Why 100% Kona Coffee is the Best
Have you ever wondered why so many coffee brands can put “Kona” on the label? Here’s a little backstory to what makes Kona so special and why 100% is the best way to go.
A Brief History of Kona Coffee
Coffee was first introduced to Hawai’i in 1825 and has become the islands’ staple alongside pineapples, macadamia nuts, and papaya. The landmass currently utilized for coffee production in Hawai’i is estimated to be more than 3,500 acres.
Authentic 100% Kona coffee quickly established itself as a luxury beverage. As the world economy fluctuated, so did the production and demand of Hawai’i’s Kona coffee. The cultivation and production of Kona coffee provided opportunities for generations of immigrants and locals alike who share a strong love for the land as well as respect for the island’s ecology and natural balance.
What Makes Kona Coffee so Special
Coffee trees are extremely fickle and often need considerable human engagement in order to stoke and promote growth. The “Kona Coffee Belt” provides optimal growing conditions for the coffee plant because its young, volcanic soil is extremely rich in minerals and organic mass.
The Kona coffee growing region receives an average of 70 inches of rainfall each year. Annual average temperatures in this region are between 60°F-78°F. Combine that with the ideal elevation between 700 and 2500 feet and good soil absorption, and you have nearly perfect conditions for coffee production. Kona Coffee & Tea’s farm sits high at around 2000 feet elevation.
The Kona Coffee Reputation
There is little in business as valuable as reputation. It takes constant care and nurturing to develop and maintain a favorable reputation. Kona coffee farmers are passionate about 100% Kona coffee. Many Kona coffee farmers live on their land, and their coffee farms are often passed down for generations. The passion and engagement of these families come through in the coffee they produce and adds an invaluable element to the final product.
Unfortunately, the “Kona Coffee” name has been subject to plagiarism, counterfeiting, and deceit by nefarious companies and individuals who want to profit off of its good reputation.
Within the state of Hawai’i, Kona coffee is subject to a complex grading system by the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) that helps ensure the authenticity and quality of Kona coffee produced and sold in Hawai’i, but there is little regulation on how the term “Kona Coffee” is used outside of the state.
Coffee roasters have been blending coffees of different origins for about as long as coffee has been commercially produced and exported. The point of blending is to combine coffees of different origins and different taste profiles together to produce a targeted flavor profile. In the case of Kona blends, however, companies often take advantage of the state law that allows them to use the Kona name if the blend has a minimum of 10% Kona Coffee. As a 100% Kona Coffee consumer, you want to read the labels carefully as it is common practice for these companies to display the name “Kona” in large, highly visible fonts, while the word “blend” is noticeably small.
Good news is that there are efforts attempting to change the outdated state laws and regulations regarding blends. Currently, two bills have been passed in the Hawaiian legislature that will increase the minimum requirement of Hawaiian coffees used in blends labeled after a particular growing region be a minimum of 51%, instead of the current 10%. Many such bills have failed in the past due to strong lobbies and large amounts of capital from the large companies who profit off the current blending model. Among the local Kona Coffee producers, there is an almost unanimous consensus that the current regulations are harmful to the industry.
How you can Support 100% Kona Coffee
Whenever possible, develop a personal connection with the Kona coffee producer or roaster you are buying your coffee from. The Kona coffee community is made up of hundreds of small to medium-sized farms and it is common that the families producing and selling the coffee also personally handle customer service issues, such as answering phone calls or emails. You will almost never find one of these small producers outsourcing customer relations. Thus, outsourced services like this could be a red flag and would warrant more extensive research.
When you visit Kona, we recommend you go to the many cafés, tasting rooms, and farm tours offered throughout the region. Sample the different offerings from all the local small farms and see if you find a favorite. A great time for Kona coffee enthusiasts to visit Kona is during the Kona Coffee and Cultural Festival, held every November. For two weeks, Kona celebrates all things coffee and its beautiful ties with Hawaiian heritage. There are many opportunities to meet coffee producers and taste their coffees as well as to participate in educational workshops and seminars.
Online, you should do more research than simply trusting a company's website. Nowadays, it is not difficult to set up a website and fill it with interesting photos and seemingly legitimate content. Call or email the farm if you have questions or doubts. Kona coffee farmers generally love to “talk story” about all things Kona, and appreciate your valuable input and curiosity.
Finally, avoid Kona Coffee that sells for substantially less than the industry average, which is currently $26 for 8 oz. The costs of production and distribution are universally high for Kona coffee producers. Even at the current market prices, Kona coffee producers are primarily just covering costs.
We at Kona Coffee & Tea remain focused on what we do best. We are passionate about growing and sharing the world’s best 100% Kona coffee with all of you. We are focused on family, community, ecology, and equality. We want to bring people together through the love of Kona coffee and Hawaiian culture. Thank you for being an integral presence of this remarkable dream. As always we wish you all much health and Aloha!
Kona Coffee & Tea is a family-owned and operated, single-estate farm. Our farm is located in the heart of the “Kona Coffee Belt” in the high elevations of Holualoa. Although our farm is not generally publicly accessible, we have started offering customized farm tours and farm experiences (Covid-19 restrictions may apply). Our Kona Coffee & Tea Café is located in the center of Kona.
All the coffee used in our café and sold online comes exclusively from our single-estate family farm. We are always eager and happy to answer all your questions and inquiries. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact link on our website konacoffeeandtea.com.