To help in your pursuit of the perfect coffee for
here are some facts about Kona Coffee
Where is Kona?
In the United States, there is only one area suitable for growing gourmet
coffee - the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii in the districts of
North Kona and South Kona. The Kona district, or the "Kona coffee belt"
as it is referred to, is an area that is roughly only two miles wide by
26 miles long. Approximately only 3000 acres are in production, spread
over a handful of major processors plus around 650 small, independently-owned,
What Makes it Different?
Teri Hope, renowned cupper and board member of the Specialty Coffee
Association of America, writes, "Pure Kona coffee has one very remarkable
characteristic - it's exquisite aromatic quality. The best grades of Kona
coffee exhibit an aroma which is full, sweet, and fruity causing the olfactory
senses to jump with excitement. The flavor is straight forward, clean and
bright, and may display a hint of chocolate. The body is full, smooth,
yet delicate with a lingering finish.".
Kona coffee is traditionally grown from Kona Typica variety coffee trees,
an heirloom tree descended from the original plantings of Arabica Typica.
Arabica Typica trees are also grown in other parts of the world to produce
fine coffees. However, coffee is particularly influenced by climate and
soil conditions. The rocky, volcanic slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa offer
the perfect climate, sunny mornings with afternoon rains, for the coffea
arabica trees, which are virtually disease-free in this plant paradise.
These ideal conditions produce superior quality beans on some of the highest
yielding arabicas in the world.
The other critical factor in producing a gourmet coffee is the growing
and processing standards. The quality and taste of Kona coffee is
determined by how well it is grown and processed. The best Kona coffees
are grown without pesticides and herbicides, are hand-tended and hand-picked,
entirely sun-dried, and carefully graded to Department of Agricultre standards.
If coffee is grown in any other district of the Big Island of Hawaii,
it is called "Hawaiian" coffee. Additionally, even coffee grown within
the Kona district is called "Hawaiian" coffee if it is falls below the
grade of Prime. We at Dragon's Lair sell only 100% Kona Coffee -
what little we have that falls below the grade of Prime goes back on our
fields - we do not even sell it as "Hawaiian".
Why is Kona more expensive than other coffees?
The finest grades of Kona coffee are rare due to the small amount
of acreage involved. In addition, the cultivation is extremely labor-intensive,
and, being American, we pay American wages whereas as other coffees
come from "third-world" countries with cheap (shockingly low) reward for
What is an "Estate" coffee, what is a "Blend"?
A Kona Estate coffee is the coffee from one farm and only that farm,
grown and processed entirely under the control of the estate farmer. This
differs considerably from the Kona coffee from a large processor.
Processors buy coffee cherry from many farmers (ie: the raw fruit
off the tree), and thus have no control over how the coffee is grown, cultivated,
fertilized etc. The coffee that they produce is a blend of many different
Kona farms. While still usually a good coffee, the comparison between an
Estate coffee and a processors coffee is like that between an estate-bottled
fine wine and a jug wine. While each have their place, they are different
The blend of different Kona coffees that a processor sells is still
100% Kona and should not be confused with what has become known as "Kona
Blend". "Kona Blend" is a mix of low cost (and often low quality coffees)
that have had 10% or more (has to be 10% by law, it is rare to find a larger
percentage) of Kona beans added to it so that the seller can capitalize
on the Kona name. Taste tests by qualified cuppers have shown that
10% of Kona in a coffee blend cannot be tasted - it adds nothing but confusion
to the buyer and profit to the seller. Don't be fooled into buying a "Kona
blend". If you like your Kona coffee blended, buy 100% Kona and 100% of
another quality coffee and do the blend yourself until you get just the
taste you prefer.
|Kona Coffee from
Cherry to Roast
||White sweet-smelling springtime blossoms
||Fruit, picked when deep red
||Two flat seeds formed within the cherry
||When coffee cherries produce only one round seed instead
of two flat ones
||Pulping process separates the seeds from the outer red skin
||The dried seeds covered with a stiff white skin
||Removal of stiff parchment skin and the thin silverskin
||Coffee milled and ready for roasting
||Cooking the green coffee to the desired taste. The darker the roast
the higher the temperature, the longer the roasting time, and the less
|Roasting Coffee -
The Art of Great Coffee
|There is no "best" roast - it is all a matter
of individual taste. However, a too light roast will not develop the flavor
oils in the coffee, and a too dark roast will burn the flavor oils out.
Kona in particular has a great varietal flavor which can be overwhelmed
by too dark a roast. Listed below are the most popular roast styles, with
their various currently-used names, and some typical characteristics.
|American, or Medium
||A light brown color with a dry surface - SCAA color tiles #75 through
||A bright acidity with pronounced varietal characteristics - a traditional
East Coast American choice
|Viennese, or Full City, or Medium/Dark
||An even chestnut brown color with occasional tiny droplets of oil -
SCAA color tiles #55 through #45
||The acidity is more muted, the body is fuller - a typical
West Coast American choice
|Continental, or European, or High, or Dark
||A dark brown color with a shiny coating of oil - SCAA color tiles #45
||The acidity is folded into a general impression of richness, the body
full, with the characteristic bitter-sweet notes of a dark-roasted coffee
|French, or Italian, or New Orleans, or Very Dark
||A very dark brown color with a bright coating of oil - between SCAA
color tiles #35 and #25
||The body thins as more of the oils are evaporated, the bitter-sweet
notes are more bitter.