Spotlight on the Big Island: What Makes Kona Coffee So Special?

8/26/2020

From the sapphire blue water surrounding the islands to the colorful coral reefs, there’s lots to love about Hawaii. Here’s one more thing that makes the Aloha State a dream destination: the coffee. 

Hawaii’s Kona coffee is grown in only two places in the world—on the fertile and cool volcanic slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai. These regions offer a rare microclimate phenomenon of sunny mornings, rainy afternoons and mild nights and mineral-rich, spongelike volcanic soil, giving birth to the flavor-rich, coveted Kona beans. 

Rich Volcanic Soil Gives Birth to an Unmatched Flavor Profile

Aside from its rarity, Kona has many attributes that make it a popular brew. With an Arabica core finessed by volcanic growing conditions, Kona is one of the most valuable—and flavorful—coffees in the world. It's this unique microclimate consisting of a mix of shade and sun that allows the sugars within the Kona bean to develop a rich, robust flavor. 

This taste can be difficult to describe. Like the experience of watching a Hawaiian sunset, some things in life need to be experienced in person. The best way to describe Kona is to call it a medium-bodied blend with floral and fruity accents. There's also a slightly syrupy undertone that creates a rich, dessert-like flavor. Some people even detect an ever-so-subtle chocolate flavor in this creamy, smooth coffee. 

From Hawaii's Lush Tropical Hillsides to Your Cup

The process of cultivating Kona coffee is an extravagant, highly protected art form. After being handpicked, Kona beans are pulped, dried and hulled by expert coffee growers who have been running Hawaiian coffee farms for generations. Beans are then graded for a total of eight degrees based on visual appearance, moisture levels and shape.

In February and March, Kona bean blooms to cover the volcanic hillside in small, white flowers that the locals call Kona "snow." These flowers then turn into green berries by April and then to a rich red fruit that's referred to as a cherry ready to be picked. 

Kona growers get to work picking these ripened cherries in several rounds between August and January, where the Kona cherries are then put through a pulper for extraction within 24 hours of being picked. This makes makes the overnight fermentation process unique and makes for ultra-rich flavor. 

The next two weeks are key, as Kona growers then patiently allow beans to dry in order to reach optimal moisture levels. Finally, the beans are ready to be roasted or put on the wholesale market following a selective grading process, helping to cultivate that robust "sweetness factor" that makes Kona among the most flavorful beans in the world.

Sipping from the Source

Only in Hawaii can you experience authentic, fresh Kona coffee born from the very soil you're standing on. This is the perfect volcanic elixir to fuel your fun excursions during your Hawaiian visit. And for the ultimate Hawaiian experience, check out a Kona Coffee Tour—then sip the perfect cup of Kona from your oceanside condo overlooking striking views of the breathtaking Kona coast. 

 


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