Coffee Lingo 101: What Is Kona Coffee?

If you’re like the rest of us coffee-philes, you’ve learned your way around the coffee aisle at the grocery store. You know the kind you usually buy…and you know to steer clear of the ones you’ll just spit out. But you may not know the ins and outs of all the other varieties available.

That’s why we’ve come up with the Coffee Lingo 101 series, to help you learn what makes what, what, when it comes to coffee. In a recent post, we covered the difference between robusta vs Arabica. This time, it’s all about Kona coffee.

So, Just What Is Kona Coffee?

Hawaii Roasters Kona Coffee

Hawaii Roasters 100% Kona Coffee

Here’s the mind bender of the moment: Kona coffee is actually Arabica coffee—but it’s from Hawaii. Arabica coffee makes up 60 percent of the world’s coffee consumption, and is typically less caffeinated than other types of coffee. The Kona district is on the Big Island of Hawaii, and that lush landscape is the only place this expensive coffee is grown. Considering how small the stretch of land is (hello, 50 square miles), you have to admit this is one very fruitful area.

Wait, back up. So Kona coffee is just Arabica but from a fancy island origin? Sort of. But it’s more complicated than that.

Here’s the deal: A very unique set of environmental factors contribute to the unique properties of this special bean. We’re talking a consistent weather pattern of sunny mornings and rainy afternoons, coupled with a dark, mineral-rich volcanic soil—this is not a formula you’ll find in most Arabica-producing regions. That very specific set of conditions is why only coffee from this particular area can legally be designated as Kona coffee.

Keep in mind that, like any coffee, Kona coffee can be roasted in different intensities. So whether you’re a light, medium, or dark roast fan, Kona coffees and blends may be just what you’ve been looking for.

Ready to give it a shot (or gulp)? Try any of these top picks:

Hawaii Roasters 100% Kona Coffee: These hand-picked, farm-roasted beans have been featured everywhere from the Hawaii Governors Export Awards to the Food and Wine Radio Network—and for good reason. Certified by the state of Hawaii as 100% Kona, these sun-dried beans yield a wonderfully delicate flavor.

Magnum Kona Blend Coffee: This is the budget-friendly way to get a taste of Kona without the higher pricetag. Kona blends are required to have at least 10 percent Kona beans, which can be mixed with any other beans, typically Columbian or Brazilian. Magnum’s full-bodied blend has a light taste with medium acidity, and is decidedly less expensive than its 100% Kona competitors.

Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee: Fresh coffee is yours when you go with this small-batch provider. Expect a chocolaty aroma with hints of almonds and vanilla. And if you’re looking for toxins, look elsewhere. These growers skip the herbicides and pesticides that may be found in other coffee crops.

Whichever product you choose, Kona coffee is a must-try for any coffee lover. If you like it, you’ll have just stumbled across a delightful new option. If you don’t, you’ll at least know one less thing to buy!

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