When you think of Hawaii, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably sandy beaches, never ending sunshine, some of the best surfing spots in the world, sweet pineapples, fresh fish.. what about coffee? If you didn’t think Hawaii could get any better, think again. Hawaii is home to one of the best, most sought after coffee beans in the world - Kona Coffee. What is about Kona Coffee that makes it so popular? And of course by popular we mean relatively exclusive and expensive.
Where it all began
Coffee beans were introduced to the Hawaiian Island Oahu in 1825 by Brazil. Naturally, these coffee plants flourished in Hawaii’s tropical climate and soon coffee bean growing was spread across all the islands. Eventually, the Brazilian crop was replaced with Guatemalan coffee plants and this has come to be the Hawaiian coffee we know today - including Kona.
The best coffee is known to grow in the Coffee Belt, a horizontal strip between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Likewise, the Kona Belt is cherished for its ideal climate for Kona coffee bean growing. What’s interesting is that outside of the Kona Belt, not only is the rest of Hawaii unsuitable for Kona coffee but it is undesirable for coffee farming in general. Coffee lovers should keep this in mind when purchasing “Hawaiian Coffee”. Rule of thumb: Kona coffee is Hawaiian but Hawaiian coffee is not Kona. Sure, it’s coffee and sure it may taste good - but it’s not Kona.
The rise of Kona
It was the rise in the gourmet coffee trend of the late 1980’s that elevated Kona Coffee to its adored position. It became a household name and found its way onto the shelves of supermarkets and speciality coffee houses around the globe. Today, Kona Coffee is grown entirely on the 600 coffee farms surrounding the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes, in the north and south Kona district on the Big Island. The volcanic soil and mild, tropical weather makes for ideal growing conditions for coffee.
The thing about Kona coffee is that it’s expensive. There is a relatively limited supply which leads to a high demand. It’s rocking the “Best coffees in the world” lists. And, it’s also just so damn good. It's simple yet rich with flavor, typically light with a complex aroma. This has lead to the infamous “Kona Blend” issue.
Beware of the blends
A Kona Blend does not mean that a few Kona coffee bean farmers got together and blended their coffees. It means that the bag of coffee you purchased must have at least 10% of authentic Kona beans. The outcome is that some coffee producers are leveraging the Kona name and taking profit and authenticity away from Kona farmers. Although coffee producers are obligated to let the consumer know what percent is Kona coffee, they rarely disclose the origins of the rest of the coffee in the bag.
The marred reputation of Kona coffee doesn’t just threaten the livelihood of Hawaiian coffee farmers but affects consumers as well. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify the real deal when it comes to Kona coffee because foreign coffee producers leverage the Kona name to sell coffee blends that are definitely not worth what they are charging. To get a true Kona coffee, you need to make sure that the bag has a label that says 100% Kona coffee.
Buy directly from the source
Don’t settle on anything less than real Kona coffee. Avenews-GT, a digital platform for the trade of agricultural produce and partner of Kona coffee farmers, ensures the import and export of 100%, authentic Kona coffee. We work directly with local Hawaiian Kona farmers and certified coffee buyers worldwide to eliminate any imitations and trade barriers.
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