Understand Kona Coffee in 5 Minutes

BerryBird’s Impression: One of the oldest regions of coffee farming in history and the only coffee that is grown in a developed country. Nothing can be more picturesque in the coffee world when Kona coffee comes to mind. Imagine you just landed in Hawaii, with a flower Lei on your neck, it’s a warm and sunny day, and you are lounging on a beach, listening to the balmy waves crashing on the soft sandy beach – all while enjoying a cup of iced Kona coffee. Overrated? Overpriced? Lacking acidity? All of these opinions change when one actually tries a cup of freshly roasted and brewed Kona coffee.

Kona is a world-renowned region for coffee growing, with approximately 200 years of history.

100% Kona coffee usually has notes of: Cocoa, Caramel, Nuts, Red Berries, and light flowers.

To be named Kona coffee it must strictly follow these criteria

  1. The coffee must be produced in the region of Kona, on Big Island, Hawaii

  2. Must be grown on the stretch of land between the Mauna Loa volcano and the Hualalai volcano, about 30 miles long and 2 miles wide

  3. Coffee labeled as Kona Coffee must be 100% Kona grown, in the exception of Kona Blend coffee which has a minimum requirement of containing at least 10% Kona grown coffee

Historically imported from Guatemala in the late 19th century, Arabica Typica is widely planted throughout Kona (also known as Kona Typica). Approximately 90% of all Kona coffee is Kona Typica, although other Arabica coffee varieties such as Caturra, Mokka, and Maragogype are also growing in Kona. Furthermore, Kona Typica berries usually undergo a washed process to make sure the coffee retains most of its terroir flavors.

Kona coffee is different than other regions for its rare microclimate. In between the 2 volcanoes, the coffee trees experience daily warm sunny mornings and cool misty afternoons. This microclimate gives Kona coffee bean a much higher bean density that is usually reserved for coffee grown in much higher elevations. The farming lots in Kona are all made of porous, volcanic minerals, and have very steep slopes, all of which helped to make sure the coffee trees do not receive too much rain. Furthermore, the volcanic soil helps to give Kona coffee an intensely rich taste that is distinct to this region alone. In 1866 Mark Twain wrote: “I think Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other”.

The key historical moments that shaped Kona coffee:

  1. 1828 Reverend Samuel Ruggles brought Arabica coffee to Kona, Hawaii

  2. 1873 Henry Greenwell brought Kona coffee to 1873 Worlds Fair in Vienna, and the coffee was awarded a recognition that helped to gain its international recognition

  3. 1892 German businessman Hermann Widemann brought the first Guatemalan Arabica Typica variety to Kona

  4. WWII raised a need for coffee for US soldiers, and the demand & price for Kona coffee jumped

  5. 1991, a law allowing 10% Kona coffee to be called Kona Blends (many Kona farmers are fighting to repeal this law up to this day)




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