Close your eyes and imagine a paradise with sunny days, mild nights, soaring volcanoes, and some of the best coffee on the planet.
Now open your eyes and book a ticket to Hawaii, because that utopia exists, and it’s called Kona, the origin of the world-famous Kona coffee.
The Kona Coffee Belt
So, where is Kona coffee grown? Kona coffee beans are grown in the Kona district of Hawaii, the only coffee-growing state in the U.S.
The Kona district occupies much of the big island’s west coast. Still, only a small portion is suitable for producing the famed Kona coffee (1).
This is known as the Kona Coffee Belt. It’s about 30 miles long and 2 miles wide and lies along the western slopes of the Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanoes, between 500’ and 3,200’ elevation. Within this region are hundreds of separate coffee farms, most small and family-owned.
The elevation, rich volcanic soil, and favorable climate combine to make the Kona coffee belt ideal for growing top-quality coffee beans.
Just the Right Climate
Coffee trees are very particular. They thrive in a climate that is neither too cool nor too warm, neither too sunny nor too cloudy. Kona is blessed with just these conditions (2). Most days offer sunny mornings, dark afternoons, and mild overnight temperatures with little wind.
In Kona, we have weather that’s both cool enough and warm enough
The seasonal distribution of rainfall also plays a significant role in making Kona coffee beans so special. The coffee plants develop during the summer rainy season and then are harvested and dried in the arid and sunny winter months.
The Importance of Altitude
There’s a reason why all the world’s best coffees are grown at high elevation. The challenging environment causes coffee fruits to develop more slowly, which yields a denser and more flavorful bean. Additionally, the mountain slopes facilitate water run-off, so the plants absorb less water.
Kona coffee beans are grown at lower altitudes than most other top coffee producing regions, but don’t worry you.
Hawaii is a big island uniquely far north of the equator, which means even low-altitude coffee beans mature slowly. If farmers ventured any father up the slopes, it would only be too cold.
The Perks of Volcanic Soil
The slopes of volcanoes are home to many of the world’s best coffee growing regions thanks to their fertile soil, and Kona is no exception. The soil in the area is rich in minerals, providing a natural source of fertilizer, and it is porous, for efficient water drainage.
Hawaii’s Kona region has the perfect mix of climate, geography, and geology to make it home to some of the world’s most sought-after coffees. If you’ve yet to experience 100% Kona coffee, brew up a cup today and see what all the fuss is about.
Kona coffee is expensive for two main reasons, the cost of U.S.-based labor and the limited supply. The grade of the coffee can also influence the price. Learn about Kona coffee grades here.
The combination of growing conditions and processing techniques gives Kona coffee its prized clean flavors and smooth body. Find out for yourself by sampling some authentic beans from the region and following our tips for the right way to brew Kona coffee beans.
- Connor, A. (2017, June 21). Why You’re Not Drinking Coffee Grown in America. Retrieved from https://www.gearpatrol.com/food/a364976/hawaiian-coffee/
- Paiva, D. (2010, March 22). “Kona in a Cup”: Everything you need to know about Kona coffee before you buy. Retrieved from https://www.hawaiimagazine.com/blogs/hawaii_today/2010/3/22/Kona_coffee_Hawaii_closer_look