What Is Kona Coffee and What Makes It Unique?


There are many options for high-quality coffee. One of the rarest is Kona coffee, grown on the Big Island of Hawaii. But what is Kona coffee, and what makes it so special? In this guide, we give you a taste of one of the most satisfying types of coffee, explain its history and benefits, and discuss where to buy Kona coffee

View of San Francisco Bay coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii

What exactly is Kona coffee?

Kona Typica coffee beansKona coffee is coffee that is grown in Kona, Hawaii. Kona coffee is primarily made from the bean variety Guatemalan Typica, a type of Arabica. However, coffee farmers have introduced new strains over the years by planting Red Caturra and Bourbon coffee trees. 

Kona coffee is a hard bean that forms as a result of the bean variety, the weather, and the rich volcanic soil. Coffee beans harvested in the Kona region have a very high density, which leads to complex bean development during the roasting process and unique and fantastic flavor profiles once brewed.

Where did Kona coffee originate?

In 1817, the Brazilian horticulturist Don Francisco de Paula Marin brought coffee plants to Hawaii and planted the trees in the Manoa Valley. The venture was initially unsuccessful, so Reverend Samuel Ruggles took some coffee plants to the North and South Kona Districts. The plants flourished, but bad weather and pests diminished production in the 1850s. In 1892, coffee production resumed when Hermann Widemann introduced a type of Guatemalan bean, Kona Typica, to the Big Island. 

How does Kona coffee differ from regular coffee?

Kona coffee offers several qualities that distinguish it from regular coffee, including: 

Volcanic soil located at San Francisco Bay Coffee's farm in Kona, Hawaii
  • Prime Farming Location - The coffee is grown in the Kona Coffee Belt, a 35-mile long and mile-and-a-half-wide swath of land that spans elevations from 500 to 3,200 feet.
  • Volcanic Soil - The new soil that has recently erupted from deep inside the earth is rich in macro and micro elements, providing a full nutritional offer to the different crops. The rich soil helps the coffee plants flourish and contributes to a rich and unique flavor profile.
  • Climate - Western part of Kona, where Kona coffee is grown, is ideal because of the sunny mornings, mild nights, and afternoon rainfall. The western slopes and daily clouds protect from excessive heat. 
  • Terrain - The terrain is ideal for growing coffee because the steep terrain allows for optimal drainage. 
  • Production Processes - Instead of following traditional machine-picking methods that shake trees and collect mixtures of ripe, unripe, and overripe beans, Kona coffee beans are handpicked when they are perfectly ripe from the same trees throughout the harvest season.  
  • Delicious, Unique Taste - Kona coffee beans deliver a bright and clean taste with hints of honey, brown sugar, milk chocolate, spiced wine, and fruit. The citrusy aftertaste offers a slight acidity that refreshes the palette.  
  • Lovely Aroma - The aroma of Kona coffee beans is a lovely mix of caramel, butter, and cocoa.  
  • Rarity - Kona coffee beans are incredibly rare. They make up about 1% of coffee worldwide.  

How is Kona coffee made?

The harvest season for Kona coffee spans from August to December. Perfectly ripe coffee berries are handpicked from the trees and then put into a basket. The beans go through a machine to remove berry pulp. Next, they go into fermentation tanks, where they sit for 12 hours at lower elevations and 24 hours at higher elevations. Then, the exposed beans are carefully washed and allowed to air dry, where they develop a stiff coating called parchment. Through a milling and polishing process, the parchment is removed. Finally, the beans are roasted to perfection.

Mamalahoa Estate, Kona, Hawaii

Mamalohoa Estate Kona Coffee

At San Francisco Bay Coffee, we are passionate about providing you with the freshest, most flavorful Kona coffee experience possible. Our Kona beans are carefully selected from our farm located in the South Kona region. It is one of the most iconic coffee farms in the area with 150 acres total and 130 planted with Kona Typica coffee varieties. We carefully select and roast these rare beans to perfection, ensuring an unforgettable taste with every sip! 

Which of our coffees are from Kona? 

Mamalahoa Estate coffee bagOur Mamalahoa Estate 100% Pure Kona is a premium medium roast made from beans grown exclusively on our farm. The flavor is rich, balanced, and tropical.  These beans create the essence of aloha!

Our 100% Pure Kona OneCUP™ pods feature the same great coffee, but they are compatible with K-cup machines and commercially compostable.

We also offer a Kona blend that incorporates beans from Kona and Central America. It is available in OneCUP™ pods and has a balanced and smooth flavor, with a sweet finish. 

To find the perfect Kona coffee for you, visit our shop today.