Why is Kona Coffee so Famous?

Revealing the Secrets of the Outstanding Flavor of Kona Coffee

It’s not just people who love the tropical weather, gentle rain and sunshine of our island paradise- coffee trees love Kona too! Read on to discover just five of the many reasons why Kona Coffee is some of the most special coffee in the world.

  1.   The Growing Conditions: Kona coffee is grown in a 20 mile swath of Hawai`i Island between the elevations of 800 and 3,500 feet on the western slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai mountains. This coffee belt has the optimum conditions for growing gourmet Kona coffee – well drained volcanic soil, moderate temperatures, sun drenched mornings followed by cloudy afternoons and very little wind.
  2.   The Coffee Variety: Kona coffee farmers use the Arabica variety of coffee that originated in Guatemala. Arabica provides smaller beans with a smoother, rounder flavor versus the robusta variety that tends to be more acidic and bitter. The favorable weather conditions, volcanic soil and Arabica beans create the special characteristics that makes Kona Coffee so famous.
  3.   Handpicking: Many Kona Coffee farmers still handpick their coffee. The trees tend to flower over a six month period and will be picked several times. Handpicking ensures that only the ripe berries are harvested, leaving the green ones to ripen and be picked later in the season. Mechanical pickers strip the trees of all the berries, along with the leaves, potentially harming the trees and adding the unpleasant flavor of unripe berries into the mix.

Coffee picking on older farms can be tricky. We purchased our coffee farm and created Ka’io Farms in 1992, but the original farm was established in the 1920’s with a lot of hard work and manual labor. Without the use of earthmovers and other modern machinery, the coffee was planted on steep, rocky slopes by hand. Whilst that creates optimal growing conditions for the plants, it makes picking the berries difficult. We need teams of sure-footed people to pick the red cherry.

  1. Processing with Care:
  • Wet Milling - refers to the pulping, soaking/fermentation and drying process - at Ka‘io Farms the ripe berries are brought to our “wet mill” for weighing and pulping. Timing is important. If picked coffee isn’t processed quickly, it starts the fermentation process too soon which can cause it to have sour notes after roasting. At Ka`io Farms, if we are unable to pulp within 26 hours of receiving the ripe cherry, we put the berries in containers of cold water to stop the fermentation process. 
  •     Pulping is the removal of the outer skin of the coffee, exposing a tan colored second covering. The coffee is called “parchment” at this stage. It is at this point that we create a controlled fermentation. Parchment is separated from the pulp and fed into an open air tub to be covered with water and left overnight to soak for 14 hours - a step that is sometimes skipped by more modern farms that have to process enormous amounts of cherry. This soaking process creates an obvious fermentation process (think grapes being trampled into a frothy mass in the wine making process) which we believe imparts to our coffee some of the palate pleasing flavor of Wings of the Morning Kona Coffee that our customers have come to expect from their Kona Coffee cup. Without the fermentation process, our coffee’s flavor wouldn’t be as complex or developed once roasted.
  • Drying roof and mechanical dryers- we lay our wet parchment on a hoshidana, a specially designed open air deck to dry naturally in the sun. The wet pulp is then raked constantly by hand to ensure the beans are evenly dried. Once it is dry to the touch, if more wet pulp needs to be dried on deck, then we can put the parchment into large tumble dryers to finish the process. If you put wet coffee directly into the dryer, the outer part of the parchment and the bean inside will dry unevenly. The sun-drying process safeguards the natural flavors of our coffee.

5. The specialty farm factor: Ka’io Farms, is a small “Farm to Cup” company. We put tremendous effort and intention into each step of the process. From propagation to roasting, we ensure that our quality gourmet coffee is grown and processed to enhance the best flavors of your coffee, making it a very special coffee indeed.

  • Roasted Coffee | 100% Kona Coffee | Gourmet Coffee
  • Roasted Coffee | 100% Kona Coffee | Gourmet Coffee
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