Kona Coffee Information
by Randy Wilson
How to start off about Kona Coffee? First talk with an expert about coffee. Ask what is his or her favorite type of bean, almost invariably you’ll hear one variety mentioned: Kona.
Kona beans are grown in Hawaii and are treasured worldwide for their aroma and flavor. Kona beans are some of the most expensive on the market, and have come to be known as the best of the best.
For over 175 years, Kona coffee beans have been growing continually on Hawaii in the North and South Districts of Kona, an area about 20 miles long and 2 miles wide.
In the shadow of two volcanic mountains, the Kona Districts have a unique microclimate of sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons which provide natural shade. The volcanoes protect the area from strong trade winds that would otherwise harm the coffee plants and give the soil its ashen quality in which the plants thrive.
The mountains also give Kona a cool, dry, winter season for harvesting and a rainy summer when the coffee plant is growing and the fruit is developing.
Most Kona Coffee is grown on large, old-growth, productive Typica trees. Kona trees grow strongly on the steep, well-draining slopes of the two enormous volcanic mountains.
Known today as Kona Typica, this coffee variety was first called Guatemalan when it was introduced back in 1892 by an Oahu grower named Hermann Widemann.
After this variety was grown for several years on the Big Island of Hawaii, growers were convinced that this coffee was far superior to the Brazilian variety which was previously brought to Kona.
As a result of their care and hard work, Kona Typica continues today as it has for over 100 years.
Kona beans flowers bloom in early spring. Because of the careful cultivation of the farmers, the plants don’t develop fruit all at the same time and instead develop in rounds, one section at a time.
The Kona bean farmers hand picks the beans. Because only the ripe coffee cherry is picked from the Kona tree, each tree may get 5 visits during the harvest season in order to get as much fruit as possible. Picking the fruit by hand gives the Kona Coffee farmer the opportunity to pick just the ripest coffee cherry, resulting in a sweet cup of coffee.
This is an enhancement over the mechanical harvesting done with most coffees that ends up including the immature, imperfect and old Coffee cherries that tinge the flavor of the coffees.
Most Kona Coffee farms are about 4 acres in size and are family-owned and operated. Because of the small size of the farms, each plant is able to receive specialized care.
As the farmer walks through his orchard, he can quickly see the general health of each plant and cultivate appropriately. The Kona trees are often planted alongside vegetables, fruit and other trees like banana, macadamia and avocado.
The Kona coffees themselves are full-bodied and rich in flavor with a hint of spice. This combined with the hand-picked quality of the coffees on less than two thousand acres in the entire world lends itself to the expense of the Kona beans on the open market.
Due to this expense, Kona beans are often blended with other coffee before being sold at your local market.
If you’re buying a bag of beans labeled Kona, you should be very careful to read the label. Most of these bags contain 10% or less Kona coffee and the rest are inferior, South American beans.
If you want to experience the true bliss that is Kona coffee, make sure the bag you buy is 100% Kona beans.
This may not be available in your local market; instead, look to purchase Kona coffees online from a Hawaiian retailer in order to get true Kona beans directly from the source.
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