White ceramic cup with pile of Kona coffee beans

What is Kona Coffee and Why is It Special?

Audrey Harrison
Home brewer

Kona coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. If you are a coffee enthusiast with undying love for coffee then you must have heard of Kona coffee.

If yes, then I must appreciate that you are a true coffee lover with great coffee sense but in case you have not.

Don't worry! This blog is all about Kona coffee. Today in this blog I will share with you complete details about Kona coffee, its history, what makes it special, and much more.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Kona Coffee?

Kona coffee is a special type of arabica coffee that is cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the Kona district of Hawaii.  

Thanks to the Kona coffee belt, located on the western side of the island and its ideal climate, soil, and elevation for growing high-quality coffee beans.

The unique combination of rich volcanic soil, sunny mornings, rainy afternoons, and mild nights contributes to the distinctive flavor profile of Kona coffee.

History of Kona Coffee

The history of Kona coffee is as exciting and captivating as its flavor. Its story began with a Spanish advisor Don Francisco de Paula Marin, who introduced coffee plants to the islands in 1817.

Although the results were not as expected, the potential of Kona's climate and volcanic soil was evident.

Later Chief Boki, the governor of Oahu, showed interest in coffee cultivation and imported plants from Brazil in 1825.

These plants flourished in the Kona district, beginning a thriving coffee industry. Samuel Ruggles played a crucial role in its development by introducing new techniques and expanding cultivation.

Over the years, Kona Coffee's reputation skyrocketed and evolved from small family farms to a globally renowned specialty.

The labor-intensive process of handpicking, sun-drying, and careful roasting has remained a tradition, contributing to the coffee's exceptional taste.

What makes Kona coffee special?

What sets this coffee apart is not just its origin; it's the combination of elements that result in a flavorful brew.

Kona's magic lies in its unique terroir. rich volcanic soil, soaked in the sun and flourished by gentle island rains, nourishes the coffee plants, infusing the beans with a distinctive character.

Sunny mornings, cloud-strewn afternoons, and cool nights resemble a slow-growth environment, allowing the beans to mature timely, developing complex flavors.

Outstanding the usually grown coffee, Kona beans are hand-picked, making sure only the ripest and highest-quality cherries are chosen.

So, why Kona coffee? Because it's not just a cup of coffee; it's a taste of nature's touch, prepared with dedication, care, and love.

Where to buy Kona coffee?

1) Local Kona farms

Local Kona farms are perfect to serve your quest for the perfect Kona coffee. Most offer freshly harvested beans, providing an authentic taste of the region's coffee craftsmanship.

I prefer specialty coffee shops Selecting the right Kona beans from specialty coffee shops with a focus on quality. These establishments often feature a curated selection of Kona coffee beans, allowing you to bring an aroma of Hawaiian paradise to your home.

2) Online retailers

In the digital age, the world is at our fingertips. There are numerous reputable online retailers specializing in Kona coffee, offering reliable delivery options for enthusiasts worldwide. So you can also source your Kona coffee beans from them.

3) Hawaii’s Farmers' Market

Hawaii's farmer's market is also a go-to option if you like to handpick your Kona beans. Local growers frequently showcase their harvest here, embracing a chance to interact with the coffee enthusiasts.

4) Direct from roasters

Connecting directly with Kona coffee roasters is also a favorable option. Many roasters ship freshly roasted beans directly to your doorstep, ensuring freshness and flavor.

5) Certified brands

Look for certifications like the Kona Coffee Belt seal. This assures that the coffee you're purchasing is originally from the Kona region, meeting the standards of authenticity.

Finding genuine Kona coffee is a challenging task but a little research, asking questions and trusted sources can help you source the perfect Kona coffee beans.

Is Kona coffee expensive?

Yes, Kona Coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world.  The cost is affected by its exclusive geographic origin in Hawaii, where ideal growing conditions contribute to its unique flavor.

Careful cultivation processes, including handpicking and careful roasting, add to the price. Authenticity certifications ensure genuine Kona coffee but also increase the overall cost.

Despite the cost, many enthusiasts adore the quality, rarity, and rich taste of Kona coffee which is well worth the investment.

So if you're a coffee lover who relishes high quality and unique flavor, then Kona coffee may be the right fit and worth the cost.

Types of Kona coffee

1) Kona Extra Fancy

Embracing the quality standards, Extra Fancy beans are the largest and most flavorful, often resembling the cream of the Kona coffee crop.

2) Kona Fancy

Comparatively smaller in size but still of high quality, Fancy beans have a rich taste which makes them a popular choice for those seeking premium Kona coffee.

3) Kona No. 1

A unique blend of Fancy and Extra Fancy beans, Kona No. 1 has a well-balanced and robust flavor, capturing the essence of Kona coffee excellence.

4) Kona Select

Marked for its versatility and mouth-watering taste, Kona Select combines various grades, making it an outstanding choice for those new to Kona coffee.

5) Kona Prime

Despite being smaller in size, Kona Prime delivers the signature Kona coffee taste, making it a budget-friendly option without compromising on quality.

Having a deep understanding of the different types of Kona coffee allows you to tailor your Kona coffee experience based on your preferences.

Whether you crave the bold richness of Extra Fancy or the tempting Kona Select, each coffee is perfect to entice your taste buds.

Kona coffee buying tips

1) Look for the seal

Make sure you don't get tricked by fancy labels. The yellow "100% Kona Coffee" seal with a Hawaiian map is the best way to find authentic coffee.

2) Price matters

Kona is special, but don't go for sky-high prices. Do your research and adhere to reasonable ranges based on type, roast, and amount.

3) Ask questions

Trustworthy sellers don't shy to talk about Kona! Don't hesitate to ask about their sourcing, roasting, and certifications. Transparency is the key.

4) Go local (if possible)

Visit Hawaiian farms and shops for a genuine island experience. Learn from the masters and bring home a true Kona treasure.

5) Online options

You can't reach Hawaii, but Hawaii can reach you. Reputable online stores do serve Kona coffee so go for specialists or platforms with trusted vendors and buyer protection.

6) Choose the blends

In case of budget constraints, you can go for Kona blends as they are comparatively budget-friendly. Just make sure they have a rich amount of real Kona beans.

7) Bonus tip

Try sample sizes! Many Kona roasters deliver smaller amounts so you can experiment before making a larger purchase.

8) Explore the grades

Understand the different grades like Extra Fancy or Fancy and their flavor notes to choose the flavor profile that suits your preferences.

9) Freshness matters

Select only recently roasted beans for the best flavors. Check the roast date on the packaging to ensure freshness.

10) Read reviews

Read customer reviews to measure the quality and taste of the specific Kona coffee brand you're considering.

Wrapping up

Here, I have got you covered with the whole and soul of Kona coffee.

In conclusion, Kona coffee is an amazing transition of Hawaii essence into a concise cup.

From the handpicked Kona beans to the flavorful taste, every step is an adventurous journey to discover Kona coffee. Now it's your turn. Gather your ingredients, brew your amazing cup, and savor the best coffee.


1) Does Starbucks sell Kona coffee?

No! Starbucks does not sell Kona coffee. But they might be using small amounts in blends, so you can check the label for the percentage of Kona beans used.

2) How to identify real Kona coffee?

Finding real Kona coffee is an art that can be mastered with practice. The simplest way is to look for the golden seal! The Kona coffee seal depicts authenticity(a seal with "100% Kona coffee" and a Hawaiian map) which guarantees the island's origin and quality.

3) Can you bring Kona coffee back from Hawaii?

Yes! You can bring Kona coffee back from Hawaii. You can stock up on the ground or whole beans (roasted beans stay fresher) from reputable sources, ensuring they meet agricultural regulations, and pack them in your checked luggage.


Audrey Harrison

Team TAB
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I am a coffee aficionado based in Seattle. I have devoted my passion and expertise to perfecting the art of home coffee brewing. I became known for my exquisite pour-over and espresso creations. I source coffee beans from local roasters and explores ...