What Is So Special About Gourmet Hawaiian Kona Coffee?

by dan on April 9, 2010

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.

Also see: The Top Ten Coffees in the World

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.

Also see: Best Coffees In the World

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.

Today these Kona coffee farmers care for their plants in such a way as to guarantee that they thrive all along the varied slopes of Kona Coffee Country.

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.

Also see: Five Best Coffees In the World

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.

Also see great tips on espresso brewing including the Barista Guide to Perfect Lattes and Cappuccinos which includes information about Espresso Drink Recipes.

Discover the Finest Premium Gourmet Coffees

Coffee Quotes Funny

Starbucks FAQ - 2011 Starbuck Coffee Information

Also see: Five Best Coffees In The World - Best Coffee Beans

The Three Strangest Types of Coffee

Most Expensive Coffees

Buy Coffee Online - Best Coffee In the World

Starbucks Barista Job Description - Starbuck Barista Job Tips - Starbucks Mission Statement

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh October 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Great article about the KonaRed Region. We make our KonaRed Coffee Fruit from the pulp and skin of the fruit of the coffee bush, the beans are used to make the Kona coffee. The coffee fruit is a superfood with extremely high levels of antioxidants due to the anthocyanins that the coffee plant builds up in the fruit to protect the DNA contained in the seed from oxidative stress caused by exposure to sun and other environmental factors.

MaryAnn Duffy December 13, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Kona coffee is great and sooooo hard to find all the way here in New York. Thanks for all the good info. It’s so interesting to learn about what’s behind the world’s greatest coffee. Good writing too!

Kona Luna January 14, 2010 at 8:57 am

MaryAnn, Kona is hard to find unless you order it online. The benefit of doing this is you get fresher beans that aren’t sitting on a store shelf for ages.
This article is spot on. There are so many things that make Kona coffee special: the microclimate; the volcanic soil; the individual care by small family farmers who plant and pick up hand. You just can’t go wrong.

ATHENA of HAWAI'I March 6, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Kona suffers a terrible, terrible drought this winter. Our farm has rain records going back to the earliest 1900’s and nothing like this happened since then. Many 100+ year old trees are dying and the massive El Niño, which caused it, is not moving. One can see us farmers watering trees with hoses and even buckets. The flowering of the trees is not stalled and we certainly will have a smaller harvest at the end of 2010.

On a more positive note, I wondered if bees prefer certain flowers based on taste. Today I read about researchers having found out that, if given the chance, bees prefer tobacco and coffee flowers over others! So one can say that busy-bees need their fixes all around nature…

ATHENA of HAWAI'I March 6, 2010 at 1:50 pm

MaryAnn, I hope that you remember that your friend Demetria is also growing a very fine Kona bean on her farm ;-)

Leave a Comment

Previous post: Mokulele Farms Provides Top Quality Kona Coffee

Next post: Molokai Coffee - Hawaii Coffee Growing Regions