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Why Kona Coffee Is The Best Coffee

Updated on September 16, 2015

Kona Coffee Beans From Hawaii

Kona Coffee is the name for coffee (Coffea arabica) grown on the slopes of the volcanoes Mauna Loa and Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Kona coffee is considered to be one of the top gourmet coffees of the world, and is one of the more expensive coffees because of its high quality, high demand and limited supply. Pure Kona coffee makes up less than 1% of the world's total coffee supply.

The unique weather patterns along with the porous, mineral-rich volcanic soil of the Kona Districts create favorable growing conditions for this premium coffee. Also, the skilled work of the kona coffee farmers ensures a consistently top quality product.

Kona Coffee Growing area
Kona Coffee Growing area | Source

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Why is Kona Coffee So Special?

The Best Coffee Beans in Hawaii are From the Kona District

Optimal growing conditions and great care taken while harvesting and processing the coffee contribute to the high quality of Kona Coffee.

Kona coffee grows only in a small area on the west side of the Big Island of Hawaii, along the slopes of the two volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Hualalai. This region is only about 1 - 2 miles wide and 30 miles long at an elevation between 500 -- 3,000 feet.

Kona coffee is grown in fertile, well-drained volcanic soil. The climate of this small area is ideal for optimum coffee growth -- sunny in the morning, with clouds in the afternoon that protect the coffee trees from excessive heat. There's plenty of moisture from rainy afternoons, and the evening temperatures are mild. This climate allows the coffee cherry to mature slowly, leading to a denser, higher quality coffee bean than coffee that matures more quickly.

Because of the steep slopes where the Kona Coffee trees grow, harvesting the coffee cherries (the fruit which contains the coffee beans) is much more labor intensive than in other coffee-growing areas of the world where machinery is used to mass harvest the coffee cherries. Kona Coffee cherries are hand-picked, taking care to pick only the reddest, ripest berries. Then special care is taken during the processing of the beans -- drying, milling, and roasting.

All of this -- the soil, special climate, and the care taken in processing -- are what contribute to the high quality of this gourmet coffee!

Kona Coffee is renowned for its rich flavor, exceptional aroma, smooth taste and delicate acidity.

— Koa Coffee Plantation
Kona Coffee Berries
Kona Coffee Berries | Source

Why is Kona Coffee Expensive?

You Can Buy Kona Coffee Online For Extra Savings

Kona Coffee is more expensive than other types of coffee because of its limited supply and the high cost of growing, harvesting, and processing Kona Coffee in Hawaii.

A Kona Coffee farmer gives good answers to "Why is Kona Coffee So Expensive" using his own expenses as illustrations. I've re-capped a couple of the major reasons below.

In the first place, Hawaii is an expensive place to live in compared to many other coffee-growing countries. If you've ever visited or lived in Hawaii, you know that the cost of living is quite high. Buying or leasing land to grow coffee here is expensive.

Kona coffee cherries are hand-picked, which is more labor-intensive than machine-picking. But machines don't work well on the steep slopes where Kona coffee is grown. Also, given the long harvest season, the cherries don't all ripen at the same time -- they need to be hand-picked to choose only the ripe ones. And the Kona coffee cherry pickers are paid a fair living wage. In other coffee-growing countries, pickers may be paid a few cents a pound, while in the Kona district, pickers are paid at least 50 cents a pound.

Many small Kona coffee farmers don't sell in stores, but just through the internet, to keep costs down for themselves and for the consumer.

This stuff is wonderfully smooth and its lack of a bitter aftertaste makes you think nothing of having that second cup...or third.

— Forbes Magazine about Kona Coffee at the Koa Coffee Plantation
Kona Coffee Beans
Kona Coffee Beans

Kona Coffee -- From Tree to Roasted Bean

Hand-picked kona coffee cherries

Coffee cherries are hand-picked so only the ripest ones are chosen. Kona coffee cherries have a long harvest season, and they ripen at different times, depending on elevation and rainfall. Pickers may go through crops 4 to 8 times during a harvest season to find more ripe coffee cherries.


Coffee cherries are processed to remove the outer layers to expose the Kona coffee beans.


Coffee beans are uniformly sun-dried (sometimes also with the help of mechanical dryers) until the moisture content is about 12%

Milling and Sorting

The thin parchment-like covering of the beans is removed, leaving the green been. Then these green beans are sorted according to size and density.


Roasting the beans involves cooking them for 15 - 30 minutes until the desired roast level is achieved. Lighter roasts have a higher acidity than darker, longer roasts, and keep some of the bean's original flavors that reflect the climate where it was grown. Darker roasts usually bring about a smoother, sweeter taste. Kona coffee beans are naturally smooth and not overly acidic to begin with, so most Kona coffee is given a light or medium roast.

Image of Kona coffee beans by Jennifer CC 2.0


Treat Yourself to Kona Coffee -- Or Buy As a Gift

There are many good companies that sell 100% Pure Kona Coffee. One of these companies is family owned and operated Koa Coffee Plantation which produces the Kona coffee that Forbes called Best in America!

Shown here is the Kona Coffee TriPack Sampler, one of Koa Coffee's best-sellers. It includes 8 oz each:

  • Grande Domaine Kona Coffee, the "grand-daddy of Kona Coffees
  • Private Reserve Kona Coffee, which Forbes called "Best in America"
  • Estate Kona Coffee, one of their best-selling coffees.

Make sure you buy 100% Kona Coffee. "Kona Coffee Blends" aren't blends of different types of Kona Coffee, but mostly a non-Kona coffee with up to only 10% of Kona coffee. You won't get the superior quality and taste of Kona Coffee from a blend.

A 100% Kona Coffee will say so on the bag.

Cup of Kona coffee
Cup of Kona coffee

Brewing Tips for Kona Coffee

These brewing tips were taken from Koa Coffee Plantation Kona Coffee Brewing Tips:

It's always best to grind only enough for each use, as coffee flavor and aroma break down rather quickly. Once your coffee is ground, you're ready to begin brewing.

Follow these instructions for a perfect cup of Kona Coffee:

* Measure one tablespoon per six-ounce cup. You may adjust this based on your taste preference.

* Use fresh, cold tap water, bottled water or, preferably, distilled water

* Make sure your coffeemaker and pot are as clean as possible - if you use an automatic drip machine, clean it with a weak vinegar & water solution, followed by a thorough fresh water rinse

* Follow brewing instructions for your coffeemaker

* Once your brew is finished, remove it from heat immediately. Coffee left sitting on a burner starts to degrade in 20 minutes. Instead, keep your brew fresh in a thermal container

* Never reheat coffee. This can destroy its flavor and leave you with a burnt and/or bitter taste

Image from Julius Schorzman, CC 2.0

Read More About Coffee From Hawaii

The Hawaii Coffee Book, written by coffee scientist Shawn Steiman is a guide to the different coffee regions in Hawaii. Besides reading about the different flavor profiles of coffee growing in different regions of Hawaii, you'll find lots of other interesting information, including where you can get tours of different coffee farms, which cafes roast coffee beans onsite, and where you can buy Hawaiian coffee in person or online.

The Hawaii Coffee Book also includes coffee recipes, and tips how to better enjoy your coffee, including how to brew the perfect pot of coffee.

Chocolate covered coffee beans
Chocolate covered coffee beans | Source

Gift Idea for Coffee and Chocolate Lovers

Koa Coffee's online store offers a variety of different Kona Coffees and Gift Bags. You can choose whole bean or ground coffee, and you can choose your roast.

For those who also like chocolate, a fun treat is this bag of Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans by Koa Coffee. The beans are peaberry beans, the "champagne of Kona Coffee", and they're dipped in creamy semi-sweet chocolate. Very tasty! It also makes a great gift.

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes!

Lovelier than a thousand kisses,

sweeter far than muscatel wine!

I must have my coffee.

— From Johann Sebastian Bach's Kaffee-Kantate

Kona Coffee Information

These are excellent links to more information about Kona Coffee from Hawaii.


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