The Best Kona Coffee Brands
What to Know Before You Buy
True coffee lovers are willing to invest some time, and a few dollars (sometimes a LOT of dollars!) into their coffee beans and coffee gear.
So the search for the best Kona coffee brands and where to purchase them is not unusual for this crowd. Real, 100% Kona coffee is treasured among coffee experts, lovers, and aficionados, as one of the best, if not THE best, coffee ever, in the whole wide world. So that's a pretty impressive ranking!
Hawaiian Kona Coffee is unique in all the world, and the Kona coffee beans grown in the Kona Coffee Belt are like no other.
It's a smart move to take the time and educate yourself when it comes to Kona coffee, because if you really want to experience Kona, you'll want to make sure that you purchase the real deal and not a 'semi-Kona' brand. How can you tell? Honestly, two ways. By the price and by the package label. We'll cover that in more detail below.
We've done our research, identified the best Kona coffee brands to purchase, and also have provided some practical and helpful information for you along the way. Because if you're going to experience Kona coffee, you want real Kona coffee, my friend.
How do we come up with our 'best of' list? Honestly, with time, and attention to detail. We scour the internet world, discover what's available, and filter out the coffee brands that don't make the cut. Then, we study the features and benefits individually for those that look promising, comb through the reviews and actually read them, to identify the pros and cons of each brand as identified by real-life users. From there, we identify the top...the best...the most consistently rated higher...and present them to you.
Let's get to it and see the best of the best, and educate ourselves about this very special blend of coffee!
If you happen to click on a link and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Top 5 Kona Coffee Brands We Recommend
Our recommendations for the best Kona coffee brands in 2020 are right here, with much more detail for each found below. This is genuine Hawaiian Kona Coffee, friends.
You'll notice that we don't rate them as #1, or 'Best', or anything else. Why? Well, because we think that they're all deserving of special recognition, and we know that each coffee lover has unique preferences.
Authentic Kona coffee will have a distinct aroma, taste, and mouthfeel based on the specific farm it was grown on as well as the processing techniques. So, we give you enough detail to help you decide which brand, or brands, of Kona coffee will suit your taste the best.
So, What is Kona Coffee Anyway? What's the fuss all about?
Well, think about Kona coffee like you'd consider a fine, vintage wine. It's one of the most highly valued coffees in the world.
There are several characteristics of true Kona coffee that earn it this esteemed designation:
- It is grown in a specific climate, the Kona region on the west coast of Hawaii island. Visualize mountain slopes with rocky volcanic land, sunny tropical mornings, misty afternoons, and mild nights. That's Kona-growing heaven.
- Hand picked, usually several times from each tree as the "cherries" ripen...a labor of love for sure on the steep and rocky slopes of Mauna Loa volcano.
- The wet-method processing and sun drying of the Kona beans is a laborious process that is graded to Department of Agriculture Standards.
Why is Kona Coffee Expensive?
When you consider the extremely limited location (approximately 1 mile wide and 30 miles long) and the labor intensive process, the result is a coffee that will require a higher price.
In the Kona coffee belt as it's called, Kona coffee blooms in February and March, with small white flowers known as "kona snow" covering the tree. In April the green berries appear, and they turn to the red fruit called "cherries" by late August.
Each tree will be hand-picked several times between August and January, and will provide about 15 pounds of cherry. This will ultimately result in about two pounds of roasted Kona coffee. The labor cost of picking the Kona cherries can be up to 20 times higher than the cost of picking in cheaper coffee regions.
Many of the Kona coffee growers are small, family-owned farms who use traditional, slower, small-batch coffee production methods. It's more labor intensive, and usually includes hand-roasting every batch.
But when you taste real, authentic Kona coffee, it's well worth the extra cost!
Current Hawaiian law requires that authentic Kona coffee be labeled "100% Kona Coffee", and no other coffee blends can make this claim.
What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?
Some say that Kona coffee is one of the world's best, if not THE best. Because of the porous, rich volcanic soil the Kona coffee grows in, as well as the perfect growing conditions, the result is a unique, aromatic, mellow flavor without high acidity.
The rich and intense aroma will grab you first, before you take your first sip. There is no sharp taste, say the Kona experts, just an extremely smooth experience.
Medium-bodied Kona coffee is well balanced with a hint of chocolate, honey, and even a bright fruity note. The flavor profiles of the various Kona coffees can vary, with some offering a berry aroma and others more of a vanilla scent. But, you'll always find a smooth, rich, mellow taste with true Kona coffee.
Be Sure to Buy Real Kona Coffee
Here's the bottom line: No other coffee in the world can claim to be 100% Genuine Kona Coffee. Even coffee grown in Hawaii, if it's not in the specific area known as the Kona Coffee Belt, will be called Hawaiian Coffee. If the blend contains 10% Kona it can be called 'Kona Blend', but the other 90% will be from cheaper producing regions, to offset the cost of the Kona.
You may also see labels that say, 'Kona Roast' or Kona Style' coffee. This is not 100% Kona Coffee. Check the label before you buy it.
The Best Kona Coffee Brands & Where to Buy Them
All of the Kona coffee recommended here is 100% Kona Coffee certified. It is stated on the label.
You'll notice the prices are higher than the typical coffee roast, for all of the reasons we've detailed for you here. But, if you're searching for the best Kona coffee brands, this is what to expect.
Koa Coffee: Private Reserve Kona Coffee
- Proprietary blend of 100% Kona Coffee
- Medium Roast Kona
- Very smooth, no bitterness
- Award-winning coffee brand
Volcanica Coffee: Kona Peaberry Coffee
- Exclusive Peaberry bean with more concentrated flavor
- Deep, rich volcanic flavor
- The champagne of Kona Coffee
- Smooth, nutty, luscious
- Medium roast
- Low acid content
- Offered as whole bean or ground (drip, espresso, or french press)
Mountain Thunder: Private Reserve Coffee
- 100% Pure Kona Coffee
- Medium Roast
- Satake Optical Color Sorter removes any bitter tasting beans during processing
- Roasted with Diedrich Roasters to a Vienna Roast
- Nutty, chocolatey, and slightly cinnamon overtones
- Available through Amazon
Kona Gold Trading Co: 100% Kona Coffee Medium/Dark Roast
- 1005 Kona Coffee
- Medium/Dark Roast
- Crisp, fruity notes with cream tones of molasses and brown sugar
- Extra Fancy - the largest, most moisture-heavy and blemish-free coffee beans you can buy
- Available through Amazon
Royal Kona: 100% Kona Medium Roast Coffee
- 100% Kona Coffee - Kona Private Reserve
- Medium Roast
- Rich aroma and taste, never bitter
- Very smooth
- Available through Amazon, whole bean or ground
How Did Kona Coffee Originate?
An adventurous Spanish physician, Don Francisco de Paula Marin, brought the first coffee plant to Hawaii in 1817. His plantings were not successful, but prompted the Governor of O'ahu, Boki, to try his hand at it. Boki traveled to England in 1825 and hired an English farmer, John Wilkinson, to return to Hawaii with him and grow sugar and coffee.
They stopped in Brazil on the way back and picked up some coffee plants, and were able to grow them successfully in Manoa, a fertile Hawaiian valley.
In 1828, an American missionary, the Reverend Samuel Ruggles, took some of these cuttings and transported them to Kona. The cuttings flourished in the rich volcanic soil as well as the warm, sunny climate with it's regular rainfall.
Kona coffee beans were being grown successfully on the Big Island by 1828, and even then became an extremely successful product. In the late 1800's, Guatemalan coffee plants replaced the Brazilian plants, and these are the plants used today.
Kona Coffee Terms to Know and Love
Feel good about your Kona coffee knowledge and impress your friends with these helpful terms for understanding how Kona coffee is grown and processed:
- Kona Snow: White blossoms with a sweet scent that cover the trees periodically from January through May
- Cherry: Starting as a green berry, the coffee tree fruit turns yellow, then orange, and finally red (the cherry), indicating it's ready to be picked
- Bean: Type 1, which are two flat seeds formed within the cherry
- Peaberry: Type 2, which is when the coffee cherry produces just one round seed
- Pulping: When the beans are separated from the outer skin
- Wet Method Processing: The coffee beans are fermented from 12 to 24 hours, then washed in fresh water
- Drying: The washed beans are sun-dried on decks to a moisture level between 9 - 12.2%. Mechanical drying is sometimes used, but most Kona beans are naturally sun-dried
- Parchment: The stiff white skin of the dried coffee beans
- Milling: When the parchment skin and thin silverskin below it are removed
- Green: Coffee beans that are milled and ready for roasting
- Roast: The green coffee beans are cooked to the desired taste (where the magic happens!)
Think of Kona coffee like you'd consider a fine wine. It's one of the most highly valued coffees in the world, mainly because of the very limited growing location as well as the labor intensive processing required.
The growing location, called The Kona coffee belt, is a mere 1 mile wide and 30 miles long, on the west coast of Hawaii island, the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano specifically. It is labor intensive, hard, rugged work to maintain and then to pick. The wet-method of processing and the sun drying of the Kona beans is also labor intensive. Thus, the coffee costs more to purchase.
Because of the unique growing conditions, Kona coffee is unique, aromatic, and mellow in flavor without the high acidity found in some coffees. Usually roasted to a medium finish, the flavor profiles can vary, but it's always smooth, rich, and mellow.
We've sourced the current best Kona coffee for you! You'll find that some of the best Kona coffee brands are available through Amazon. Others are sold direct from the manufacturer's website, and we've got you covered there, too. Your Kona coffee can be ordered an on its way to you quickly and efficiently.
If you want to enjoy a truly rich, luscious, memorable cup of coffee, then discovering the best Kona coffee just makes sense. You'll pay more for it, there's no doubt. It is grown in a very small area of the world, is a labor intensive process, and there is a cost to that.
But there's also a reward. And that's what a true Kona coffee lover knows!
Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You'll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions.