Last Updated on April 3, 2022 by John Moretti
We’ve all seen Kona coffee in the supermarket or heard the buzz about it online, and we’ve seen its price tag too – but what makes Kona coffee special? Why is it different from other coffee, where is it from, why is it so popular, and why does it cost so much?
Kona coffee is grown on Hawaii’s Big Island on a small land area called the Kona Coffee Belt. Because of this, it is pretty uncommon. The Big Island’s unique volcanic climate and good working conditions give the hand-tended Kona coffee a rich, aromatic flavor and high cost.
Read on to discover more about what makes Kona coffee so distinct and why it is such a popular type of coffee. We’ll discuss the reasons for Kona coffee’s fame in detail, and we’ll also go over a few things you should know before buying your own.
What Makes Kona Coffee So Special?
Kona coffee is only grown in one location on the planet: the Kona region of the Big Island, Hawaii. Nowhere else grows Kona coffee, and here’s why –Hawaii is the only region in America that can grow coffee. And the Big Island’s slopes have the perfect climate for it.
Due to its tropical position, high elevation, and solid cloud cover, the Big Island has a moderate, balanced climate the whole year-round. Light rains and sunny mornings are ideal for coffee farming, and the Big Island’s volcanic soil is an added plus. Due to its high mineral content, most Kona coffee is entirely organic!
Not only that, but Kona coffee is also delicious. It has a distinctly rich and aromatic flavor. It’s an extravagant drink with a rich pedigree that’s worth the attention of every coffee lover.
Why is Kona Coffee So Popular?
Apart from Kona coffee’s excellent taste, there’s its fame to consider. Kona coffee is a rare, decadent drink, so of course, you’ll have lines of people waiting to try it.
Kona coffee is also from an exotic but familiar destination. You might have been to Hawaii yourself, even. If you had, you could have seen the coffee plants too. If you come to Hawaii during the spring or summer, those trees with bright, cherry-red berries are Kona plants.
Why is Kona Coffee So Expensive?
Of course, one primary reason why Kona coffee is exceptional is its remarkable price tag. Kona coffee is not cheap – instead, it’s one of the most expensive coffees you can buy.
So, if you drink Kona, you’re not only drinking a delicious coffee, but you’re also showing how rich you are. This price doesn’t mean that Kona coffee is reserved only for the insanely wealthy; instead, it is a status symbol. Like champagne, please don’t drink it every day unless you’re confident your budget can handle it.
Kona is so expensive because only the Kona Coffee Belt on the Big Island can grow it. This area is relatively small at roughly one mile by thirty miles.
So, whereas Columbian or Kenyan coffee farms can be far more extensive and produce much more coffee, the farming area for Kona coffee is fixed. Farmers can’t increase the supply with demand, but they can raise the price.
Being harvested on the Big Island means that Kona coffee must also be shipped to its destinations. Shipping is an additional cost, especially for perishables like coffee.
3. Hand Labor
Third, Kona coffee is grown in America, and it is hand-tended. There’s a high cost to the labor that goes into farming Kona coffee.
Unlike most other regions, Hawaiian farmers are paid a living wage for their hard work. You can feel proud of yourself for drinking this 100% American coffee that treats its laborers right.
And there’s a lot of these laborers too. Nearly all the work is done by hand. Heavy machinery doesn’t work well on the slopes of a volcano, as you might have guessed. People, not machines, do everything from tilling the soil to picking the beans.
What to Watch Out for When Buying Kona Coffee?
1. Coffee origin
Not all Kona coffee is the same. Some aren’t even genuine Kona coffee at all. It’s a good idea to avoid Kona Style or Kona Roast– just because the word “Kona” is on the bag does not mean that the coffee comes from the Big Island’s volcanic soil. Most of these beans have no real Kona coffee whatsoever.
2. 100% Kona Coffee Label
The same is true for even Kona Blend. By law, they must contain at least 10% real Kona coffee. However, the rest can be from any region on the planet.
So, buying a bag of Kona Blend means that, while you get some Kona, you also get a lot of other coffee that dilutes the delicious flavor of the real thing.
Instead, what you should look for is 100% Kona Coffee. That label is the only way to ensure that you aren’t being ripped off.
3. Quality levels
Genuine Kona coffee also has quality levels to it. Although all pure Kona coffee is specialty coffee – beans with a remarkable flavor that score highly on a tasting scale – not all Kona is equal. The best Kona coffee is ranked Extra Fancy, followed by Fancy, Number 1, Peaberry, and Prime.
Even if you don’t spring for Extra Fancy, don’t worry. Your Kona coffee will still be incredible. And remember, too, that even though a bag might cost a lot (averaging at $30 per pound), you won’t use that much per cup.
Brewing Kona coffee at home can work out to less than a cup of Starbucks every day.
To conclude, Kona coffee is so unique because it is a specialty coffee grown on the volcanic slopes of Hawaii’s Big Island. It has a delicious, aromatic flavor and commands a heavy price tag. Both characteristics are due to the unique way Kona coffee is farmed.
Kona is organic, and its farmers are paid relatively well, unlike other coffees. Kona coffee is hand-picked, shipped worldwide, and has strong regulations surrounding it to ensure that customers aren’t cheated or deceived.
So, the next time you spot a bag of Kona coffee beans out there, maybe consider purchasing it. Although it might be expensive, 100% Kona Coffee is impressive, delicious, and good for America. It is worth it!