kona coffee arabica

Unveiling the truth behind Kona coffee: Is it Arabica? Brace yourself for a journey through the lush landscapes of Hawaii's Kona region as we delve into the secrets of this prized coffee.

In this blog post, we unravel the key facts and details surrounding Kona coffee, exploring its heritage, unique growing conditions, and, most importantly, its classification as Arabica.

Get ready to sip on the knowledge that will deepen your appreciation for this exquisite bean. It's time to uncover the truth and indulge in the flavors that have made Kona coffee a beloved choice among coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

Is Kona Coffee Arabica?

Kona coffee, a highly sought-after and rather expensive coffee, is indeed of the Arabica variety. Grown on the slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes in the North and South Kona Districts of Hawaii's Big Island, Kona coffee is cultivated in a region known for its volcanic soil and favorable climate conditions. This creates a unique and exquisite taste found only in Kona coffee.

The Arabica coffee plant is typically chosen for its lower caffeine content, sweeter and fruitier flavor, and overall higher quality compared to its counterpart, the Robusta coffee bean. In the case of Kona coffee, the Arabica beans benefit greatly from the volcanic soil and the distinct climate found in the Kona region. The combination of sunny mornings, high humidity, and mild nights create an ideal environment for these beans to thrive.

Lightly roasted Kona coffee offers drinkers a more natural, authentic flavor profile reflecting the characteristics of the land and atmosphere where the beans are grown. Some coffee aficionados prefer a light roast to better experience the unique flavor nuances that set Kona coffee apart from other Arabica varieties.

Due to its geographical location and the specific conditions in which it is produced, Kona coffee has earned itself a reputation as one of the most distinguished and expensive coffees worldwide. Only beans sourced from the Kona Districts can rightfully be labeled as such, making it a truly exclusive and prized commodity.

In summary, Kona coffee is an Arabica coffee, celebrated for its distinct flavor and rich taste derived from the unique environmental factors found on the Big Island of Hawaii. Grown in mineral-laden volcanic soil and nurtured by the Kona region's perfect climate, Kona coffee has become a sought-after luxury among coffee enthusiasts.

History of Kona Coffee

Origin of Kona Coffee

Kona coffee is a type of Arabica coffee that is cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. The unique weather conditions, including sunny mornings, afternoon clouds, light winds, and mild nights, create an ideal environment for producing high-quality Arabica coffee beans. The first coffee trees in the Kona region were planted in the Hilo area in 1828 by Reverend Samuel Ruggles. Later that year, he moved some of the seedlings to the Kona region, marking the beginning of Kona coffee's illustrious history.

Commercial Growth in Hawaii

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Kona coffee experienced significant growth, though it faced several challenges. In 1892, a new variety of coffee called "Kona Typica" was introduced to Hawaii by Hermann Widemann, which quickly became the region's most popular coffee. This new variety originated from Guatemala and now forms a significant part of Kona coffee's unique flavor profile. Family-owned farms played an essential role in Kona coffee's commercial success, accounting for up to 80% of all coffee plantations in the area by 1910.

During World War I, the demand for Kona coffee increased substantially as the U.S. Army purchased large quantities of it, causing prices to skyrocket. However, the industry faced a temporary setback during the Great Depression in 1929. Overall, Kona coffee has managed to maintain its reputation as one of the world's most expensive and sought-after coffees, thanks to its exceptional taste and quality.

In summary, Kona coffee is an Arabica coffee variety that has a rich and fascinating history. It originated on the slopes of Hawaii's Big Island and has experienced significant growth over the past two centuries. Challenges such as new varieties, economic downturns, and wartime demand have shaped the history of Kona coffee, but its unique flavor, ideal growing conditions and dedicated farmers have ensured its lasting appeal among coffee connoisseurs.

Characteristics of Kona Coffee

Kona coffee is a unique type of arabica coffee grown on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcanic soil and the specific weather conditions in that region contribute to its exceptional flavor, making it one of the most sought-after and expensive coffees in the world.

Flavor Profile

Kona coffee is known for its smooth, rich, and complex flavor profile. Its taste is often described as having a delicate balance of fruity and nutty notes, with a hint of chocolate and a subtle wine-like acidity. The different processing methods and roasting levels can also influence the coffee's final taste. For instance, a light roast preserves more of the bean's natural flavors, showcasing the unique terroir of the Kona region.

Caffeine Content

As an Arabica variety, Kona coffee has a slightly lower caffeine content than Robusta beans, which are known for their higher caffeine levels and bitter taste. Since the Arabica beans are more flavorsome and have a better overall quality, this makes Kona coffee a preferable choice for many coffee aficionados. Despite its lower caffeine content, Kona coffee is prized for its exceptional flavor and smoothness.

In summary, Kona coffee, a unique type of Arabica bean, is highly appreciated for its distinct flavor profile and lower caffeine content compared to other varieties. The specific growing conditions on the volcanic slopes of Hawaii contribute to the coffee's excellent taste, making it a highly sought-after and expensive commodity worldwide.

Cultivation and Processing

Growing Conditions

Kona coffee is a specific variety of Coffea arabica that is cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is one of the most expensive coffees in the world due to its unique taste and limited production area. The weather conditions in the Kona Districts, such as sunny mornings, cloudy or rainy in the afternoon, little wind, and mild nights, contribute to the distinct flavor profile of Kona coffee. The nutrient-rich volcanic ash/soil and the altitude at which the coffee is grown also play important roles.

Harvesting Methods

The harvest season for Kona coffee typically begins in late summer and extends through early spring. The cherries are hand-picked, ensuring that only ripe cherries are gathered. This selective harvesting method contributes to the high-quality beans and overall production standards. It is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, but the attention to detail is essential for producing the best Kona coffee.

Processing Techniques

Wet Milling

The freshly harvested cherries go through a process called wet milling. This involves passing the cherries through a pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean. Next, the cherries are placed in large tanks of water, where beans are separated by weight. The ripe beans that are heavier, sink to the bottom, while lighter ones float and move to the top. The floater beans are then removed, ensuring that only the highest-quality beans are used for the next stage of processing.

Drying and Hulling

After wet milling, the beans are spread out to dry, either on large patios or on raised beds. The beans must be turned regularly to ensure even drying. Once the moisture content of the beans reaches a desired level, they undergo hulling to remove their outer parchment layer. This process yields the green coffee beans, which are then sorted and graded based on size, shape, and color.


Roasting is the final step in the processing of Kona coffee beans. The green beans are roasted in large drums or small batch roasters to achieve the desired flavor profile. The roasting process transforms the beans' chemical makeup, releasing the rich aroma and complex flavors unique to Kona coffee. Roasting times and temperatures vary depending on the desired roast level, ranging from light to dark roasts.

In summary, Kona coffee is a variety of Coffea arabica that is cultivated and processed in the Kona Districts of Hawaii, under specific growing conditions and using meticulous harvesting and processing techniques. This attention to detail results in the distinctive flavor profile and high quality that make Kona coffee one of the most sought-after and expensive coffees worldwide.

Kona Coffee Blends and Grades

Blending Practices

Kona coffee originates from Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is often blended with other types of coffee to create a unique taste profile. When creating Kona coffee blends, roasters typically combine Kona beans with other high-quality Arabica beans from regions like Central America or Africa. This practice allows for a variety of flavors and aromas in the final product while still highlighting the distinct characteristics of Kona coffee beans. However, it is essential to note that blends with at least 10% Kona coffee can be legally labeled as Kona blends.

Grading System

The grading system of Kona coffee plays a significant role in determining its quality. There are various grades assigned to Kona coffee based on factors like size, shape, and bean defects. Some common Kona coffee grades include:

  • Kona Extra Fancy: This is the highest grade of Kona coffee, sorted with a screen size of 19, which indicates larger beans. These beans take longer to develop, allowing them to absorb more nutrients from the tree and resulting in a richer flavor.
  • Kona Fancy: This grade is slightly lower than the Extra Fancy, with a screen size of 18. The beans are still considered high quality and offer a unique flavor profile.
  • Kona Number 1: Coffee beans of this grade are sorted with a screen size of 16 to 17, providing a balanced flavor and aroma. This grade may have some minor imperfections, but it is still a good choice for Kona coffee lovers.
  • Kona Prime: This grade has a screen size of 14 to 15, which results in smaller beans. Although the quality is lower compared to the higher grades mentioned above, Kona Prime still offers a delightful coffee experience.

By understanding the different grades of Kona coffee and blending practices, consumers can make informed choices when selecting the best coffee based on their preferences. It is essential to remember that Kona coffee is an Arabica bean variety, grown in the volcanic soil of Hawaii – contributing to its distinct and sought-after taste in the world of coffee connoisseurs.

Buying and Brewing Tips

How to Choose Authentic Kona Coffee

Kona coffee is a type of Arabica coffee grown exclusively in the Kona district of Hawaii. Known for its rich flavor, this coffee faces numerous challenges ranging from climate and altitude to pests and diseases. Because of these factors, Kona coffee production costs are quite high. When looking for genuine Kona coffee, it's essential to ensure the beans are grown in the Kona region by checking the label for phrases like "100% Kona Coffee" or "Kona-grown Arabica."

As Kona green coffee beans cost around $25 to $35 per pound, you should be wary of significantly lower prices, as they might indicate a blend containing only a small amount of Kona beans mixed with cheaper beans. Additionally, consider purchasing directly from local farmers or reputable distributors to ensure quality and authenticity.

Brewing the Perfect Cup

To bring out the best flavors of your Kona coffee, the brewing process is crucial. Here are some tips to brew the perfect cup:

  1. Grinding: Use a burr grinder to achieve a consistent grind size, tailored to your preferred brewing method. For French press and drip coffee makers, opt for a medium grind.

  2. Coffee-to-Water Ratio: One standard recommendation is using two level tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. However, adjust the ratio according to personal taste.

  3. Water Temperature: The ideal water temperature for brewing coffee is between 195°F and 205°F. Too hot or too cold water can result in under or over-extraction, affecting the taste.

  4. Brewing Methods: Some suggestions include a French press for full control over the brewing process, while others prefer drip coffee makers or espresso machines. For a French press, add one rounded tablespoon of ground coffee for each four ounces of water. Stir the mixture, let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes, and then plunge slowly.

By selecting authentic Kona coffee and following these brewing tips, you can fully enjoy the unique and exquisite taste of this Hawaiian Arabica gem.

Environmental and Social Aspects

Sustainable Practices

Kona coffee is a type of Arabica coffee that is cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. This unique coffee derives its distinctive flavor from the region's specific climate conditions — sunny mornings, afternoon clouds or rain, little wind, and mild nights. These ideal growing conditions also make Kona coffee one of the most expensive and rarest coffees in the world, accounting for only about 1% of the global coffee industry.

Acknowledging the need for responsible farming practices due to global climate change, producers of Kona coffee have increasingly adopted sustainable farming methods. These environmentally friendly practices include using organic fertilizers, conserving water resources, maintaining natural shade cover, and preserving biodiversity in coffee farms.

Supporting Farmers

Economic and social implications play a pivotal role in the Kona coffee industry. The high price of Kona coffee, which can range between $45 to $60 per pound, is a reflection of numerous factors such as farmland costs, labor, gas, electricity for roasting, marketing, and taxes. However, this higher market value can also benefit local farmers by providing them with a more stable income compared to producers of other coffee varieties.

To further support the Kona coffee farming community, a focus on fair trade practices is essential. By ensuring fair compensation and working conditions for farmers, socially conscious consumers can help improve the livelihoods of those who dedicate their lives to producing this high-quality coffee. Strengthening the local community and prioritizing the well-being of farmers also helps maintain the quality and authenticity of Kona coffee.

In summary, Kona coffee is an Arabica variety originating from the unique environmental conditions of the Kona District in Hawaii. As the industry faces climate change challenges and social responsibilities, sustainable practices and supporting local farmers remain essential aspects of the Kona coffee narrative.

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Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

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