7 Authentic Kona Coffee Beans: Best You’ll Ever Taste

Grown and cultivated on Hualalai and Mauna Loa’s slopes on the big island of Hawaii’s Kona district. Kona coffee is widely regarded as the most costly per pound coffee in the world.

What is kona coffee?

Kona coffee is Arabica coffee grown, harvested, and processed in the Kona region, Hualalai on Hawaii’s big island’s Southern and Northern Kona districts, and the Hills of Mauna Loa. Simply put, they are named after the region in which they grow.

Only beans grown in this region can be labeled as ‘Kona,’ but as you’ll see, the industry is riddled with loopholes and scams that are difficult to spot except if you know what to look for (which we’ll show you).

Kona coffee’s history

Samuel Ruggles

Samuel Reverend Ruggles planted the first coffee tree in the Kona District of Kailua-Kona in 1828. Almost 3 million coffee trees had matured across the region in 71 years.

Henry Nicholas Greenwell, an English merchant with a reputation for consistent quality, established the Kona Coffee brand in the early nineteenth century.

Coffee production in the Kona district accounts for 95 percent of Hawaii’s coffee production, with approximately 650 farms responsible.

How is kona grown?

It takes three years for the Kona coffee bush to mature and bear quality fruit. At this point, the planting season for Kona beans lasts a full year.

  • Coffee bush blooms and pollinates in February and March.
  • From April to August, the fruits begin to form.
  • From September to January, the fruits are harvested.

Fun fact: Each Kona coffee shrub can produce approximately 25 lbs of fruit (cherries), and it takes approximately 8 lbs of cherries to produce a 1 pound bag of roasted coffee. So, doing a quick calculation, one bush yields approximately three pounds of coffee.

All Kona coffee is harvested by hand at peak maturity, contributing to the premium price the Kona coffee bean commands.

Classification and grading of kona coffee

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture created the Kona classification and grading system in the late 1980s to ensure that Kona coffee was not being illegitimately advertised and sold. The Kona Coffee Farmers Association is committed to upholding these standards and protecting legitimate Kona coffee farmers.

Kona beans are divided into two types: Type I and Type II. Type I cherries have two beans, while Type II cherries have one bean. Type II Kona beans, also known as “peaberries,” account for only 5% of all Kona beans. Peaberries produce a richer flavor, elevating them to the pinnacle of coffee beans.

Kona coffee comes in a variety of grades. The grading scale for Kona coffee considers the size, weight, moisture content, and several flaws. Evidently, lesser defects = better coffee = higher grade.

The five grades of Kona coffee are as follows (in descending order of quality):

The following are the legal classifications of Kona Hawaiian coffee:

  • EXTRA FANCY – These are the greatest Kona beans: clean, uniform in color, and of premium roast quality, with just 8 complete flaws per 300 grams. Type I wears a size 19, whilst Type II wears a size 13.
  • FANCY — Like Extra Fancy, these are clean Kona beans with consistent color and outstanding roasting quality, but they can have up to 12 complete flaws per 300 grams. Type I wears a size 18, whilst Type II wears a size 12.
  • NUMBER 1 – Clean beans with uniform color and above-average roasting quality, but up to 18 complete flaws per 300 grams. Type I wears a size 16, whilst Type II wears a size 10. This is the last of the high-quality Kona beans.
  • HAWAII SELECT – The first key requirement for this Kona band is that “no unpleasant fragrance or flavor should be present when brewed,” and that faulty beans should account for no more than 5% of the total weight. It’s the best mid-level Kona bean.
  • HAWAII PRIME — This bean has the same clean scent and flavor as Kona Select. This band allows for faulty coffee beans to account for up to 20% of the overall weight. This isn’t Extra Fancy, but it’s also not your average “premium” grocery store coffee.
  • HAWAII NO. 3 — Beans with a clean aroma and flavor rule, but with a slightly higher allowance for defects.
  • HAWAII NATURAL PRIME – While there are no rigorous restrictions for these beans in terms of color, roasting quality, or size, flaws are allowed up to 20% of the weight. Limits are in place to preserve the Hawaiian coffee brand.
  • HAWAII MIXED NATURAL PRIME – This is the lowest grade Kona coffee available. The same tier as Natural Prime, except this is more of a coffee blend.

“Kona Extra Fancy” is the brand name for the highest quality Kona bean, distinguished by its large size and superior flavor. “Kona Prime” is the market’s lowest quality Kona bean. A “Kona Prime” rating indicates that these are the smallest beans and maybe up to 20% defective.

What is fake kona coffee

To be labeled “Kona Blend,” it must contain at least 10% pure Kona coffee, according to Hawaii law.

Between 1993 and 1996, a coffee supplier named Michael Norton repackaged low-quality city roast and dark roast for resale value, resulting in the Kona-Kai coffee scandal.

These blends were a mixture of Brazilian and Colombian fillers that significantly impacted and tainted the Kona coffee name.

Don’t be duped into paying more for “Kona blends,” as you will be paying for a low-quality filler.

Hawaiian gourmet coffee and kona blends

Keep an eye out for the name of the coffee and the list of ingredients/origin. A Kona blend may contain as little as 10percent Kona coffee – or none at all, just named after the region. Not all Hawaiian coffee is Kona!

Sellers from other countries

The Hawaiian government has strict regulations regarding Kona coffee. A blend cannot be labeled Kona unless it contains approximately 10percent Kona bean, for instance.

Make certain that you are purchasing directly from Hawaiian sellers who are bound by Hawaii’s laws. Buying from a seller somewhere else in the world is risky because you never know how much Kona is in their coffee.

There are no recognition or awards

Kona is a gourmet coffee that specialists adore. If you have gone through the trouble of growing Kona, you’re most likely to be picked up by a reviewer at some point. All of the Kona brands on our list have been recognized, even if it was only a nod from Food and Wine Magazine a decade ago (such as Volcanica’s Kona Peaberry).

A real Kona does not stay under the radar.

There is no HDA grade

There is a grading system for Kona beans. Approach with caution if the coffee isn’t marked with a grade or the lowest grade but sold at a price as if it’s the highest.

Extra Fancy – the crème de la crème. The largest bean is a pack of Extra Fancy Kona beans, with less than 10 percent defects per 1lb.

Fancy – second best!

No. 1 – the third best, but confusingly referred to as No. 1. This is the most common coffee grade that is blended with others.

There are various grades (Kona Prime, No. 3, Kona Select, and Natural Prime). Still, these are more difficult to find online, and if you want good-tasting Kona that’s markedly better than regular gourmet coffees, you’re better off paying a little more for the best.

Unknown sellers

Purchasing Kona from Amazon is both straightforward and advisable. There is clear information about the seller for you to review, as well as many reviews.

Going about this the other way around, on the other hand, is a good way to end up in a scam. You are free to write whatever you want on your website! Be wary of false claims. Walk away if they aren’t selling on Amazon with glowing reviews, mentions from critics, and a crystal-clear explanation of how much Kona and which grade Kona is in their coffee.

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What makes kona coffee so unique?

Ideal conditions are provided by the western slopes of the Kona mountains and volcanic soil. The climate and the soil in which it is grown are the two main factors that distinguish it.

Western slopes provide fertile lands and shelter, and the combination of sunny mornings and light rain in the afternoons creates a natural irrigation system. All of this creates a heady aroma with a strong flavor.

How does kona coffee taste?

The flavor of Kona coffee is derived from the fertile soils and mineral-rich volcanic soils in which it is grown, which allow the coffee beans to develop flavor.

Because Kona coffee has low acidity, it is gentle on both digestion and the palate, making it ideal for sensitive stomachs. The flavors vary by farm, but they can be described as fruity, light, and sweet with a hint of nuts.

The best Kona coffee brewing method

The French Press is the ideal brewing method for Kona coffee. Because the coffee does not have to travel through a paper filter, all of its fragrant oils are retained. The end product is a wide range of exquisite Hawaiian Kona flavor that is free of bitterness.

For the finest aroma and flavor, always grind your beans fresh. Additional recommendations, including as the proper ground coffee-to-water ratios based on your taste, can be found in Our Guide to French Press Brewing.

Does kona coffee have more caffeine?

No, the high-quality Kona coffee does not affect the caffeine content per cup. Caffeine levels in an 8-ounce cup range from 90 to 200 mg compared to a can of Coca-Cola, which contains between 30 and 35 mg, or a can of Red Bull, between 76 and 80 mg. There is a significant difference.

Caffeine takes 30–60 minutes on average to reach peak levels in the blood, but full alertness commences within 10 minutes.

What is the price of kona coffee in hawaii?

Assume you’re planning a trip to the main island of Hawaii. Buying directly from the source is the most cost-effective option. Expect Kona coffee to be more expensive than a regular cup of coffee.

Local coffee shops range in price from $6 to $8. Honolulu, Hawaii is well-known for being one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and coffee is no exception!

If you want to buy 1 – 2 pound bags of 100% Kona coffee, the price ranges from $20 to $42 US. Purchasing coffee that contains 10% Kona beans will save you money. It costs between $9 and $25 in the United States. This will not be authentic Kona coffee and will be made up of 90% cheap filler beans.

Which kona coffee is the best?

These gourmet coffee beans are cultivated on the Big Island in the Kona district and come in various flavors. Which Hawaiian Coffee Is the Best? Here is a list of the top ten. Give them a try because they have exceptional taste and are limited in amount.

The koa coffee tri pack

If you have never had Kona coffee and want to try some samplers, this is the package for you.

Tripack Med WB

Their Grande Domaine is made from trees planted over a century ago. It’s a thick, smooth coffee with a light bitterness that’s perfect for any time of day. They were awarded first place in the Kona Coffee Cupping Contest for their outstanding consistency and balance.

Forbes once named the Private Reserve the “Best in America.” It is made entirely of hand-selected Extra Fancy beans. It’s difficult to go wrong with this one if you want something truly luxurious.

The Estate Kona coffee is the last in this package. It’s their take on single-origin coffee, in which all of the coffee beans in the bag come from the same plant. High elevation farms, as we all know, are full of fun surprises!

Pros

  • With three different coffees, it’s the ideal introduction to Kona.
  • The tripack bundle is both cost-effective and of exceptional quality.
  • An award-winning company
  • Hand-picked, high-quality beans

Cons

  • They only provide one ground or whole bean option.

Koa peaberry medium roast

Only 3.5 percent of coffee cherries are grown to produce one bean rather than two, making Peaberry so rare. Only 3.5 bags of Peaberry Kona coffee will be produced for every 100 bags of Kona coffee.

This wonderful roast, known as the “Champagne of Kona,” is full-bodied and smooth, with a hint of spice.

Pros

  • The sweeter and smoother flavor profile is ideal for K-coffee.
  • Peaberry beans are considered a rare delicacy.
  • A consistently high-quality Koa Coffee offering

Cons

  • Limited availability

Hawaiian kona coffee volcanica

Kona Peaberry Coffee, 100% Pure, Gran Reserve, Whole Bean, Fresh Roasted, 16-ounce
1,681 Reviews
Kona Peaberry Coffee, 100% Pure, Gran Reserve, Whole Bean, Fresh Roasted, 16-ounce
  • 100% Pure Kona Peaberry Beans for an authentic experience with a flavor that can be described as smooth, nutty and luscious with an intense aroma.
  • The most prized coffee in the world and award winning by Food & Wine Magazine with smooth, rich and full flavor with low acid content. An aroma of orange blossoms and cherries open the flavor of chocolate and roasted almonds. Vibrant and bright and with notes of caramel and a sweet, delicate honey finish.
  • State of Hawaii Certified
  • Medium roasted whole beans allowing the true flavor characteristic to come through for a remarkable taste. Fresh roasted then immediately packed and sealed to assure freshness.
  • 100% Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed. Fresh roasted then immediately packed and sealed to assure freshness.

Its shade-grown cultivation distinguishes Volcanica brand coffee at elevations ranging from 3000 to 7000 feet. This results in a flavor that is rich, low in acidity, and full-bodied.

They have classified it as an “Extra Fancy” Kona coffee due to its solid medium roast and easy-drinking profile. To ensure that the coffee beans are supplied as fresh as possible, the beans are roasted only after being purchased, and you have the option of receiving whole beans or ground coffee.

Pros

  • The beans are roasted only after they are ordered to ensure freshness
  • Another balanced medium roast with mild sweetness and low acidity
  • Volcanica can also grind the beans to your specifications

Cons

  • Expensive – but you know you’re getting the best of the best.

Royal Kona whole bean coffee

Sale
Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee, 100% Kona, 7-Ounce Bag
674 Reviews
Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee, 100% Kona, 7-Ounce Bag
  • PRIVATE RESERVE KONA: Our medium roast private reserve 100% Kona ground coffee makes a delicious cup with a smooth, full bodied flavor.
  • ALOHA FROM HAWAII: Royal Kona Coffee features 100% pure Kona coffee milled at our facility in Captain Cook in the Kona region on Hawaii's Big Island, right in the heart of the growing region of one of the world's most famous coffees.
  • TASTE OF HAWAII: This exquisite private reserve coffee is always fresh and offered to you by the largest roaster of Kona Coffee in the world, Hawaii's leading supplier of coffee to the Island's hotels, restaurants, and retail stores.
  • ONLY THE BEST: Each premium Kona bean is selected from the best of the Kona harvests and then expertly roasted to produce a gourmet cup of Kona coffee.
  • SINCE 1969: We've been roasting premium 100% Kona and 10% Kona blend coffee since 1969. Every bag of our Kona is fresh and packed with delightful, authentic flavor.

Another well-known Hawaii-based brand is the Hawaii Coffee Company. It has a long history, with its forerunner Royal Kona founded in 1968.

Like Koa Coffee, they source their beans from their own plantations.

Since it is a lighter roast than most Kona roasts, it has a clean, bright flavor profile. Each Royal Kona Peaberry coffee bean is velvety, rich, and sweet.

Pros

  • If you like light roasts, has bright flavors
  • Roasted to order, ground or whole
  • If you are less price-sensitive, this is great Kona coffee to order.
  • “Extra Fancy” ranking

Cons

  • If you like smoother, richer flavors.

Kona gold coffee whole beans

Kona Gold Coffee Whole Beans - 16 oz, by Kona Gold Rum Co. - Medium/Dark Roast Extra Fancy - 100% Kona Coffee
421 Reviews
Kona Gold Coffee Whole Beans - 16 oz, by Kona Gold Rum Co. - Medium/Dark Roast Extra Fancy - 100% Kona Coffee
  • 𝟏𝟎𝟎% 𝐏𝐔𝐑𝐄 𝐊𝐎𝐍𝐀 𝐂𝐎𝐅𝐅𝐄𝐄 - Our beans are 100% authentic and meticulously grown in the shade of Macadamia Nut and Ohia trees in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of our farm in the Kona region of Hawaii which has the perfect microclimate for growing coffee beans.
  • 𝐇𝐈𝐆𝐇𝐄𝐒𝐓 𝐆𝐑𝐀𝐃𝐄 𝐁𝐄𝐀𝐍𝐒 - Rated Extra Fancy by the Hawaii Agricultural Society – the highest grade possible. Our full city roast combines crisp, fruity notes with creamy tones of molasses and brown sugar for a simply remarkable cup of coffee.
  • 𝐀 𝐁𝐄𝐓𝐓𝐄𝐑 𝐂𝐔𝐏 𝐎𝐅 𝐂𝐎𝐅𝐅𝐄𝐄 - All-Natural Kona Gold Coffee Beans are hand-picked, wet-method processed, sun-dried, and air roasted. This process ensures a clean-tasting and highly aromatic cup of coffee.
  • 𝐓𝐄𝐒𝐓𝐄𝐃 𝐏𝐔𝐑𝐄 - Our Medium Dark Roast has been tested using industry best practices to create the purest roast to share with your guests. We use ethical practices when producing our product to ensure an undeniably healthy brew.
  • 𝐀𝐕𝐏𝐀 𝐏𝐀𝐑𝐈𝐒 𝐀𝐖𝐀𝐑𝐃 𝐖𝐈𝐍𝐍𝐄𝐑 - Also our Kona Gold Medium/Dark Roast Whole Beans took first place in the Kona Crown Competition Division at the coveted Kona Coffee Cupping Competition.

These Kona coffee beans are picked uniquely, as they are sun roasted and air-dried on the plantation. This is the most natural method of extracting the full flavor and aromas of the coffee bean.

The blend produces distinct flavors such as full-bodied taste, sweet, brown sugar, and crisp notes of peach.

Pros

  • Wet method processed and hand-picked
  • Rated extra fancy for size consistency and moisture content
  • A smooth and complex aromatic flavor
  • The Kona beans are grown and roasted on the same estate.

Cons

  • The burnt coffee flavor may not appeal to everyone.

Imagine Kona coffee beans

Imagine Kona Organic Coffee Beans | Arabica Kona Beans | Top Grade Air Roasted | Medium Dark Roast | Organic Whole Bean - 8oz
428 Reviews
Imagine Kona Organic Coffee Beans | Arabica Kona Beans | Top Grade Air Roasted | Medium Dark Roast | Organic Whole Bean - 8oz
  • 𝐓𝐄𝐒𝐓𝐄𝐃 𝐏𝐔𝐑𝐄 - Our Medium Dark Roast has been tested using industry best practices to create the purest roast to share with your guests. We use ethical practices when producing our product to ensure an undeniably healthy brew.
  • 𝐀𝐈𝐑 𝐑𝐎𝐀𝐒𝐓𝐄𝐃 - Hawaiian coffee is known as one of the best geographical locations to grow beans. Our beans are grown in the coffee capital of Kona, at a precise elevation of 2,200 feet. The Air Roasting process makes our coffee great for use in drip coffee machines, French Press coffee makers, automatic makers and cold brew machines.
  • 𝐄𝐗𝐓𝐑𝐀𝐎𝐑𝐃𝐈𝐍𝐀𝐑𝐘 𝐓𝐀𝐒𝐓𝐄 - Sweet and robust without being acidic or bitter, our medium dark roast premium coffee has a smooth caramel, creme brulee flavor and an intense caffeine focus; truly gourmet coffee at its finest.
  • 𝐏𝐔𝐑𝐄 𝐊𝐎𝐍𝐀 𝐁𝐄𝐀𝐍𝐒 - Enjoy every sip of smooth, nutty, fresh flavor, achieved through the way we grow, pick, and process our beans. This refined flavor comes from the beans' slow maturation under macadamia trees, handpicking, and our custom roasting process.
  • 𝐀𝐕𝐏𝐀 𝐆𝐎𝐋𝐃 𝐀𝐖𝐀𝐑𝐃 𝐖𝐈𝐍𝐍𝐄𝐑 - our Kona Gold Medium/Dark Roast Whole Beans took first place in the Kona Crown Competition Division at the coveted Kona Coffee Cupping Competition.

This gourmet coffee has a distinct rich flavor that comes from being grown at an exact elevation of 2,200 feet, which has proven to produce the best coffee beans.

Low in acidity for those with sensitive stomachs and especially appealing to those who enjoy a fruity brew. This coffee has a full-bodied flavor with hints of sweet berries.

Pros

  • Increases productivity dramatically Brews beautifully in a French press
  • Strong flavor with no acidic aftertaste The highest distinction is given for weight, size, and lack of flaws.
  • The freshness is hit or miss
  • The price is higher

Blue horse kona coffee, dark roast, whole bean

Farm-fresh: 100% Kona Coffee, Dark Roast, Whole Beans, 1 Lb, from Blue Horse Kona Coffee in Hawaii
540 Reviews
Farm-fresh: 100% Kona Coffee, Dark Roast, Whole Beans, 1 Lb, from Blue Horse Kona Coffee in Hawaii
  • Always inspected & certified 100% Kona Coffee: "Kona Blends" may contain little or no Kona coffee.
  • Authentic, single coffee estate.
  • Genuine 100% Kona coffee; freshly roasted from our family farm directly to you.
  • Shade grown, hand picked, sun dried Kona coffee means more work for us. And more flavor for you.
  • Sustainably grown, herbicide and pesticide free, Kona coffee--the way nature intended it to be.

Blue Horse Coffee is well-versed in Kona Coffee. They’ve been in business for a while, and their beans come from a family farm with trees that are more than 120 years old.

This roast has a strong chocolate flavor, a nutty aftertaste, and a caramel finish. This brew is naturally delicious that even the most ardent cream-and-sugar coffee drinker may be won over by a cup of Blue Horse Kona Coffee.

Blue Horse is on the more pricey end of the spectrum, costing around $43 for a one-pound bag, but it is well worth it, in my opinion.

Pros

  • Top-of-the-line coffee packaging maintains freshness
  • Herbicide and pesticide-free
  • Excellent for drip coffee or use in espresso drinks
  • The company provides excellent customer service.

Cons:

  • Expensive;
  • Requires a good quality coffee grinder to achieve the desired flavor.

What is the reason for the high price of kona coffee?

The primary reason Kona coffee is so pricey is due to its scarcity. Each year, 2.7 million pounds of coffee beans are produced, with a large portion sold directly from the farmers.

Hawaii has restricted the area where Kona coffee beans can be grown. This increases the scarcity of available land.

Hawaii’s real estate is more valuable than in nearly every other country that grows coffee beans, which drives up prices.

The cost of transportation for equipment, fertilizer, and shipping of coffee beans from the island contributes to the price.

Labor is expensive because Hawaii is a state subject to minimum wage standards and US federal regulations, and a fair trade agreement. Do you believe farmers in Vietnam, Brazil, Ethiopia, or Kenya earn $7.25 per hour?

One roasted pound of Kona coffee requires 7–8 pounds of cherries, rendering the beans $8 per pick. Contrast this to the average cost price of $1.50 (US) per pound or $.90 (if that) in Ethiopia.

Is kona coffee available at starbucks?

Starbucks did sell Kona Coffee. On March 6, 2012, Starbucks announced that they would start selling 100% unique Kona coffee until supplies ran out. This was a limited release at the time of writing.

Where can i buy genuine kona coffee?

Because of its scarcity and purity, Kona coffee is rarely found in supermarkets. You might be able to find it in farmer’s markets or gourmet coffee shops, but be wary of purchasing it from unknown vendors. You don’t want to be taken advantage of.

Another option is to look it up on the internet. Many major online retailers, including Amazon, sell it. They’ll send it to you with a vacuum seal to keep it fresh till you’re ready to brew.

Why are kona berries hand-selected?

The beans’ ripening times can vary due to the unique climate of the Hawaii mountains, and the only true way to know it is time for the fruit to be cultivated is with the human eye.

Not just that, but the hilly and rocky terrain makes machine cultivation nearly impossible. As a result, all planting, cultivating, and harvesting is done by hand, making Kona cultivation one of the most labor-intensive in the coffee business.

How are the berries picked?

Berries are chosen for their color, size, and firmness by workers. They are then fed into a machine that strips away the flesh. The only thing left is the coffee beans, which are then washed and dried.

The coffee is processed within 24 hours of the berries being picked. What a breath of fresh air! This practicality is required to keep the fruit from spoiling.

Final thoughts

If you’ve never had Kona coffee and would like to see what all the fuss is about, give it a shot. Whatever your taste preferences are, each brand has something distinct to offer.

If you click on the Amazon link or Add to Cart and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Last Update: 2021-09-20

nv-author-image

Self-proclaimed coffee drinker. I would, on a typical day, start my day by grinding my coffee with a manual grinder and use a French Press as a starter (2 cups), then a pour-over in the afternoon (4 cups). I had my fair share as a barista but I prefer to drink it, not serve it.