What Is Kona Coffee – A Beginner’s Guide

What Is Kona Coffee

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Does your daily ritual start with a cup of coffee? Have you tasted all the coffee shops in your town and know which one is the best? If so, then surely, you’ve heard about Kona Coffee. Even if you haven’t, after this article you’ll add it to your wish list. Lets go ahead to know what is kona coffee?

Kona Coffee is amongst the most famous and rare varieties in the world. Highly prized for its unique taste and flavor, the coffee is something of a legend amongst coffee lovers. Being famous and expensive, it’s also often a target for bootleggers.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is Kona Coffee?

Kona Coffee is a special type of coffee that grows only in the Kona district of Hawaii, especially on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa. This is a volcanic region that has uniquely enriched soil. It makes a special kind of coffee that is hard to replicate in any part of the world.

Even the coffee plantations outside of Kona district do not produce coffee with the same taste as Kona and therefore, the name has been reserved specifically for this region.

Any coffee brand that claims to grow Kona Coffee outside this region is not only lying but also going against the Hawaiian Law.

As an analogy, consider that while wine can come from any part of the world, true champagne is essentially what comes from Champagne, France. Similarly, if it’s not coffee grown in the Kona district of the Big Island of Hawaii, it’s not Kona Coffee.

That’s why picking the right Kona coffee beans needs a careful reading of the label!

What Qualifies For A “Kona Coffee” Label? And How Is The Originality Protected?

According to Hawaiian Laws, for a brand to use the tag of “Hawaiian Coffee”, it must contain at least 10% Kona Coffee, and label each package with grade statement. It is also mandatory to mention the specific region from where the coffee has been extracted, as penned by the HAR Chapter 4-143-1.

Also, to identify if a coffee package is pure Kona or a blend of different coffees the law is clear. For a blend, it’s necessary to have a minimum of 10% Kona Coffee. The packaging should use the words “coffee blend” and refrain from using “Pure Coffee” for its description.

For a pure Kona Coffee, it must use 100% Kona Coffee and only then can it have the label “100% Kona Coffee”.

Hawaiian Lawmakers are also pushing for a bill to increase that 10% minimum limit to 50%, which will further enhance the quality of Kona Coffee and save consumers from fake Kona Coffee brands.

What Makes Kona Coffee Rare?

region-specific coffees, rare commodities. Even though a fair share of the coffee production on the big island comes from Kona District, It’s miniscule compared to the global production.

Only the narrow strip of land, 2 miles wide and 20 miles long, is producing the sweet and savory taste of Kona that everyone loves. The annual production of Kona Coffee is only 24.7 million pounds. That is a tiny fraction when compared to the 5.7 billion pounds of coffee made by Brazil, 3.6 billion by Vietnam and 1.7 by Colombia.

However, none of these coffees matches the flavor of Kona and this is why despite its low supply and high price, the demand is ever increasing.

What Makes Kona Coffee so Expensive?

Two factors make the Kona Coffee so expensive

Low Supply and High Demand for Kona Coffee

As we have explained above, Kona Coffee is only produced in the narrow strip of land in the district of Kona. This means that the supply is limited. However, it’s fan base is growing and the demand for Kona Coffee is increasing. So according to the simple rule of economics, the prices go higher with every passing year.

Minimum Wage Laws

Since Hawaii is an American state, there are minimum wage laws which ensure fair wages for laborers. And since coffee plantation is a labor-intensive industry, high labor costs push the prices further high. It is estimated that picking coffee beans from trees can cost around $8 per pound. Add other costs and the total cost price is estimated from $45 to $60 per pound.

This is not the case for coffee plantations in other countries such as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Colombia, Vietnam and Brazil, where wages are lower. Moreover, a lot of Hawaiian population has moved out of Hawaii for other states of the US which has made labor scarce, further pushing the cost.

Why Should One Try Kona Coffee and How to Find the Best One?

This Hawaiian gem is worth trying. If you haven’t tasted Kona Coffee yet, now’s the good time to fix that oversight! Your first taste can be as simple as walking to a quality coffee shop and ordering a cuppa. Or, simply order beans online and make the delicious brew at home.

Whatever path you choose, remember to read the label carefully so you actually buy Kona Coffee, not a knock-off pretending to be authentic Kona.

For the more adventurous, going on a trip to Hawaii in the right season is an excellent way to enjoy fresh, authentic Kona goodness. You’ll get to visit some coffee plantations for yourself. Most of them offer coffee for a free tasting, without heckling visitors to make a purchase.

Several of the plantation tours are free. You are allowed to walk through the orchards and visit the processing area. You can visit these plantations any time of the year but the Annual Kona Festival is usually scheduled in the first week of November. Almost all Kona Coffee brands make it to the festival and offer tastings and tours of their plantations.

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