For a few years I worked as a barista for a major coffee chain. Arguably the most exciting time of year for our customers was when we received our yearly shipment of Kona coffee. Customers we hadn’t seen for months would pour into the store to get their yearly quota of this highly prized bean.
Far from being a case of bandwagon hopping, the popularity of Kona coffee is well deserved. Not only is Kona the only major bean to be grown in the United States, but it’s also one of the most delicious coffees available, period.
Region and history
Coffee beans were first introduced to Hawaii in 1828 from cuttings of Guatemalan-based bushes. Since then, Kona plantations have been owned and run as family businesses. There are currently around 800 Kona coffee farms in Hawaii that make up a total area of around 2,290 acres.
All Kona coffee is grown in the Kona district in the SouthWest region of Hawaii. The beans are grown at an altitude of between 800 and 2500 feet above sea level. Hawaii is a cooler region than most coffee producing areas, and the trees are grown in soil with a high level of volcanic ash, making for a particularly rich cultivation environment.
Due to it’s scarcity and price, Kona coffee is often sold as part of a blend. Thanks to fairly relaxed packaging laws, blends with as little as 10% Kona beans can be sold as a Kona blend. If you’re on the lookout for genuine Kona look out for packing that states that it contained 100% Kona Coffee.
One of the more notable things about Kona coffee is how balanced it is. A good cup of Kona will have medium body, light acidity, and a subtle sweet flavor. Depending on the farm on which it was grown, Kona can have chocolaty, fruity, nutty, or floral aromas.
Kona Coffee is an extremely versatile bean that can be enjoyed iced or hot.
To really get the most out of Kona Coffee, try pairing it with food. The right foods can really bring out the flavors of the coffee and highlight tastes and aromas that you hadn’t noticed before.
Kona goes well with chocolate and cheese, so why not combine the two? A chocolate cheesecake will really bring out the sweeter notes of Kona.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try pairing some iced Kona with grilled fish. Grilled fish, especially with a hint of lemon, will really bring out the citrusy flavors of the Kona coffee.