When it comes to world-renowned coffee, Kona is one of the first varieties that come to mind. With a unique flavor profile and plenty of brands trying to copy its authenticity and scam people into thinking their products come from the Kona region, this type of coffee is very sought-out and expensive, and for good reasons.
Today, we’re going to learn what makes Kona coffee so special, how to avoid scams that promise authentic Kona coffee but deliver something else, and what are some of the brands you can trust when you want to taste the very best Kona coffee beans.
Our Top 3 Picks for Kona Coffee Beans
Too long, won’t be reading the whole article? Below are the best Kona coffee beans which we guarantee you will absolutely love.
What Is Kona Coffee?
Grown in Hawaii, Kona coffee gets its name from a very specific region. Harvested and processed in the Kona region, these coffee beans represent Arabica coffee that’s grown in the Hills of Mauna Loa and Hualalai in the Northern and Southern Kona districts.
However, much like in the case of organic foods, manufacturers have identified loopholes that allow them to label their varieties as “Kona coffee”, which means that unless you’re well-educated in this specific aspect, it will be difficult for you to tell which coffees are actually Kona and which of them are scams.
The Taste of Kona Coffee
If you get the opportunity to taste Kona coffee, you can tell apart the scams from the authentic. Kona coffee has a unique flavor profile and knowing more about it is the best way to tell when you’re dealing with the real thing.
It’s also important to remember that there are a series of factors that will impact the taste of your coffee, including the freshness, the roast, and the brewing method. When you taste coffee made from authentic Kona beans, you can expect to sense that flavor of brown sugar, honey, and milki chocolate. Some claim they can also sense a bright fruit flavor.
The aftertaste will leave you sensing citrus and nuts, so you can definitely tell that the Kona flavor profile is exquisite and easy to recognize. Kona coffee has an aroma that reminds you of fruit, cocoat, butter, or caramel. When you combine the aroma, flavor, and aftertaste of Kona coffee, you can tell you’re dealing with something unique.
The Best Kona Coffee (Hawaiian Coffee)
This Kona Coffee Hawaii pack is the best thing to purchase if you’ve never tried this coffee variety before.
With a business that dates back to 1997, this brand will offer extra fancy coffee that has been rewarded with titles such as the winner of Gevalia Cupping Competition and PCCA Coffee of the Year.
Basically, if you decide to purchase this pack, you will be buying Koa Estate products, which are goods made by a respectable manufacturer.
As for the bundle itself: it includes three different packs of coffee that will paint a general picture on the quality and flavor profile of some of the best Kona coffee options on the market.
The package includes a bag of Grande Domaine (coffee coming from century-old trees, with a flavor that’s not bitter but rather rich and smooth), a bag of Private Reserve (once considered to be the best coffee in America, made exclusively from extra fancy beans that were hand-picked), and a bag of Estate (a blend that’s rich and fragrant).
Who Would Enjoy This Coffee?
If you have never tried Kona Coffee beans or grounds before, this pack is the perfect introduction to everything that quality Hawaiian coffee represents, as Koa Coffee is considered by many a benchmark for what exquisite coffee should taste like.
With only three to five out of 100% Kona Coffee beans being of the Peaberry variety, you can understand that we’re dealing with a might rare product and one that coffee drinkers and experts often label as being the most delicious Koa Coffee product of them all.
If you find that Peaberry Kona coffee is hard to find, it’s most likely because the demand exceeds the supply.
The flavor of the Peaberry Kona coffee is very sweet and smooth and, even if there are other brands that sell Peaberry coffee, Koa is a brand you know you can trust, so we recommend buying this variety from them.
Who Would Enjoy This Coffee?
If you have tried regular Kona coffee before and would prefer something sweeter or if you enjoy sweet coffee overall, we recommend going with the Peaberry Medium Roast Whole Bean.
When it comes to delivering high-quality Kona coffee, Volcanica is another brand that you can trust.
The company’s overall mission focuses on making coffee from beans that grow at altitudes of 3,000 to 7,000 meters, in volcanic soil.
Since the Kona region fits that pattern, it makes sense for Volcanica to have this coffee variety in their portfolio. This solid medium roast has a mellow flavor and isn’t too acidic.
Notice that it is labeled as “extra fancy”, which means that you’ll be purchasing only the most exquisite and defect-free Kona beans around.
These beans are also available ready-ground, with the mention that Volcanica will only roast the beans once your order has been placed, in order to deliver the coffee as fresh as possible.
Who Would Enjoy This Coffee?
This coffee is perfect for people who enjoy floral fruit aromas, with hints of sweet caramel and tart cherry.
4. BeanBox’s Keala 100% Kona Coffee
BeanBox is here to offer some more delicious Kona Coffee for you to indulge in.
Called Keala’s Hawaiian Coffee, this brand comes from a Seattle roastery that offers a subscription for those interested in receiving high-quality extra fancy Kona coffee.
You can choose between a one-time purchase, or weekly, biweekly, and monthly subscription offers, with the last two offering coffee discounts and free shipping for selected locations.
With a balanced flavor profile, this coffee offers fruity flavors combined with toasted coconut notes but the most exquisite thing about the taste is the passion fruit.
The coffee ships freshly roasted, so you can enjoy the strong aroma and flavor that’s still there by the time your coffee bag reaches you.
Who Would Enjoy This Coffee?
If you want a coffee with low acidity and you’re a fan of medium roasts with fruity tastes, then you’re bound to like Keala’s Hawaiian Coffee. It’s also a great option for those looking for a Kona coffee subscription delivered to their doorstep at their frequency of choice.
5. The Hawaii Coffee Company – Royal Kona Estate Kona Coffee
Our last suggestion for everyone interested in buying authentic Kona coffee that’s worth every penny is the Hawaii Coffee Company. Just as the name suggests, this Hawaiian-based business offers delicious coffee coming from their own plantation.
This makes the Royal Kona Estate coffee an extra fancy option for those who want to taste the real deal and want to avoid falling in the advertising scams of brands that claim to sell Kona coffee.
With a fruity and clear taste, this coffee is a light roast that works well as pour-over coffee. You can opt between all-purpose grind and whole bean delivery and, much like most of its competitors, the coffee will be roasted only after ordering.
Those living in the US get to benefit from flat rate shipping, with the possibility to choose expedited shipping as well.
Who Would Enjoy This Coffee?
The Royal Kona Estate coffee is great for those of you that enjoy a light roast and like to make pour-over coffee, and might not be the best choice for people who like rich flavors.
What to Avoid When Buying Kona Coffee
As we mentioned before, there are quite a few Kona scams going around, as people saw the opportunity to take advantage of the uniqueness of the coffee’s flavor profile and make some money off it.
So, the question is: how do you tell apart the fakes from the originals?
Kona Coffee Scams (Fakes)
Kona blends are usually something you want to avoid, as the true Kona blends are easy to recognize and fairly expensive. That means that if you ever find a very affordable coffee that’s labeled as a Kona blend, it is most likely an impostor.
The Hawaiian law has regulated this label stating that in order for a coffee to be labeled as Kona blend, it should have at least 10 percent certified Kona coffee beans. How scammers make money off this law is by adding exactly 10 percent Kona coffee in the blend and using all sorts of other cheap coffee to fill the remaining 90 percent of the recipe.
Even if the fraud coffee tastes decent, it doesn’t really have too much Kona coffee in it. There are also brands that don’t even use certified Kona coffee in their recipe.
While this is punishable by law on Hawaiian land, there are plenty of other places in the world that don’t care how the Kona blend label is being used, which means that, in some countries, you could be purchasing bags of Kona beans that have little to no Kona beans at all.
Another thing that you want to avoid is purchasing Kona coffee that doesn’t come from the Kona region. Hawaii’s Kona belt has specific climate features that are excellent for growing this type of coffee bean.
Even if Hawaii isn’t the biggest, there are some regions that aren’t suitable for coffee growth at all (such as Maui). This happened because of sugarcane farming throughout history that eventually depleted the Hawaiian soil of nutrients, which left the volcanic earth of Kona to be more fertile than other regions.
It is also likely that you will come across coffees being labeled as “Hawaiian” in the manufacturer’s attempt to make their brands pass as high-quality, but note that not all Hawaiian coffee is high-quality, even if it does come from these parts.
Kona Coffee Grading
When you’re looking to purchase the best Kona coffee, always look for its grade. Since Hawaiian coffee beans have rigorous standards they have to meet before being sold to the public, each Kona batch is graded by the HDA (Hawaii Department of Agriculture).
This grade varies depending on several criteria, including moisture contents, size, and shape of the beans. The highest quality coffee is labeled as “extra fancy”. Then, you have: fancy, no. 1, select, prime, no. 3, natural prime, and mixed natural prime (which is the lowest grade).
Extra fancy beans are considered the best, even if the first five categories are superior nevertheless. Grading these beans is mostly focused on the size and rarity of the beans, which means that those with lower ratings are necessarily the worst.
Extra fancy coffee doesn’t really contain any beans that could be considered defective, which makes it one of the most premium types of coffee in the world.
Kona Coffee FAQ
What is so special about Kona coffee?
Kona coffee is a variety that meets the highest standards and also happens to be relatively rare considering that it’s grown on the slopes of two volcanoes, on very specific soil.
Aside from growing in a specific region and thus being pretty rare, Kona coffee undergoes strict Hawaiian regulations, which makes it superior in terms of quality compared to plenty of other coffee varieties in the world.
What is the best 100% Kona coffee?
Truth be told, all coffee that’s labeled as 100% Kona coffee is good, provided that we’re talking about authentic beans coming from this specific Hawaiian region.
Why is Kona coffee so expensive?
Generally speaking, Hawaiian coffee tends to be more expensive compared to coffees coming from other regions. One of the main reasons is because the cost of labor is higher, especially since Hawaiian farm workers are paid more compared to those from Ethiopia or Guatemala.
If you add the reputation that Kona coffee has on a worldwide level, then it pretty much explains the higher price. You also need to consider the fact that these beans are grown in a specific and rather small region, which make Kona coffee quite rare.
Is Kona coffee better?
Kona Coffee will always be considered superior to most other coffees in the world, but let’s not forget that it’s also a matter of taste. While plenty of people prefer Kona coffee over other varieties, there are others that don’t like it that much.
Whenever you want to buy Kona coffee, you need to make sure that you choose products coming from respectable brands, because the loopholes that regulate what allows manufacturers to label their coffee as a Kona blend are easy to manipulate in the detriment of the consumer.
The examples we’ve provided in this article are authentic Kona coffee brands that will ensure a high-quality experience through authentic Hawaiian coffee coming from the Kona region.