Best Kona Coffee Brands: What To Know Before Buying!

Best Kona coffee brands

 

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure

Most people know Hawaii for its tropical weather and beautiful beaches. But in the coffee world, Hawaii is also known for its amazing Kona coffee beans! Not all Kona beans are the same though, which is why we’ve searched around to find the best Kona coffee brands.

Overall, Koa coffee is our top choice for authentic Kona coffee beans. They’re an award-winning company that sells 100% pure Kona beans. So, if you want to know right off the bat where you can get the best Kona beans, Koa Coffee is the place!

Besides listing our recommended Kona coffee brands, in this article we’re also going to talk about:

  • what Kona coffee is
  • the History of Kona coffee and
  • what makes it so special

Let’s jump right in!

Best Kona Coffee Picks


  1. Voted Best Coffee in America” by Forbes: Kona Tri-Pack
  2. Best Bestseller: Kona Peaberry
  3. Best Highest Kona Grade: Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy
  4. Best Kona Coffee Subscription: Keala’s Hawaiian Coffee
  5. Best Superior Coffee Beans: Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee

Best Kona Coffee Brands To Try

1. Koa Coffee Medium Roast Whole Bean Kona Tri-Pack

The Koa Coffee Tri-pack includes three different types of Kona coffees.

  • Grande Domaine Kona Coffee – A bold medium-dark roast that won the Kona Coffee Cupping Contest for quality and balance
  • Private reserve – A proprietary blend of Kona of medium roast beans exclusive to Koa Coffee. Smooth, mild, and slightly sweet.
  • Estate Kona – These are medium roast beans sourced from a single Kona farm and grown at a high elevation. The roast accentuates the bean’s natural flavor while providing the nuttiness that coffee drinkers love.

All of these Koa beans have been cultivated in the rich volcanic soil of Hawaii and grown at an elevation of 500-3,000 feet above sea level. And each package provides a unique experience of amazing flavor.

Medium Roast Whole Bean Kona Coffee Tri-Pack image


2. Koa Coffee – 100% Kona Peaberry

The 100% Kona Peaberry is one of Koa’s bestsellers. These beans brew a full-bodied, smooth, and robust cup of coffee that’s truly among the best Hawaii has to offer.

It’s also one of the rarest beans you’ll find on the market. In fact, they’re so popular, Koa occasionally has to buy Peaberries from smaller Kona farmers that don’t sell to the public.

The rarity of Peaberries comes from their unique shape. Most coffee cherries contain two seeds that are pressed against each other. This is why coffee beans are usually flat on one side.

However, around 3-5% of the time, the coffee cherry contains a single, oval-shaped bean. And that bean is called a peaberry.

Whether peaberries are better or not will come down to your own taste buds. But the demand for Peaberries coffee has been increasing as coffee drinkers discover these unique little beans!

Peaberry Medium Roast Whole Bean 100% Kona Coffee image


3. Volcanica Coffee – Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy

Volcanica’s Kona Extra Fancy is made from the highest grade of 100% pure Kona beans grown on Aloha Farms in Hawaii.

These medium roast beans are well-balanced and full-bodied, with the flavor of jasmine, bright citrus, tart cherries, and sweet caramel.

They’ve been roasted just enough to get that roasted sweetness that coffee drinkers love, while still allowing the true flavor characteristics of the beans to come through.

Although these Kona beans come at a premium price, they’re definitely worth a shot!

Hawaiian Kona Fancy Coffee image


4. Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee

Royal Kona Estate Coffee is sold by the Hawaii Coffee Company and has been recognized as a “Superior” coffee bean by the American Academy of Taste.

Royal Kona Coffee selects only the best Kona beans from the harvests and then processed them in their own facility on the island of Hawaii. The beans are then expertly roasted to produce a bag of coffee packed with authentic, delightful flavor.

These beans are medium roast and full of rich flavor. They also maintain the well-balanced taste profile associated with Kona coffee.

Kona Natural Medium Roast 100% Kona Coffee


5. Blue Horse Kona Coffee

Blue Horse Kona Coffee comes in medium or dark roast and is an excellent choice for a bold cup of coffee. It has a unique and intense aroma and low acidity.

These beans are shade-grown in a sustainable way by small Kona coffee farmers. They’re also cultivated without the use of pesticides and herbicides, which makes them as safe and natural as possible.

Blue Horse Kona Coffee has a complex aroma and well-rounded earthy flavor that’ll start your day off right.

This one is definitely worth a try!

Blue Horse 100% Kona coffee Image


6. Keala’s Hawaiian Coffee – Extra Fancy 100% Kona

Keala’s Hawaiian Coffee sells the highest grade of 100% Kona coffee. These are medium roasted beans with a smooth mouth feel and notes of nuts, toasted coconut, and passion fruit.

These coffee beans are available whole or ground and are suitable for any brewing method, whether you use a drip maker or french press.

They are also fully processed in Hawaii, so you’re getting authentic Hawaiian Kona coffee.

Keala's Hawaiian coffee image


7. Lion Coffee 24k Gold Roast

Lion Coffee’s 24k Gold Roast is best for those who enjoy a more mild and mellow cup of coffee. These beans are a medium-light roast so most of the coffee’s natural flavor is maintained.

Lion Coffee’s 24K Gold Roast has a strong aroma and gourmet flavor notes that make a great cup of coffee.

Each bag of Lion Coffee is made from hand-picked Arabica beans that were processed and roasted right in Kona. So, this is truly an authentic Kona coffee.

Lion coffee's 24K Gold roast image


What Is Kona Coffee?

Kona coffee beans are a type of arabica coffee that is grown in the Kona region of Hawaii and meet the minimum requirements for Kona coffee.

True Kona coffee can only come from this small area (called the Kona coffee belt). This means it’s in short supply, in high demand, and is quite expensive.

However, as we’ll talk about below, several coffee brands use shady tactics and misleading language to capitalize on the Kona name even if their product is less than 100% Kona coffee.

So, be on the lookout!

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What Makes Kona Coffee Special?

In a nutshell, Kona coffee is special because it’s grown in the ideal place for coffee cultivation.

The Kona region is a 30-mile stretch of land on the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. And the beans cultivated there are grown on the slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanos.

You may already know that volcanic soils are amazing for growing coffee plants. But Kona has a few other fantastic features that make it perfect for growing coffee :

  • Kona has an ideal tropical climate with bright sunny mornings and mild nights
  • Drifting clouds bring afternoon showers and regular moisture
  • High elevation creates a higher-quality bean with more complex flavors

These factors make Kona Coffee beans the most prized coffee grown in the United States.

100% Kona Coffee from Hawaii Coffee Company image

The History Of Kona Coffee

The coffee plant was first brought to Hawaii’s big island from Brazil in the 1820s. Those first plants didn’t thrive, but in 1828 Reverend Samuel Ruggles brought additional coffee trees to Hawaii’s Kona region.

There, the Reverend planted them on the western slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanos which is where Kona coffee is still cultivated to this day!

Even though Kona Coffee has been around since 1828, it didn’t begin to attract international attention until several decades later.

The Creation Of The Kona Typica

In the late 1800s, additional arabica beans were brought from Guatemala to Hawaii to supplement the coffee plants already being grown in Kona.

These new arabicas were the Guatemalan Typica variety which quickly grew to dominate Kona coffee farms. Eventually, the Guatemalan Typicas in Kona became known as the Kona Typica.

Nowadays, several Hawaiian coffee farms only grow Kona Typica. And some people believe this is partly what makes Kona coffee so special.

Kona coffee brands

The Koa Coffee Brand

Over the years there have been several Kona coffee brands, but the Koa Coffee Company is one that stands out!

Koa Coffee was only founded in 1997, but by 2001 its coffee had already been named “Best Coffee in America” by Forbes magazine. And in 2002 it won the best coffee at a Kona festival.

So, even though Koa Coffee isn’t a brand you’ll find in the stores, you can rest assured they sell some of the best Kona Coffee beans out there.

Things To Look Out For When Buying Kona Coffee

When buying Kona coffee, you might think that one brand is pretty similar to another brand. After all, they’re all grown in the same 30-mile area. But this isn’t the case!

Here are 3 things you’ll want to look out for when buying Kona coffee:

  1. Look out for Kona Blends
  2. Know the difference between Hawaiian Coffee and Kona Coffee
  3. Be aware of the coffee’s grade

Best Kona coffee Brands

What Is Kona Blend Coffee?

A Kona blend is a mixture of coffee beans from Kona and beans from other locations.

Names like “Kona Roast”, “Kona Sunset”, “Kona Style” etc. may indicate that you’re looking at a Kona blend.

Because of the scarcity and price of pure Kona coffee, it can make sense to sell coffee blends, but it does affect the flavor.

If you want real Kona coffee, make sure the package is labeled “100% Pure Kona Coffee”.

According to Hawaiian law, Kona blends have to contain at least 10% Kona beans. But outside of Hawaii, that’s not the case. So, if you buy Kona blends that aren’t from Hawaii, they could contain as little as 1% Kona.

Just to be clear, we’re not saying there’s anything wrong with Kona blends. We just want to make sure you know what to look for if you want 100% Kona coffee and what to expect if you choose to buy a blend.

Hawaiian Coffees vs Kona Coffee

Hawaiian coffee isn’t synonymous with Kona coffee. Kona is just one region, but there are other regions of Hawaii that grow coffee as well!

Besides Kona, Hawaiian coffee is also grown in Ka’u, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Molokai.

Most of these other coffee regions are on Hawaii’s smaller islands. But Ka’u coffee is grown on the big island just like Kona. In fact, Ka’u coffee is grown on the same volcano as Kona coffee and is often roasted by Kona roasters!

Because of the similarities between the two, Ka’u coffee is known as the “cousin of Kona” and is a famous bean in its own right.

The bottom line – just because a package of coffee is labeled Hawaiian or is from Hawaii doesn’t mean it contains Kona beans. Make sure the coffee is labeled “Kona”!

100% Kona Coffee ad banner

What Are The Grades Of Kona Coffee Beans?

Not all Kona beans are the same, so Hawaii separates them into the following grades:

  • Extra Fancy
  • Fancy
  • Number 1
  • Select
  • Prime
  • Hawaii Number 3

Usually, if a bag of Kona coffee contains only one grade, the grade will be listed. (i.e. Volcanica Coffee – Extra Fancy Kona). But some brands will mix grades for certain packs of coffee.

For example, Koa will mix Extra Fancy, Fancy, and Number 1 together for certain coffees.

Extra Fancy

Extra Fancy is the highest grade of Hawaiian coffee. These are classified as very large beans (having a diameter of at least 19/64 of an inch).

Extra Fancy beans are also allowed to have a maximum of 8 imperfections for 300 grams of beans.

As you can imagine, these beans command the highest price.

Fancy

Fancy beans are very similar to the Extra Fancy ones, but they’re medium-sized beans (with a diameter of at least 18/64 of an inch). They can also have a maximum of 12 defects per 300 grams.

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Number 1

Beans that meet the Number 1 grade are considered small (16/64 of an inch). Number 1 beans can have up to 18 defects per 300 grams.

Select

When it comes to Selecting beans, there’s no size specification. The only important factors are that no more than 5% of the beans contain defects and that no undesirable aromas or tastes make it through to the final cup of coffee.

Prime

Kona prime coffee beans can come in any size just like Select. But this grade can contain up to 15% defects as long as no undesirable aromas or tastes make it through to the coffee.

Hawaii Number 3

Hawaii Number 3 is the lowest grade available. This grade can contain up to 35%

If the coffee doesn’t meet the minimum requirements to fall into one of these 6 categories, it’s considered “off-grade”.

Best Kona coffee brands

How is Kona Peaberry Coffee Graded?

Peaberry Kona beans can technically be classified under any grade depending on their size and defects. But usually, they’re grouped together and sold separately.

Some coffee lovers believe that peaberry coffee has a sweet taste compared to normal coffee beans. Others say that there’s no real difference between the two.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, consider picking up a package of Koa Coffee’s Kona Peaberry. 

FAQ

Why Is Kona Coffee So Expensive?

Kona coffee is expensive for two main reasons. Rarity and popularity.

The Kona region is 30 miles long and 1 mile wide. So, it can only produce a limited amount of coffee. And because Kona produces award-winning beans, they’re highly popular.

When you combine the rarity of Kona coffees with their popularity, the high prices are understandable.

Is Kona Coffee Worth It?

If you’re a coffee connoisseur who wants to try the best beans from around the world, then yes, Kona coffee is definitely worth a try!

These beans were grown in the perfect location for coffee. They were also handpicked, processed, and graded according to quality. Finally, the beans are roasted right in the Kona region so the total travel time for these beans is minimal.

This makes for fresh, great tasting that is a bit expensive but well worth it!

The Bottom Line: Best Kona Coffee Brands?

Kona beans are generally considered the best coffee beans produced in America. Their rarity combined with the best-in-class flavor enhances their appeal.

Buying the best Kona coffee beans isn’t difficult. Just make sure you can spot the difference between blends and 100% Kona coffees. And it’s a good idea to know which grade of Kona coffee you’re about to buy as well.

If you’ve got a favorite Kona Coffee brand, let us know about it in the comments below!

Cheers Coffee Lovers!

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