Kona coffee is a marketing name for coffee that comes from the Kona District of Hawaii. Pure Kona coffee is highly sought after all round the world. It has a richer flavour than others due to the location and environment they are cultivated.
The land of Hawaii is rich with volcanic soil and is perfect for coffee growing. The afternoon clouds also provide a good cover for it to grow. These factors give Kona coffee its character, loved by many around the world.
A Peek At History
The first coffee plant was introduced to Kealakekua-Kona by Reverend Samuel Ruggles in 1828. It was not considered a viable agricultural commodity at that time until very much later. During the California gold rush era, demand for coffee from this region starts to pick up and farmers start planting their crops along the slopes of Mauna Loa and Mount Hualalai. Many of the large estates were leased to their Japanese workers during the world coffee market crash in 1899. There are now about 600 plantations all around the district and each of them having a size of not more than 5 acres.
Coffee Farming & Process
The coffee plants in Kona will start to bloom from February to March. Green berries will soon start to appear after the flowers have been pollinated. Majority of the berries will be harvested from August to December or early January. It is estimated that each tree can produce around 20 to 30 pounds of berries.
During peak harvesting period, most mills work round the clock. All the berries will be processed within 24 hour time frame to maintain quality. The berries will be tested for freshness and colour before being sent to the pulper. The pulper will strip the flesh leaving the beans. The flesh is transported back to the farms to be used as fertiliser. The stripped beans will next undergo a fermentation process of around 8 to 18 hours in giant tanks. After completing the fermentation process, the beans are cleaned and dried on drying racks covered by hoshidanas. Depending on the weather, it might take about 10 to 14 days before the Kona coffee beans are ready for the next process.
It is essential to constantly rake the beans during the drying phase. This is to prevent mildew from forming and maintain consistent quality throughout the batch. The beans are then graded according to size, shape and weight.
There is a high demand for Kona coffee due to its unique taste and quality. Many large corporations and individuals have tarnished the name by selling coffee that is not truly Kona. These blends are normally made up of only 10% Kona coffee and the remaining 90% from cheaper imports from Colombia or Brazil. It hurts the industry in Kona and gives a false impression to the consumers about the quality of pure Kona coffee. The farmers have been fighting a loosing battle to trademark the name. Even though there are labelling laws in Hawaii, there is no corresponding Federal law to support it.
There is no denying in the quality of Kona coffee. Great care is taken to ensure quality from the many who toil in the farms and mills to deliver you that perfect cup of beverage possible. They are all committed to deliver you the true taste of Kona – Gold of Hawaii.