Have you ever wondered what makes Kona coffee so special?
If you’re a fan of coffee, then chances are that you’ve heard about the amazing flavor and quality of Kona coffee. But did you know that it’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world? It’s true!
Many people believe the best Kona coffee beans are grown in Hawaii, and they’re right because true Kona coffee is ONLY grown in Hawaii.
You’ll learn all about how this delicious variety is grown and harvested in Hawaii, as well as some interesting facts about its history. By the end of this article, I’m sure your mouth will be watering for a cup (or two) of this great-tasting brew. So let’s get started!
- Our Favorite
- The Top 5 Best Kona Coffee Beans
- What is Kona coffee?
- What’s so special about Kona coffee?
- What To Look For In The Best Kona Coffee
- What does Kona coffee taste like?
- The Kona Coffee Industry And Its Scandal
- Alternative Kona Coffee Beans At A Glance
- What is Peaberry Kona Coffee?
- Why is 100% Kona coffee so expensive?
- Does Kona coffee come in K-cups?
- Where to Buy Kona Coffee
- Final Thoughts
The Top 5 Best Kona Coffee Beans
Volcanica is a well-known name in the coffee business, and they’ve done themselves proud with their Kona Peaberry, one of the best Kona Coffees on our list. If you’re looking for an authentic experience with a flavor that can be described as smooth, nutty, and luscious with an intense aroma, this is the coffee bean for you!
You can taste the quality from the first sip. This Peaberry is smooth, rich, and consistent, with a hint of almonds, chocolate, orange blossoms, and cherries. The medium roast allows for a delicate yet complex flavor that is finished off with notes of caramel and a sweet honey aroma. It’s rare to find a Kona coffee that really stands out from the crowd of already high-quality coffees, but this one definitely does.
This 100% Kona coffee by Keala is one of our favorites. It’s a bold and balanced medium roast that goes great with breakfast or dessert. With hints of toasted coconut and passion fruit, this specialty coffee is smooth and rich, with a solid body.
This Extra Fancy grade Kona coffee is one of Bean Box’s rarest and best-selling coffees. Keala 100% Kona has a smooth, pleasant body with hints of toasted coconut and passion fruit. Keala is the only born-and-bred Hawaiian roaster in the Seattle area, and they source their coffee through direct relationships with small, family-run Kona farms.
Bean Box 100% Kona Coffee is the best way to keep the vacation spirit alive with a freshly-roasted batch of the newest crop of Hawaiian coffee, so make a french press to pair with dessert or enjoy it all by itself.
Blue Horse is a company known for its dedication to producing the highest-quality 100% Kona coffee beans. Blue Horse’s Kona is a single estate coffee that is shade-grown in the high mountains of the Kona region. When the beans are at the ultimate ripeness, they are handpicked, then sun-dried and washed with rainwater before roasting.
The medium roast profile of this 100% Kona coffee is slightly darker than a traditional medium roast, giving it complex fragrant, floral notes with a lingering sweetness with a light velvety body. The aroma consists of nut-like scents with hints of almond and tropical vanilla.
Royal Kona has been roasting premium 100% Kona coffee since 1969 and their Private Reserve 100% Kona coffee shows that excellence comes with years of practice.
If you are looking to reminisce on that Hawaiian vacation, it’s likely that this is the coffee you will remember since it is the largest retailer to the island’s hotels and restaurants.
This 100% Kona coffee has a medium roast that brings forward distinctive flavors of cocoa and almonds with a creamy texture and acidity is low so this coffee will not sour the palate. The final result is a complex cup that is best enjoyed on its own or paired with a sweet dessert, but it can also be used in your morning cup if you’re looking for something bold.
Mountain Thunder’s Private Reserve exemplifies all that the classic Kona flavor embodies. It has a medium body with bright, clean notes of cocoa and toffee. The flavors are complex but never overpowering.
The beans are carefully hand-selected and then slow-roasted in small batches by master roasters. The beans are then immediately packaged and sealed in specialty coffee bags and shipped within a few days of roasting to ensure maximum freshness.
Mountain Thunder is a great tasting 100% Kona Coffee that can be enjoyed anytime- hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened so brew up a cup and travel back to Hawaii.
What is Kona coffee?
Kona Coffee refers to the coffee beans grown on the slopes of Hualalai, in the Kona region of the Island of Hawaii. This small area, sometimes called the Kona Coffee Belt only stretches along 30 miles of coastline. But it produces amazing coffee beans that are used to brew cup after cup of world-class coffee.
Kona coffee itself is grown from a coffee variety called Guatemalan Typica, also known as “Kona Typica” and is a high-quality type of Arabica coffee. The high elevation of the area, along with rich volcanic soil, ideal cloud coverage, and perfect temperatures make the Kona region the ideal place to grow these highly sought-after beans.
What’s so special about Kona coffee?
There are many tropical locations (including other parts of Hawaii) that produce amazing coffee, but what makes true Kona coffee so special is the unique microclimate of the region where it’s grown.
Located on the western slope of a volcano at between 1,000 to 3,500 feet above sea level, its unique microclimate is the ideal environment for growing the perfect coffee beans. Perfect tropical temperatures combined with morning sun along with afternoon showers, make the rich, well-drained volcanic soil a magical hotbed for growing delicious coffee.
Hawaii has a rich history of coffee farming, and the coveted Kona coffee is its prized jewel. This special coffee is so highly- regarded that the state even has laws in place to ensure customers buying 100% Kona coffee are getting the real deal!
What To Look For In The Best Kona Coffee
If you want to indulge in a fragrant cup of Kona coffee, you need to keep a few things in mind when purchasing in order to get the best Kona coffee flavor.
Only purchase coffee labeled 100% Kona coffee. Kona blends can have as little as 10% real Kona coffee and still label themselves as a Kona.
Splurge on the coffees labeled 100% Estate-Grown or Single-Soured Kona Coffee. While these coffees are usually more expensive, these labels also mean all of the coffee beans were grown, sorted, and roasted on the same farm, which means that they will also have the best Kona coffee flavor profile.
If you really want to indulge, look for 100% Peaberry Kona Coffee. It is made from a special coffee bean that only makes up a small fraction of the total Kona coffee harvest, making it one of the rarest coffees in the world.
What does Kona coffee taste like?
Kona coffee has a unique flavor profile and aroma that has put the Kona growing region on the world coffee map. Coffee grown in this region is generally described as bright, crisp, and clean. It has hints of brown sugar, milk chocolate, honey, and ends with a hit of bright fruit flavor. Expect a very pleasant aftertaste of nuts and citrus to linger on the palate.
The aroma of this prized coffee has a unique mix of sweetness, reminiscent of caramel, butter, cocoa, and fruit. This famed aroma combined with the flavor and aftertaste is what makes Kona coffee so unique, addictive, and coveted among coffee connoisseurs
The Kona Coffee Industry And Its Scandal
Kona coffee first became notable in the 1800s and its famed coffee beans have grown more and more popular ever since. Unfortunately, when you have a popular product, you also encounter many opportunists trying to make a quick buck.
Between 1993 – 1996, the Kona Kai scandal shook the coffee world and had a huge impact on the Kona coffee name. A coffee supplier named Michael Norton began selling cheap, substandard, American coffee that he bagged and labeled as “100% Pure Hawaii Kona.”
So, how do you tell which coffee is real and which is a scam? Thanks to the work of food scientist Joseph Rivera, who created a method of verifying the origin of a coffee bean, Hawaii now makes it mandatory for all green coffee that is being exported to be tested for origin. Any exported coffee must be certified as pure Kona by the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture before shipping out.
Alternative Kona Coffee Beans At A Glance
With this rise in popularity of Kona coffee, coffee companies began to experiment with different Kona coffee blends, calling them 100% Kona Blends, and selling them at a cheaper price. Unfortunately, the taste of these coffee beans is nowhere near that of 100% Kona coffee.
If you want to enjoy the true flavor of the best Kona coffee beans, you need to keep a few things in mind when shopping.
Stay Away From “Kona Blends”
100% Kona coffee blends can be misleading. They are often cheap, low-quality coffee mixed with at least 10% of pure Kona coffee. The labeling, while technically accurate, allows companies to sell inferior coffee at a higher price. These coffee blends will never live up to the flavor of 100% Kona coffee beans.
Stay Away From ‘Kona Beans’ That Are NOT from the Kona Region
True Kona coffee beans come from South Kona. North Kona coffee beans are grown in the Kohala region. Coffee grown outside of either of these regions is not real Kona coffee and does not have the high quality or distinctive taste of true Kona beans.
Always Check The ‘grade’
Kona coffee beans are graded according to size and quality. The grading allows you to see how much care and attention was put into growing, sorting, roasting, and packaging your coffee beans. To get the best Kona coffee beans you need to look for a grade of “AA.”
What is Peaberry Kona Coffee?
Peaberry Kona coffee is a special grade Kona coffee bean made up of the fattest and most flavorful part of the bean. It contains a more concentrated flavor than any other Kona coffee and is known for its distinctively smooth and syrupy taste.
Peaberry Kona coffee is one of the most highly prized Kona coffee beans and is usually considerably more expensive than other grades of Kona. However, for coffee connoisseurs, Peaberry Kona coffee may be worth the price.
Why is 100% Kona coffee so expensive?
Like the Champagne region of France, Kona coffee refers to coffee grown in a specific region of Hawaii. The region, not being very large, is only able to produce a limited supply of these sought-after coffee beans. The limited supply and high demand for the best Kona coffee, often makes it quite expensive.
Another factor in the expensive Kona coffee pricing is production cost. The price of land in Hawaii is very expensive, and since Hawaii is an island, production materials such as equipment and fertilizers have to be shipped in.
A final factor to consider is the cost of labor. Unlike other countries, Hawaii is part of the United States and must adhere to US federal regulations and minimum wage standards. Countries like Ethiopia, Colombia, and Kenya that produce a large percentage of the world’s coffee supply, can lower production costs by paying a lower labor wage, providing consumers a less expensive product.
In a word…yes. When the Keurig coffee maker hit the market and became a part of mainstream America, several Kona blends became available for these machines, but 100% Kona coffee K-cups were hard to find. With the rise in popularity of single-serve coffee machines, Kona roasters have begun stepping up to fill the demand for 100% Kona coffee pods.
There are still a lot of Kona blends out there too though, so be sure to read the packaging carefully to make sure you are getting the coffee you’re paying for.
Where to Buy Kona Coffee
At one time, the only place you could find true Kona coffee was on the island of Hawaii itself. However, with modern transportation, Kona is easier to come by.
Kona blends are easy to find in your local supermarket but if you want a true 100% Kona coffee, you will most likely need to look online…unless you are lucky enough to live in Hawaii near the Kona region.
While there are a number of online retailers you could search to find the best Kona coffee, all of the coffees mentioned in this guide can be purchased with the click of a button and arrive at your doorstep in a few days. No plane ticket required!
Which brand of Kona Coffee is best?
There are many varieties of Kona but our favorite is Keala 100% Kona by Bean Box.
Does Starbucks sell Kona coffee?
No, Starbucks does not sell Kona. While there are a number of Starbucks locations on the island of Hawaii, these stores do not actually sell any Kona coffee beans.
What is the best way to brew Kona Coffee?
While all 100% Kona coffees would taste great brewed in a French press or drip machine, we think that a pour-over is the way to go.
Why is Kona Coffee So Expensive?
As we mentioned earlier, there are a number of factors that lead to the high cost of pure Kona coffee, including the cost of labor along with supply and demand.
Kona coffee beans are considered by many to be some of the best in the world. The unique flavor and quality of Kona coffee can only be found on the big island of Hawaii, specifically in the Kona district. While Kona coffee is often blended with other coffees to create a “Kona blend”, true Kona enthusiasts know that nothing beats 100% pure Kona coffee. If you’re looking to try some of the best Kona coffee out there, make sure to check out a bag labeled 100% Kona!