Kona Coffees

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The Hawaiian Islands lie some 2,300 miles from San Francisco to the east, and some 5,300 miles from Manila to the west. Volcanic, majestic, lush, and beautiful, the islands are ideally suited to growing coffee. The soil is well drained and rich, thanks to Kilauea, the world's most active volcano. Annual rainfall varies across the island chain, ranging from 444 inches per year (a record) at one extreme to 8.7 inches at the other, but on the slopes of Big Island it is perfect. Temperatures also fall into the ideal range, in the neighborhood of 60° to 75° F.

Kona Coffee Character

Mark Twain called Hawaii "the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean." He was not off the mark with the description. And they do grow coffee in Hawaii, not only coffee, but one of the world's finest coffees. The Big Island, home to Mount Kilauea, and the southernmost of the chain, is where most Hawaiian Kona--an Arabica bean--is grown. Full flavored, heavy bodied, low in acidity, and delightfully smooth, Kona is almost any coffee lover's delight.

Grown on a number of estates--among them Lea, Lion's Gate, Lagenstein, and a few smaller farms--across the Big Island, Kona is harvested largely by families who have done so for generations. Hand picked, pulped, dried, and hulled, beans are graded from Peaberry at the top down to prime. Only from five to 10 percent of a full harvest of Kona beans is Peaberry. (The term refers to beans of flowers whose petals have fused and produced only one bean.)

While Kona blends are available, they are typically only 10 percent Kona. To fully appreciate the taste and character of this exceptional coffee bean, you want to be sure to buy pure Kona beans. The price difference, from about $20 to $35 a pound (Peaberry being the high end, of course), is worth every penny. The only problem comes when you realize that Kona is your baseline for fine coffee taste!

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