In Hawaii there are a few large roasting companies that are based in the state and import coffee from South America, Central America, and Indonesia in order to blend it with Kona coffee.
These Kona Blend coffees are typically marketed as “10% Kona coffee blend.” According to Hawaii state law, all Kona coffee blends sold on the retail coffee market must contain at least 10% Kona coffee by weight. Further, the coffee bag must state the percentage of Kona coffee that is in the bag.
The law also applies to other Hawaii coffee besides Kona coffee though the law was clearly written as a result of an ongoing controversy regarding the marketing of Kona Coffee Blends with only a miniscule amount of Kona coffee in the bag, barely impacting the coffee’s flavor.
There is a large difference in the quality of coffee in a 100% Kona coffee product and a Kona Blend coffee product, and Hawaii’s labeling requirements are meant to help consumers distinguish between the two.
As the debate over Kona Coffee Blends continues, including new proposals to increase the minimum amount of Kona coffee included to 50%, consumers continue to purchase the Kona Blend products and so the industry continues to market the products.
Opponents of 10% Kona coffee argue that labeling the coffee with the name of the coffee that is barely present in the bag (Kona) rather than the dominant coffee that comprises the other 90% of the bag shows that the coffee seller is only adding the Kona coffee to represent (or misrepresent) the product as Kona coffee and increase profit, and not to create a pleasing blend.
However, since pure Kona coffee would clearly cost more to the consumer, it is unclear whether consumers would be buying the coffee at all if it was not available in the less expensive blend. Furthermore, consumers should be able to buy whatever products they like just as sellers should be able to market whatever products they choose as long as no one is being fooled into thinking they are buying something other than what they are getting.
The Kona Blend Coffee controversy continues to generate debate in Hawaii and within the coffee industry overall as food products in general are becoming subjected to more stringent labeling requirements.
How Hawaii decides to deal with this issue will be a result of conversation among Kona coffee farmers, roasters, and the consumers themselves whose voices are heard largely by the products they buy.
To read about more Kona Coffee Farms see Kona Coffee Farms, Tours, and Coffeehouses.