Perfect Storm of Conditions Creates Premium Kona Coffee
What makes Kona coffee so great? Why is it one of the most prized coffees in the world? And what is so special about the Kona Coffee Belt where Kona coffee is grown on more than 700 Kona Coffee Farms and Kona Coffee Estate Plantations?
Kona Coffee Country
Kona Coffee is grown on the Big Island of Hawaii at elevations between 500 feet and 2,500 feet above sea level along the western slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanoes. This area - known as the Kona Coffee Belt - provides wonderfully fertile soil that is also very well-drained due its volcanic origins.
The Kona Coffee Belt is about 30 miles long yet only about one mile wide, and receives about 60 inches of rain annually. Only coffee grown in this specific area is allowed to be referred to as Kona coffee.
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Kona Coffee Farms Benefit From Unique Micro-Climate
Another crucial component to coffee growing so well in this region is the unique microclimate in Kona Coffee Country.
The atmospheric conditions of the Kona Coffee Belt include bright and sunny mornings that help the coffee plants thrive, with clouds arriving in the afternoon to protect the fragile coffee plants from overly hot sunlight.
The Hawaiian Islands receive easterly tradewinds that move over the Pacific Ocean and first reach the Big Island on the Hilo side of the island. These prevailing tradewinds then move up the mountain slopes of Mauna Loa Volcano, and the winds are tempered by this journey of some 3,000 feet up the volcano’s eastern slopes.
The tradewinds do eventually make their way over the top of the volcano to the leeward side of the island, and as they glide down onto the western slopes of Kona Coffee Country they are just wafting gentle winds that do no harm to the delicate flowers of the Kona coffee trees.
Afternoons in the Kona Coffee Belt tend to be misty and rainy, with humid conditions and seasonal rains that provide the moisture to naturally irrigate the coffee crop. The porous volcanic soil has a very low PH (just slightly acidic) and is also high in nitrogen.
Perhaps most important is that the nights don’t get too cold because frost can severely damage coffee plants. Also helpful is that very few pests are found in this region.
All of these factors - along with the great care taken to pick only the ripest red coffee berries - guarantees the very highest quality premium Kona coffee is produced.
Of course that is just the first half of the equation for great coffee.
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Kona Coffee Farmers
The second half of the secret to premium Kona coffee is the Kona coffee farmers themselves, many of them fifth generation descendants of the pioneering Kona coffee farmers.
The multi-ethnic heritage of these farmers includes Japanese, Hawaiians, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, Caucasians, Samoans, Koreans, Puerto Ricans, and others. The Japanese were by far the most prominent group among the pioneering Kona coffee farmers.
After the picking, the farmers take great care to properly dry the coffee beans, mill them, sort and grade the beans, and finally roast them to perfection and ship them fast and fresh in proper valve-sealed bags to the lucky consumers.
What is even better is that there are more than 700 estate and commercial Kona farms in the northern and southern regions of Kona.
Most of the farms are family run operations and only about five acres in size and may produce 40,000 pounds of coffee cherry (fruit), which reduces to about 8,000 pounds of coffee after milling and then another 20% reduction in weight after roasting. The total crop on about 4,000 acres in Kona Coffee Country may be about 3 million pounds of green coffee beans.
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Kona’s Sun, Soil and Weather - and the Kona Coffee Farmers!
And so those are some of the reasons that Kona Coffee is one of the world’s most sought after and respected premium gourmet coffees - a perfect combination of sun, soil, and weather conditions along with the tender loving care of the Kona coffee farmers.
So next time you savor the delicious Kona coffee brew, you will understand what has gone into producing the perfect cup of coffee from soil to sip.
To read about more Kona Coffee Farms see Kona Coffee Farms, Tours, and Coffeehouses.
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