A Complete Guide To Kona Coffee

by Dec 11, 2020Kona Coffee0 comments

Hawaii is home to some of the Earth’s best and most exclusive coffee varieties.

While there are eleven coffee regions across the State of Hawaii, one small area on the Big Island has made its name all over the world for being the source of an iconic and internationally-recognized coffee. But what makes Kona coffee from the Kona District, Hawaii’s Coffee Belt, so popular, delicious, and exclusive?


Hawaii’s Big Island, specifically the North and South Kona Districts, has the most favorable conditions for growing coffee. The coffee trees are grown on the slopes of two of the largest and most active volcanoes in the world – the Hualalai and Mauna Loa.

Coffee trees require particular climates and conditions to land in Kona is rich with minerals from the volcanic soil and weather that shifts from sunny to rainy from throughout the day.


To make sure that you’re drinking real 100% Kona coffee, always read the label. Hawaiian law requires that there be a certain specific amount of pure Kona coffee within a package, and anything labeled a blend must have at least 10% real Kona coffee. More often than not, these blends will contain only an insignificant amount of coffee grown in Kona, Hawaii. While it might be a decent cup of coffee, you can’t call it 100% Kona Coffee.

For a coffee to be considered 100% Kona Coffee, it must be grown in Kona, Hawaii, and not a blend of several coffees. If you want the best tasting Kona coffee there is, make sure to get 100% pure Kona Coffee, and not a blend.


The coffee tree is native to Ethiopia. If you’re wondering how Hawaii, specifically Kona, became a world-renowned coffee powerhouse, the history goes back to 1828 when Samuel Reverend Ruggles planted a coffee tree in the Kona.

Ruggles initially planned to get the coffee industry to take off on Oahu island. However, it was the volcanic sands, mixed elevations, and ideal weather that made Kona a perfect place to cultivate coffee. There were about three million coffee trees planted in the region by the end of the 19th century.

At present, the Big Island has about 790 coffee farms, with most of them family-run. These farms often use the same methods that their family owners have employed for generations. New technologies may have emerged in other regions of the world where coffee is grown. But tradition is strong in Kona, so expect to see farmers harvesting, drying or roasting coffee the old-fashioned way when you visit a coffee farm or plantation.


During February and March, the hills beneath Hawaii’s most famous volcanos start to be covered with white flowers known as “Kona snow” as coffee trees around the island begin blooming. Small green berries emerge by April and turn into red fruits known as “cherries”, which are ready for harvesting by August. Each tree produces approximately ten to fifteen pounds of coffee cherries annually, which is equivalent to about two pounds of dried coffee beans.

The harvested cherries are dried out and processed to produce the Kona coffee beans. About 10 lbs. of cherries are needed to make around 1-2 lbs. of finished Kona coffee.


There are many ways of drying and processing Kona coffee. Many Kona coffee producers stick to their family’s traditional techniques, so most of these methods are similar to the way their family generations handled coffee.

A common way of processing fresh coffee cherries is by first separating the inner bean from the cherry’s fruit with the use of a pulper, then soaking the beans overnight. The beans are then laid on a drying rack until their moisture level is between 10 and 13%, which usually takes about two weeks. The finished coffee beans are sorted by grade according to their size, shape, and quality, and are ready to be roasted.


Coffee roasters around the world use different coffee roasting techniques. However, most farms on Kona are small, so most Kona coffee has likely been roasted naturally and traditionally in small batches. Often, Kona coffee beans are roasted in a consistently turning heated drum to ensure that all sides of the beans are appropriately roasted.

Roasting takes about 12 to 30 minutes, and these moments are crucial to the quality of the final product. The soluble oils formed during the roasting process determines the beans’ overall flavor profile. The roasting time also determines whether the coffee is a light or dark roast. Light roasts are beans that have been taken out from the drum after the first crack, while dark roasts are the beans that have been left inside the drum until they began to smoke.


Several different factors affect the price of Kona coffee, this includes, but not limited to, the following:


The Kona region is tiny compared to other coffee-growing countries like Brazil, Vietnam, or Colombia. Brazil produces around 5.7 billion pounds of coffee annually, Vietnam 3.6 billion, and Colombia 1.7 billion. Kona, on the other hand, only produces about 24.3 million coffee every year. The little supply and massive demand for Kona coffee spike its prices way up.


The United States has more stringent regulations, and higher cost-of-living and wage laws compared to other countries, which makes producing coffee in Hawaii more costly. In the U.S., employees in coffee-production companies get minimum wage, which is substantially higher than what workers get in other coffee-growing nations.


Most farms on Kona, including our Dr. Paulo’s five farms, are small, family-owned farms that preserve the traditional, slower, small-batch methods of coffee production. This often means the beans are hand-picked, air or traditionally dried, and hand-roasted. Consumers will enjoy the more complex and unique flavors that result from more extensive labor. All these methods produce better and more sustainable beans.


Generally, drinkers will enjoy a light and fruity flavor with a hint of nuttiness and spice, but the taste is refined and defined by the way the beans were dried and roasted.


Grinding your Kona coffee depends on how you will brew your drink. A medium grind is ideal for a typical drip coffee, but if you’re planning on making a drink with a longer brew time, it’s best to go for coarse ground coffee.


All coffee beans start losing their freshness as soon as they’re roasted, but to enhance the freshness of Kona coffee beans, store them in airtight containers, grind them immediately before brewing.

What are you waiting for? Order 100% Kona Coffee for yourself from Dr. Paulo’s Kona Coffee and Macadamia Nut Farms, and have them delivered from the Big Island right to your door. You can call us at 808-333-1959 or 800-873-6693, or send us an email at [email protected] or [email protected].