Coffee lovers are constantly bombarded by new sorts, names, and brands of coffee, each claiming to be the best you’ll ever taste. In this crazy whirlpool of aggressive marketing, it’s really hard to know who to trust and which product is worth the hype.
One of the terms that you might have come across is Kona, and most coffee aficionados would agree that it lives up to its reputation as one of the best in the world.
To help you understand more about these particular beans, I have put together the following article. In it, you will find reviews of some of the best Kona coffee brands in the market, as well as useful information on coffee from this region.
So let’s get into it!
Table Of Contents
- Where is it Grown?
- The History of Kona Coffee
- Describing Kona’s Taste, What's special?
- Cultivation of Kona Coffee
- Guarantee of Quality
- Kona vs. Kona Blends (What's the Difference)
- Here are the Best Kona Coffee Brands for the Money: Our Editors’ Choices for 2018
- My Final Verdict
Where is it Grown?
As you’ve probably guessed, this coffee comes from Hawaii’s biggest island - Kona. The beans are of the Arabica type, and they are grown on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa (dormant) volcanoes.
The climate of this region is ideal for coffee farming - the temperature is mild, mornings are sunny, and afternoons are rainy.
The second and final piece of the puzzle is the mineral-rich, volcanic soil in which the coffee is planted. It is dark, fertile, always in the shade, and that is exactly what this plant requires to thrive.
All of the above mentioned contributes to Kona coffee’s outstanding quality and popularity.
The History of Kona Coffee
Contrary to the popular opinion, Kona coffee isn’t native to Hawaii. The first coffee plants were brought to these islands from Brazil in 1828. They were planted, and as the climate proved to be perfect for their cultivation, people kept growing them.
Kona coffee had a slow run somewhere around the 1960’s due to the changes in the market demand and cost of labor. However, in the 1980’s, when gourmet coffee culture became more popular, Kona returned to the scene, and its name filled up the store shelves as well as coffee shops.
Describing Kona’s Taste, What's special?
Kona beans taste amazing, but it is important to know that different farms produce coffees of slightly different tastes. Overall, there are six distinct characteristics which, when combined, make Kona so special. They include the following:
- 1Fragrance - When brewing a cup of Kona, you’ll notice a powerful, sweet smell coming off from the fumes.
- 2Flavor - Honey, caramel, chocolate, or berry are the overpowering notes that these beans produce, and this depends on the farm they come from.
- 3Sweetness - Kona beans are known for their rich, yet moderate sweetness.
- 4Acidity - Kona coffee’s acid content is naturally low-mid level, so they are easy on the stomach.
- 5Body - The smooth body of the brew slides down your throat easily.
- 6Aftertaste - The citrusy and nutty notes will linger on your tongue.
Cultivation of Kona Coffee
The coffee growing season in Kona lasts for the entire year. The coffee plants get pollinated and bloom somewhere around February and March. April is the time when fruits start developing, and this lasts until the end of summer. September through January is usually when the coffee cherries are harvested.
As you can see, the harvesting process lasts for several months, and the main reason for this is that not all cherries are ready to be picked at the same time; or in other words, they ripen in different times. This is also why the coffee has to be hand-picked, as the person doing the work has to be able to tell which cherries are fully ripe.
Another factor that prevents mechanical picking is the inaccessible, steep terrain on which the plants are grown. All of this leads to the conclusion that cultivating Kona coffee is very labor intensive, and it justifies its high price.
Guarantee of Quality
For a coffee to be labeled as “Kona,” it has to pass an inspection by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. The beans are first classified, after which tasting is conducted to make sure that the necessary flavor and aroma are there. If the beans satisfy the criteria, then the farms can sell them outside of Kona district.
The classification process separates two types of beans - type I and type II. Type I coffee contains one bean per cherry, whereas Type II has two beans in one cherry.
Type I is also known as “peaberry,” and only around 5% of all Kona beans fall into this category. They are more flavorful, and thus, more desirable than Type II.
The main factors for grading the beans are their size, shape, and defects. Large beans are more desirable due to them having more flavor than small or chipped ones. Also, the damaged beans do not roast uniformly and turn out less tasty than whole ones.
By considering these factors, the beans are separated into the following categories.
Kona vs. Kona Blends (What's the Difference)
With Kona coffee being so exclusive and expensive, many people are trying to make some bucks off of the name by selling Kona blends.
These blends have to contain at least 10% Kona beans if they want to be labeled as Hawaiian, but outside of the state, they may have as little as 1% of Kona.
They are much cheaper than pure Kona brands, and this is how they get by. There’s nothing wrong with buying them but know that there will not be much Kona in your brew.
The “pure” product will have a “100% Kona” written on the package. This is how you’ll know that you’re getting the real deal.
Here are the Best Kona Coffee Brands for the Money: Our Editors’ Choices for 2018
Now, after we’ve learned everything we need to know about Kona Coffee, it’s time to utilize that knowledge and review, compare the three top performing brands on the market.
Let’s see how they scored based on my criteria, and how they compare against each other:
Kona Coffee Beans by Imagine
If you’re looking for a 100%, whole bean Kona coffee, then look no further than Imagine. Their medium-dark roast makes a smooth and flavorful beverage that no coffee aficionado could resist.
First and most important, Imagine beans are labeled as “Extra Fancy,” meaning that they come from the 10% of the best beans produced in Kona, so you can be sure that you are buying a top-quality product. As these are whole beans, you will need to have a grinder in order to brew them.
Second, this coffee has a sweet and rich flavor with notes of berry, so it will mainly appeal to those who enjoy a fruity tasting brew. Another great thing about these beans is that they are naturally low in acid, which means that they aren’t hard on the stomach.
Third, the coffee has been air roasted, a method that is often used in artisan roasting. This process helps to avoid charring and burning, so it is preferable to the more common, drum roasting.
Last but not least, we’ve come to the brewing methods, and the one that the company recommends are the drip, French press, and cold brew. The reason for this is that these ways will extract the best of these beans and give you an amazing tasting drink.
Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Vanilla Macadamia Nut
Here, we have something a bit different than what you’d typically find in these types of reviews. I am presenting a product that I warned you about in the previous sections, a Kona blend. My reason for choosing this brand is to show you that blend doesn’t mean bad, and in some cases, they can be awesome.
Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee contains 10% of Kona beans, and to make their product stand out, they’ve added some Hawaiian macadamia nut as well as vanilla. The result is an interesting and delicious blend which I’d highly recommend you to try.
The coffee grounds are sold in 10-ounce bags, and considering the size, its price is a lot lower than some of the pure Kona packages. The blend is a medium roast which gives a smooth-bodied brew with sweet and nutty undertones. It doesn’t have the richness of 100% Kona, but it is still an enjoyable drink.
This is an all-purpose grind meaning that it can be brewed with any method you prefer, and I suggest trying it cold as it will make a nice refreshment on a hot, summer day.
Hawaii Roasters 100% Kona Coffee
The last product in my list is another Amazon best-seller that comes to us from the Hawaii Roasters company, the third generation of coffee farmers. Now, let’s take a closer look at their beans.
As the name implies, these beans are 100% Kona, and you don’t have to worry about the truthfulness of this claim as the coffee had to go through some rigorous inspection to be able to wear this label.
To ensure the highest quality, the cherries are hand-picked when they are most ripe, after which they are left in the sun to dry. The next step in the process is roasting, and this coffee is roasted in small batches so that all beans get toasted equally and evenly. The primary goal of these small, artisan roasters is to keep the quality consistent every time.
When it comes to flavor, Hawaii Roasters’ coffee tastes very rich and complex, with nutty and fruity notes. Also, with this being a medium roast, the taste is rather mild compared to that of dark roasts which is usually strong.
And finally, as most Kona beans, these too are low in acid so they should not cause problems to those with a sensitive digestive system.
My Final Verdict
Ok, folks, we are at the end of this article, and now I’d like to announce the winner and my personal favorite - Imagine’s Kona Coffee Beans. The reasons for this are obvious - extra fancy, top-quality, 100% Kona beans, sold at a fair price (for Kona). What more could you ask for?
I know that the cost of Kona is what concerns many of my readers, but I’d suggest you try it at least once and then judge whether it’s a fair deal or not.
I’m really interested in what you think about my choice, sp please let me know in the comment section. Thanks for reading, and until next time - enjoy each cup as if it were your last!
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