Dragon's Lair Estate Kona Coffee Farm


"The ride through the district of Kona to Kalakekua Bay took us through the famous coffee section. I think Kona has a richer flavor than any other..." - excerpted from MARK TWAIN "Letters from Hawaii" July 1866


To help in your pursuit of the perfect coffee for you, 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, farms.

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 their laborers.

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 quality coffees.

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
Kona Snow White sweet-smelling springtime blossoms
Cherry Fruit, picked when deep red
Bean Two flat seeds formed within the cherry
Peaberry When coffee cherries produce only one round seed instead of two flat ones
Processing Pulping process separates the seeds from the outer red skin
Parchment The dried seeds covered with a stiff white skin
Milling Removal of stiff parchment skin and the thin silverskin below it
Green Coffee milled and ready for roasting
Roast Cooking the green coffee to the desired taste. The darker the roast the higher the temperature, the longer the roasting time, and the less caffeine. 



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 #65 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 and #35 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.

Return to Main Page