Why Is Kona Coffee So Expensive? And What Is It?

Kona coffee is an extremely popular type of coffee that has risen in popularity in recent times.

In this article, article we’re going to look at what makes Kona coffee special and why is Kona coffee so expensive.

But before we do that, what is Kona coffee exactly?

What Is Kona Coffee?

Kona coffee is a single-origin coffee bean grown on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Coffee beans are grown all over the world, wherever the environmental conditions, like weather patterns and terrain, are suitable.

Mostly when we buy beans we look for our favorite roast; some prefer a dark roast coffee, some a lighter roast, for example, the ‘blonde roast’ which has become popular in recent years. 

Quite often the roasted beans are a blend of beans from a number of different countries, the blend masters choosing beans that match the flavor profile they want as the result of their efforts. 

However, there is also a market for beans from just one source, which are these “single-origin” beans, like Kona coffee beans.

Among connoisseurs, there are some stand-out names, for example, Blue Mountain, Tanzanian Peaberry, etc. Acknowledged as one of the finest is Kona coffee beans from the Island of Hawaii, known as the Big Island.

Why is kona coffee so expensive

Is Kona coffee Arabica? 

When we drink instant coffee, powdered or granulated, it is usually made from the Robusta bean. This is a small pea-shaped bean, easy to grow and usually resulting in a plentiful crop. Vietnam, incidentally, is the world’s largest supplier of Robusta beans. 

The bean for those who prefer fresh ground coffee is the Arabica bean. Grown in shade at elevations above 600 meters, Arabica produces lower quantities per crop but has a richer, stronger flavor.

The geography and climate in the Kona region of the Big Island of Hawaii provide perfect conditions for this, and so yes, all the coffee grown there is Arabica, including Kona coffee.

what is kona coffee

How is Kona Coffee different?

Planted in the rich volcanic soil on the slopes of Mauna Loa, coffee trees have been cultivated in Kona since the early 1800s.

Hawaii is actually further north of the equator than most coffee-producing countries and so the climate has a huge impact on the coffee’s quality through cooler air and the blend of sunlight and moisture.

All these conditions combine to provide exceptional conditions for growing some of the best coffee in the world.

Why is Kona coffee so expensive?

Kona is some of the most expensive coffees in the world and is actually the most expensive by region. It is grown in a small area, around 30 square miles, known as the Kona Coffee Belt which makes it an exclusive product. 

In addition, Hawaii is not a cheap place to live and the coffee beans are handpicked by laborers who are paid up to 20 times as much as their counterparts in other regions such as South America and Africa.

Many other coffee producers use the “strip picking” method, where a picker takes a branch and removes all the coffee berries in one go.

But in Kona, beans are picked selectively, a much slower process but it means only the ripest beans are picked, and the picker can return to the same tree when the remainder of the beans ripen.

This combination of exclusivity and high production costs, plus the excellent flavor, add up to a premium brand.

Raw Kona coffee beans

What does Kona coffee taste like?

The most dominant flavor in any coffee is its bitterness or acidity. Kona coffee has mild acidity which still gives a ‘bite’ to the taste buds without overpowering them.

It has a full taste, described as a little sweet and nutty, almost a dark chocolate flavor with earthy notes from the volcanic soil. 

This flavor profile is unique and not found in any other Arabica coffee beans, anywhere else in the world.

Can you bring Kona coffee back from Hawaii?

In today’s restrictive travel conditions it is almost impossible to bring raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds in passenger luggage. However, coffee beans are processed and so they escape these restrictions.

You can buy Kona beans in most supermarkets and grocery stores around Hawaii, and take them home to enjoy at your leisure. 

One note of warning, however: always check that the beans are 100% Kona.

Often, cheaper products are sold as “Kona Blend”, and to qualify for the use of the name, the blend only has to contain a minimum of 10% Kona beans, the other 90% can be cheaper beans from Colombia or Brazil.

Final thoughts on why Kona coffee is so expensive

Kona coffee is expensive, justifiably so. The average coffee bean in your local grocery store will be less than half the price of Kona per pound.

Kona Coffee is unique for a number of reasons: not only the wonderful flavor, but also the location, the climatic conditions, and how it is handpicked with care.

In the end, what makes any brand a premium quality named brand is the quality. Whether a car, an item of couture, or a humble coffee bean, to experience the brand is to recognize the sheer and undiluted quality of it.

In the case of Kona Coffee, its uniqueness and its reputation among coffee connoisseurs worldwide ensure it is always placed at the top of the list of the world’s great coffees.