Kona coffee is a type of coffee grown in the Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. This coffee is protected by law, ensuring that only coffee grown in a particular region can be sold as “Kona coffee,” and it is a highly prized gourmet coffee which can fetch a very high price on the open market. This coffee is known for having a consistently high quality, and for the rigorous quality control measures used in Hawaii to ensure that only the finest coffee is sold under the Kona label.
This coffee is grown on the slopes of Mauna Loa and Mount Hualali on the leeward side of the Big Island. The plants are intensively managed, with many farms hand harvesting their beans in several cycles to get fruit when it is at the optimum level of ripeness. Farmers can opt to process their own “cherry,” the fruit of the coffee plants, or they can pool their cherry with other farmers at a larger processing facility which will handle the drying and roasting of the beans.
Type I Kona coffee is made from cherry which has developed with two seeds, and is divided into a number of grades based on quality. Type II Kona coffee is cherry with a single seed, rather than the more usual two, and it is also known as peaberry. It is also divided into several grades, based on quality. A lesser grade, Type III, cannot be sold under the Kona label.
Because Kona coffee can be very expensive, it is not uncommon for companies to sell Kona blends. Blends are made with a small percentage of Kona coffee, and a larger percentage of cheaper beans. No less than 10% of the blend can be Kona coffee, and the quality of such blends can vary considerably depending on the amount of beans from Kona used, and the cheaper beans used to fill out the blend.
Coffee has been grown in Hawaii since the 1830s. Kona's climate is especially well-suited to coffee, and coffee from this region has been of notably high quality for a very long time. Several grower's associations exist to protect Kona coffee, promote coffee production in Hawaii, and regulate the quality to ensure that the Kona name continues to be associated with quality in coffees. These organizations have designed a number of logos which are used to identify Kona coffee for consumers.