Sought-After Hawaiian Coffee
Kona Coffee is the market name that is given to a variety of coffees that are grown on the slopes of Mount Hualalai, in the Kona District of the island of Hawaii. The seeds of Kona coffee are dried, roasted, ground and brewed. Kona coffee beans are classified based on the type of seed, which is often referred to as cherry because of the resemblance of the ripe berry to a cherry.
The coffee cherry is a sweet, pulpy fruit that turns red when it is ripe, and it envelops two seeds that are the coffee beans. Eight bags of ripe Kona coffee cherry produce just one bag of roasted coffee.
Type I coffee beans consist of two beans per cherry and type 2 coffee beans consist of one bean per cherry. The further grading of these two types of coffee beans depends on size, moisture content and purity of the bean. Grades of type 1 Kona coffee are Kona Extra Fancy; Kona Fancy; Kona Number 1 and Kona Prime. The grades of type 2 Kona coffee are Peaberry and Peaberry Prime.
The cultivation of coffee in Kona has been in existence there for almost 200 years. In the 1830s, coffee became a commercial crop in the Hawaiian Islands and the only coffee grown commercially in the U.S. is produced in Hawaii. In the late 1800s, a strain of Guatemalan Arabica coffee was introduced to Kona. This type of coffee soon became known as Meliken Koppe, which means American coffee. This type of coffee is the preferred and predominate strain cultivated in Kona today.
When the coffee market all but crashed at the turn of the 19th century, the large plantation owners in Hawaii started to divide their land into smaller plots and leased parcels of it to the local natives and Japanese immigrants. It didn't take long before there were many families growing coffee for a living. There are over 600 coffee farms in Kona, but most of them are just two to three acres in size.
Most of the Kona coffee crop is processed and bagged in 100 lb. sacks, which are sold on the world coffee market. This bulk coffee is in the form of green, unroasted beans. This Kona coffee is often used to flavor coffees that are grown in other areas of the world. The resulting mixture of coffees are usually sold as a Kona blend. You should be aware that a Kona coffee blend may legally only have as few as one Kona bean in it, in Hawaii it must be at least 10 percent. A true Kona coffee should be labeled as 100 percent; however, it is sometimes difficult to find a premium quality, 100 percent Kona coffee if you are not in Hawaii. Decaffeinated and flavored Kona coffee is also available.