfect balanced and nuanced flavor.
Grading 100% Kona Coffee
Since the 1980s, Kona coffee has been subject to a strict rating system. The reason for this is that toward the end of the 20th century, there were no laws governing the labeling of Kona coffee. This meant that the name "Kona" could be used on any kind of coffee.
This was very bad for Kona coffee producers because it costs quite a bit more to grow coffee in the Kona region than in other coffee growing areas. Since the grading system has been in place, the market is fairer for both farmers and consumers.
Kona Coffee Grading System:
- Kona Extra Fancy – the very best with impressively superior flavor.
- Kona Fancy – also quite excellent, but made with slightly smaller beans.
- Kona One – usually found mixed with a higher grade to create a 100% Kona Coffee blend.
- Kona Select – may be sold as an affordable 100% Kona or used in a 10% blend (90% filler).
- Kona Prime – may be sold as an affordable 100% Kona or used in a 10% blend (90% filler).
According to Hawaii's Agricultural society, Kona coffees are required to pass inspection and be graded in order to be sold with the "Kona" label.
The beans are classified by a number of criteria including moisture content and size, shape and defects. Larger beans with higher moisture content are better and more flavorful. Beans with a more uniform shape and fewer defects are preferred.
This grading criteria is only applied to coffee beans coming from the Kona District. Beans from other areas in Hawaii are simply separated by size, which results in uneven flavor extraction.
With these criteria in place, you can count on Kona Extra Fancy beans to be larger, more moist, more flavorful and free of blemishes and defects. All of these qualities make a tremendous difference in the flavor of the finished product.
What Is Kona Peaberry Coffee?
You should also know about Type II Beans. These are Peaberry beans, and they are the very best of the best. They grow one bean per cherry; whereas, coffee cherries usually contain two coffee beans. This is why most coffee beans have one flat side.
Peaberries are significantly smaller than average coffee beans and are oval in shape. They have a higher moisture content and far fewer imperfections than even Kona Extra Fancy beans.
These beans are simply produced by nature, and they are very rare. As a matter of fact, only about 3% of Kona coffee beans grown are Peaberries.
These beans roast beautifully and produce coffee that is smooth, full-bodied and has a bit of a bite! It's no wonder that coffee connoisseurs call Kona Peaberry coffee "Kona Champagne".
There is very high demand for Peaberries, but nature cannot be rushed! If you want absolutely top-notch Kona coffee, look for Peaberry beans, and be prepared to pay the price! Top-quality Peaberry coffee is generally priced at about $50 a pound.
How To Buy The Best Kona Coffee
When purchasing Kona coffee, it pays to do your homework. Look into the background and history of the plantations whose products you are considering purchasing. Farms that are well-established with a solid tradition of producing high-quality, pure Kona coffees are the only ones you can trust if you truly seek genuine Kona flavor.
Be aware that Kona coffee “BLENDS” are usually low-quality mixes with a very low percentage of actual Kona coffee.
Of course, when you simply see Kona coffees offered in shops you may very well be tempted to take a chance without doing your homework. This is fine, as long as you are willing to take the risk of getting a coffee that is not pure Kona.
For a safe bet when purchasing Kona coffee, you can always turn to our top picks that offer the finest of Kona coffees available in the USA.
Our Top Kona Coffee Picks
This is the largest Kona coffee roaster worldwide, and its coffees are phenomenally popular in stores, restaurants and hotels throughout the islands. This company is a well-established producer of two very well known and popular brands:
Lion Coffee and Royal Kona Coffee
- Lion Coffee is a traditional brand that began making a name for itself in 1864. It is made using only the very finest of beans, the best roasting methods and packaging that ensures dependable freshness.
- Royal Kona Coffee is also a Hawaiian tradition having gotten its start in 1968. Royal Kona Coffee is 100% Kona, and it is the favorite of the finest restaurants and hotels throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
The Koa Coffee Plantation has been in business since 1997. It is owned and operated by the Artuckovich family. This plantation rests on the Mauna Loa slopes in Hawaii's "Kona coffee belt". The soil here is rich in volcanic ash and produces an equally rich and flavorful coffee.
Koa Coffee started out as a very small plantation, but the business quickly grew thanks to the high quality of its 100% pure Kona coffees. Today Koa Coffees are a worldwide sensation produced with top-of-the-line equipment and carefully vacuum sealed to bring a rich, fresh roasted aroma straight to you.
It's no wonder, Forbes magazine has called Koa coffees the best coffee in America.
Here are just a few of the offerings from Koa Coffee:
- Peaberry Kona Coffee – this is the very rarest of Kona coffees.
- Private Reserve Kona – this is a tasty, all Kona blend of Peaberry and extra fancy beans.
- Grand Domain Kona – beans for this coffee come from ancient trees.
- Estate Kona Coffee – an all-Kona mixture of the top three grades of beans.
- Decaf Kona – water washed decaf with all the Kona flavor and no caffeine.
Koa coffee is all about the smoothness, full flavor high-quality and exquisite balance of these offerings.
Starbucks is a top-rated provider of Kona coffee. Their Kona Private Reserve 100% Parry Estate Coffee is a very high quality Kona coffee made with Peaberry beans.
It boasts a citrusy/floral aroma and a sweet nutty/caramel flavor.
It comes from a well-established plantation situated at a very high altitude on the slopes of Mauna Loa. This coffee is carefully cultured, gathered and prepared for optimum flavor and freshness. It has a delightful and balanced flavor that everyone can appreciate.
You may be able to find a Starbucks near you that offers Kona Private Reserve by the cup. This is a great way to sample it before ordering a bag of coffee beans for home.
You should know that no matter how much effort you put into choosing your coffee, you can ruin it by brewing it incorrectly. When you brew your coffee properly, you bring out all the flavor and nuance of your well chosen beans.
Grind Your Beans
For the freshest cup, buy whole beans and keep them in the freezer. Only grind them when you are ready to brew them.
Use A Press!
When preparing Kona coffee, you can naturally use any coffee preparation method that you personally prefer; however, there are a couple of methods that are generally considered best. They are the Aeropress and the French Press.
The Aeropress produces a crisp, clean taste.
The French Press produces a heavier and richer flavor because the grounds sit in the water rather than having the water simply flow through them.
You may also use a standard coffee maker with a filter. If you do, be sure to use a natural, bleach free filter or a reusable filter for the best flavor. Your choice between these types of preparation or another favorite method will naturally depend upon your personal preferences.
No matter which method of brewing you choose, you should use a rounded teaspoonful of coffee grounds per four ounce cup. If you drink from larger cups or mugs, go with a slightly rounded tablespoon per mug.
Keep It Pure: Filtered Water
Use fresh, filtered water as opposed to bottled water or water straight from the tap. A good filtration pitcher will remove any chemicals and impurities from your tap water, and fresh filtered tap water produces a livelier, fresher taste than bottled water.
Control The Temperature
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the brewing method you have chosen very closely, and always be sure to keep an eye on the brewing temperature. Between 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect.
* You do not want to boil or scald your coffee. This will ruin it.
While your coffee is brewing, keep your cup or mug in a warm place or fill it with hot water so that it will be pre-heated before you pour your coffee. When you do this, your coffee will stay hotter and more flavorful for a longer period of time.
Keep It Natural
You should also be sure to add only natural ingredients to your coffee. You have gone to the trouble of selecting the very best, natural, organically grown Kona coffee. Don't spoil it with artificial sweeteners and non-dairy creamer!
Which Brand Is Best?
If you are a coffee drinker, you know that preferences in coffee are a particularly personal matter. You also know that coffee flavor and quality can vary widely from one brand to another.
With the many different types of Kona coffees and Kona coffee blends available on the market today, you can very easily spend a great deal of time seeking out just the right Kona coffee for you.
It is our goal to be the best Kona coffee guide online! We hope to help save you time and money by offering you the latest information on flavorful Kona coffee varieties available in the market today.
You can rest assured that when you try one of our top picks, you will be presented with the cream of the crop. We feel certain that no matter which variety you choose, you will not find it lacking in quality. Determining your personal favorite will simply be a matter of exercising your personal preference.