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The Artistry of Roasting

The Artistry of Roasting

After growing, picking, milling, and drying our 100% Kona coffee, one of the final steps is roasting. Roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into the roasted coffee we know and love. This is where that rich aroma and chocolatey color is developed. We’ll explore the artistry of roasting 100% Kona coffee below.

Coffee roaster Danny Bolton explains his philosophy behind small-batch roasting at the Kona Coffee & Tea café, in Kona, Hawaii.

The Kona coffee industry is unique in countless ways. Hawaii is presently the only commercial coffee-growing region in the United States. The cost of production and processing are higher than any other coffee-growing regions around the world. In order to be successful in the American/Hawaiian coffee industry, it is essential that our coffee stand out significantly beyond the status quo. When you drink Kona coffee it should stop you in your tracks, even for a brief moment, and demand your attention. It should make you think, “oh… Oh… OH… this is not your standard cup of coffee. There is something special about this coffee.”

PHOTOS ABOVE: Ike Huffman, Hale Magazine


As a family-owned-and-operated business, Kona Coffee & Tea seeks to be transparent and familiar with our entire staff and customers. We want to share with you our excitement and passion and give you the opportunity to educate yourself about our products and all things 100% Kona. Being confident and somewhat obsessed with our coffee, we’d like to help you in becoming a well-educated consumer who recognizes the merits of a great cup of coffee and the values, dedication, and passion that stand behind it. We offer brewing tips and recipes here on our website to further aid you in getting the most out of your coffee.

We are happily dependent upon one single-origin coffee - that's our 100% Kona from our Waiono Meadow farm. We invest all our resources and energy into mastering the art of growing, processing, and roasting in order to get the very best out of the coffee we produce. We never stop learning and striving to be even better. In previous posts, we have touched upon growing and processing coffee. In this post, we would like to focus our attention on “The Artistry of Roasting”

When you order coffee from us it is easy to forget that all of our coffee is from the same single estate farm in Kona. It never ceases to amaze us the variety of flavors, body, aroma, and personality achieved through the different roasts. Although we are using the same beans for our light, medium, and dark roasts, they almost feel like three completely different coffees.

Kona Coffee & Tea’s 100% Kona coffee comes from the Waiono Meadow Estate Farm PHOTO: Ike Huffman, Hale Magazine


Our Master Roaster, Lani, has been roasting coffee for us since 2003 (that’s close to two decades of a single hand roasting Kona Coffee & Tea beans). Over the past few years, she has been passing the knowledge of roasting to Danny, who is part of the Bolton family and also mills our coffee. To watch Lani work is like watching a choreographed dance. You can see how the years of experience have ingrained her with an all-encompassing awareness when it comes to coffee roasting. Watching Lani roast is to witness true artistry. She enables the coffee to come to its optimal expression. A factor that is reflected time and again whenever you brew up that cup of Kona Coffee & Tea coffee.

Danny Bolton getting ready to roast at the Kona Coffee & Tea café in Kailua-Kona. PHOTO: Blake Wisz


We roast only small 25lbs batches at a time. This enables us to sell only fresh roasted coffee shortly after it has been roasted. We recommend whole bean coffee as it maintains the freshness of the coffee substantially longer than ground coffee. Look for coffee to slightly puff-up or ‘bloom’ when you first add water to it. The bloom is a sure sign of freshness.

Unroasted green coffee beans. PHOTO: Blake Wisz

Unroasted green coffee beans. PHOTO: Blake Wisz


Green coffee, as unroasted coffee is referred to, is rock hard and pretty much flavorless. It would be very difficult to grind unroasted coffee. Coffee is roasted to bring about a multitude of chemical reactions of which the “Maillard reaction” is the most prominently known. The Maillard reaction is basically the browning reaction. Anything that browns, think toast or steak, has undergone the Maillard reaction. The result is that the coffee takes on color and develops an extremely broad range of flavors and aromas. (Did you know coffee has more aromatics than wine?) Roasting also breaks down the cellular structure of the green coffee bean causing it to expand, expel moisture, and change its structure. There is no consensus on how coffee roasting came about. Prior to the roasting process, green coffee was boiled whole (sometimes still in the cherry) similar to tea or soup.

Kona coffee beans in parchment, green, roasted, and brewed forms. PHOTO: : Dayva Keolanui


We are in a truly great position in Kona in that we can experience the effects different roasts have on the same coffee. At Kona Coffee & Tea, we grow and process all of our coffees ourselves. Thus, we can truly isolate the difference roasting makes in taste and the overall profile of the final cup. This can be extremely difficult for roasters buying coffee on the green coffee market. As mentioned above, although we start with the same green coffee, the degree of roast has an enormous effect on the flavor of the final cup.

Our 100% Kona Light roasted coffee can be said to be the truest expression of Terra (growing conditions, etc) of the Kona Coffee Belt. People that favor light roasts tend to appreciate the brighter and more fruity flavors that highlight the characteristics of the growing region at the forefront. When it comes to brewing, light roasted coffees tend to require a more exacting technique and recipe.

Kona Coffee & Tea Medium roast is the most popular of our roasts and not surprisingly so. The Medium roast offers an optimal mix of terra and roast profiles. There tends to be less brightness than in light roasts while also offering the depth and complexity brought about by the roast profile.

Dark roasts are rich with flavors acquired through the roasting process. Here you will see less bright flavors and more deep, dark flavors like cocoa or roasted nuts. You may lose some body in the darker roasts but not a lot and switching to a French Press or similar immersion method of brewing will more than make up for that. Dark roasts are generally sweeter tasting and often welcoming to the addition of cream or milk.


Generally, lighter roasts offer more fruit flavors and pop, while the darker roasts bring in more richness and depth. Even with our farm, milling, and roasting remaining consistent, annual changes in weather and other growing conditions subtly change the flavors found in the final cup. Click here to see what we’ve found in the current crop.


Having the best coffee in the world is useless if the needs of optimal storage are neglected. We highly recommend that you never freeze your coffee. Freezers have built-in thaw cycles that combined with the opening and closing of the freezer door lead to condensation of the beans which will negatively affect essential flavors. The same goes for the refrigerator. Additionally, both the refrigerator and freezer have scents that can easily be absorbed into the coffee.

We recommend that you leave the coffee in the resealable bags they come in or transfer them into an airtight sealed container. Store the coffee somewhere cool, not cold, dark and away from scents and smells. Here again, if possible we strongly consider you order whole bean coffee. The surface area of ground coffee is more than that of the whole bean which allows the aromas and flavors of the coffee to be affected more quickly and easily.


Coffee is so diverse and requires so much care and attention to get that perfect cup. We at Kona Coffee & Tea are grateful to have the opportunity to literally taste the results of our passion and discipline. Having full control of the entire process from seed to cup enables us to influence the final brew in countless ways. We never stop learning and innovating, but in the end, we want the coffee to speak for itself. It is often the simplest expression that says the most. Thank you for being a part of this amazing journey with us.

What’s your favorite roast?
Let us know by commenting below or share

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HOW I LIKE MY COFFEE:  Medium Roast Black
HOBBY:  Yoga

I've been involved in the coffee industry for about 16 years. I've been a barista for many years, then a trainer and consultant. I am big on sharing relevant knowledge that will help coffee lovers have the optimal coffee experience. Working with Kona Coffee & Tea Company is like a dream come true. I can't say how rewarding it is to work with such a great product from seed to cup. From the very beginning, being part of the team here, I've felt like family and have been treated like family. The spirit of Aloha is strong as is their dedication to community and quality.

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