The Best Kona Coffee for A Taste of Hawaii

Coffee beans from the Kona coast are held in very high regard. But to find the best Kona coffee you need to know what to look out for as the Kona industry has been plagued with its fair share of scam activity, similar to the honey industry that we wrote about previously. But don’t fear, we’ll help you navigate yourself to the most delicious Kona coffee out there.

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Best Kona Coffee, Top picks

Kona coffee has amazing flavour and a unique aroma profile. The coffee will, of course, be affected by the roasting process but generally, it has hints of brown sugar, chocolate and honey. It has a pleasant after taste and can be described as a bright and crisp coffee. The combination of the aroma, flavour and aftertaste is what makes this coffee so wonderful on the tastebuds.

What is Kona Coffee?

Kona is the name for coffee that has been grown on the beautiful slopes of Hualalai and Muana Loa in the North and South Kona districts located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Now if that doesn’t sound idyllic to you then we don’t know what will make you sit up in your chair.  

Kona is an expensive coffee as you may have seen. Over recent years Kona plantations have also been plagued with the coffee berry borer, a tiny beetle that can reduce crop yields by up to 90%. They have since brought in a natural enemy to control the beetle infestation so there is hope – not to worry.

What Makes Kona Coffee so Good?

The growing conditions in the Kona district of Hawaii are perfect for coffee production. Coffee trees thrive in cooler climates, in the Kona district the rich volcanic soil, morning sun and afternoon rain clouds make it a growing area like no other. 

The coffee beans are sun-dried before it’s carefully roasted to perfection. So the combination of growing conditions, climate, soil and careful roasting is what makes this coffee so special. 

The Story Behind the Coffee

The coffee plant was first introduced to the Kona district by Samuel Reverend Ruggles in 1828. An English merchant Henry Nicholas Greenwell relocated to the area where he established the Kona district that was later recognised as a brand similar to the Champagne district in France. 

During the late 1800s, many plantations were established and later leased to workers after a crash in the coffee market. Workers mostly came from abroad, countries such as Japan. Today around 800 farms remain, each with an average size of fewer than 5 acres, of which most are family farms.

Best Kona Coffee

The Price of Kona Coffee

Kona is expensive, there is no doubt about that. But there is are good reasons for this:

  • The Kona district is very small so supply and demand play its part here. To give you an idea, only 1% of the coffee grown globally is Kona
  • Kona is grown on one of the biggest active volcanos in the world. This volcano is also an island which means everything has to be shipped in and out. There are no mechanical machines on the island for harvesting so this is done by hand
  • Labour in this area is very expensive as Hawaii is after all part of the USA. So you don’t get the benefit of 3rd world level wages in this area as you would do in Kenya, Ethiopia and other popular coffee growing regions

The Issue with Kona Blends – Avoiding the Scams

As with many other industries including honey, Kona coffee is open to food fraudsters. Kona beans are a high price commodity where the waters can quickly become murky. The most common way for fraud to sneak in is through blends. 

Many brands will sell blends with a small amount of Kona for a hight price, not necessarily related to the small percentage of Kona that it contains. To use the term “Kona blend”, the coffee can contain as little as 10% Kona beans. So if you don’t want to be ripped off, stay away from blends especially those produced outside of Hawaii. Blends in Hawaii have to contain at least 10% Kona, other countries in the world are not strict around this type of labelling so it’s best to avoid them.

Think about it, if you’re splashing out on Kona you might just as well buy the good stuff – 100% Kona. 

Cheeky Brew

What About Other Hawaiian Coffees?

Hawaiian coffee grown outside of the Kona district aren’t necessarily very good, but can still be sold at high prices, so don’t fall for any coffee from Hawaii that is not from the official Kona districts on the Big Island of Hawaii. The coffee from other areas such as Maui and Kauai aren’t prime coffee growing climates and will be no better (might even be worse) than coffee grown in other parts of the world, but they will likely charge you a premium.

Hawaiian Coffee Grades

Coffee in Hawaii goes through meticulous testing, in fact likely the most meticulous in the world. So if you want to be sure you’re getting great quality coffee, pay attention to the grade. 

The 6-grade bands for Hawaiian coffee are:

  1. Extra fancy (the best quality)
  2. Fancy
  3. Number 1
  4. Select
  5. Prime
  6. Number 3 (the lowest quality)

The Best Kona Coffee Brands to Try

Image by Volcanica Coffee Company

Volcanica Coffee Company Hawaiian Kona Coffee Extra Fancy

  • Roast Level: Medium Roast
  • Aroma: Citrus/tart cherry tones mixed with caramel and slightly nutty undertones

The Volcanica Coffee Company’s Kona has a rich, mellow and straightforward character. It has low acidity, so easy on the stomach with a complex and somewhat wine-like taste.

This is medium roast, extra fancy grade coffee, so the highest quality Kona, certified in Hawaii. You can expect a silky smooth body with a hint of island acidity. It has floral and fruity notes with a tad of jasmine making a nice and bright coffee that is caramelly and slightly nutty.

As you’d expect the beans were dried naturally and were dry milled.

Shop Volcanica

Image by Koa Coffee

Koa Coffee Medium Roast Whole Bean Kona Coffee Tri-Pack

  • Roast Level: Medium Roast
  • Aroma: Tri-pack varies

If you’re looking for award-winning Kona then Koa is the one for you. This tri-pack is perfect for sampling different flavours of Kona.

Roasted to perfection this pack includes the Grande Domaine Kona Coffee, Private Reserve Kona and Estate Kona.

You can, of course, buy these individually, but why not go the full nine yards and give them all a try? It’s Kona after all.

These packs are medium roast and grown on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano. These are whole beans to give you the best aroma of a freshly ground bean.

This might just be the best coffee you’ll ever have – give it a go and let us know!

Shop Koa

Mulvadi 100% Kona Peaberry Whole Bean Coffee

  • Roast Level: Dark Roast
  • Aroma: Gives intense flavour

Peaberry beans make a wonderful roast that is full-bodied and intense with a bit of a bite. It truly is the Champagne of Kona as it’s a unique bean with a great taste. Demand for this coffee is high so can sometimes be out of stock.

Unlike most coffee beans the Peaberry bean does not have a flat side, it’s one small oval-shaped bean, so is a rare occurrence. They are so rare that only 3-5 bags out of 100 will be Peaberry.

This coffee can be on the more robust side, so if you’re not a fan of dark roast then it might not be for you. We love a good full-bodied dark roast so are destined to recommend this to the right audience. It’s a coffee that bursts with flavour with every sip.

Shop Mulvadi

Kona Coffee Beans by Imagine

  • Roast Level: Dark Roast
  • Aroma: Has a smooth, sweet, robust and rich flavor and an intense caffeine focus.

Imagine makes a beautiful dark roast 100% Kona with graded Extra Fancy beans. This coffee has a sweet and robust flavour without being acidic. Beans are grown at 2220 feet under the shade of Macadamia nut trees, giving them their unique flavour.

Imagine is single estate-grown and air roasted for an evenly roasted bean and great tasting cup of coffee.

Imagine Kona Organic Coffee Beans | Arabica Kona Beans | Top Grade Air Roasted | Medium...
355 Reviews
Imagine Kona Organic Coffee Beans | Arabica Kona Beans | Top Grade Air Roasted | Medium...
Imagine beans are graded Extra Fancy for their size, moisture weight, and lack of defects. Only about 10% of all Kona beans produced are graded extra fancy.

A cup of Kona Coffee by Imagine delivers the true taste of Hawaii.

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Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee

  • Roast Level: Medium Roast
  • Aroma: Rich and aromatic

This 100% certified Hawaiian Kona has big flavour that is wonderfully roasted to deliver a great cup of coffee. It is a full-bodied, medium roast.

It’s an excellent coffee from the Kona district and highly recommended. The rich volcanic soil of Hawaii with its mild island breeze and cool gentle rains makes the ideal conditions for a great cup of coffee. Kona is unique, rich in flavour and an absolute favourite when it comes to a good medium roast coffee.

Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee, 100% Kona, 7-Ounce Bag
808 Reviews
Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee, 100% Kona, 7-Ounce Bag
This exquisite private reserve coffee is always fresh and offered to you by the largest roaster of Kona Beans in the world

Royal Kona has been roasting since 1969 delivering delightful and authentic flavour with every cup.

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Greenwell Farms – 100% Kona Coffee

  • Roast Level: Medium Roast
  • Aroma: Bright with a silky body giving notes of fruit, cream, caramel and a hint of chocolate

Greenwell Farms is one of the oldest, largest and most awarded Kona farms. They have been producing great coffee since 1850 on a family-owned farm spanning almost 300 acres in the Kona district.

Their beans are roasted twice a week for ultimate freshness and the family is involved in every step of the process. From seed to cup.

Greenwell Farms 100% Kona Coffee, Medium Roast, Whole Bean Coffee, 16oz - Medium bodied,...
29 Reviews
Greenwell Farms 100% Kona Coffee, Medium Roast, Whole Bean Coffee, 16oz - Medium bodied,...
Bright, with notes of citrus, tropical fruit and a hint of vanilla. Medium bodied, with an exceptional finish and after taste.

Greenwell makes a delicate non-bitter cup of coffee with these legendary beans.

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Lion Coffee, 24K Gold Roast, 100% Kona

  • Roast Level: Medium Roast
  • Aroma: A mellow flavour with a smooth finish

Lion has been roasting Kona beans since 1969. Every bag is freshly packed to hold the flavour in, ready for grinding and brewing.

This is a lovely coffee straight from the Kona district in Hawaii there is no argument there. Even though we don’t believe there were lions anywhere in Hawaii, but saying that there are no lions in England either so it’s probably workable.

Lion Coffee, 24K Gold Roast, 100% Kona, Ground, 7 Ounce Bag
197 Reviews
Lion Coffee, 24K Gold Roast, 100% Kona, Ground, 7 Ounce Bag
 Every bag of Lion Coffee is made from hand-picked Arabica coffee beans, roasted and packed under exacting standards.

Make an expresso or steep in your French press, whichever method you prefer!

Shop Lion

Closing Thoughts

Kona beans are definitely special, there is no doubt there. But look out for those blends and disguised Kona to make sure you don’t pay a premium for something that is no better than coffees from other regions. The list above is a guide for reference, it’s your license to explore the flavours you love. Don’t just take our word for it – give some of these a try to see for yourself if it’s worth the hype.

Last update on 2022-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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