Exploring the Rich Flavors of Popular Coffees from Hawaii
Hawaii, known for its stunning beaches and breathtaking scenery, is also famous for its exceptional coffee. From the rich and aromatic Kona coffee to the unique blends found on the Big Island, the Aloha State has a lot to offer coffee enthusiasts. Whether you're a connoisseur or just enjoy a good cup of joe, this article will take you on a journey through the popular coffees of Hawaii, delving into the different types, flavors, and brewing tips that make them truly one of a kind. So get ready to indulge your taste buds and discover the world of Hawaiian coffee like never before.
Kona, renowned as the most prestigious coffee region in the state, commands top dollar in international markets. The high prices can be attributed to two factors. First, all Kona and Big Island coffees are harvested by hand, ensuring meticulous quality control. Second, these coffees are relatively rare, resulting in everyone involved in the supply chain receiving fair and living wages. Interestingly, this makes Fair Trade certifications unnecessary in Hawaii. To delve deeper into the cost behind Hawaiian coffee, you can read more here.
WHAT DOES KONA COFFEE TASTE LIKE?
The most commonly cultivated variety, 'Kona Typica', gives Kona coffee its well-balanced profile with hints of sweetness, fruits, and florals. In comparison to other coffees produced on the Big Island, Kona coffee showcases flavors reminiscent of chocolate, jasmine, and peaches. With lighter roasts, you'll find notes of stone fruit and cocoa butter, while darker roasts present flavors of chocolate, nuts, and graham cracker. These distinct flavor profiles cater to coffee enthusiasts seeking a harmonious cup with subtle fruit or floral undertones that don't overpower the overall experience.
BEST OF KONA COFFEE
Our best Kona coffee, Kona Peaberry, has garnered widespread acclaim, boasting numerous 5-star reviews and a loyal following. Dark roast enthusiasts will find Kona Moon to be their next favorite, delivering a robust and satisfying brew.
Ka'u coffees are considered hidden gems sought after by specialty coffee connoisseurs, aficionados, and locals alike. Renowned for their wide range of flavors, Ka'u coffees often come at a more affordable price point.
WHAT DOES KA'U COFFEE TASTE LIKE?
Most Ka'u coffee farms are situated between 1500' to 2100' above sea level, offering tasting notes reminiscent of many Central American coffees. A sip of Ka'u coffee reveals a syrupy mouthfeel and complex flavors of fruit, honey, nuts, berries, brown sugar, and vanilla. Light and medium roasts bring out brighter flavors like pineapple, blood orange, and jasmine. However, darker roasts yield spicy-sweet notes akin to fudge, cardamom, and spruce.
For years, Hamakua coffee has flown under the radar due to its rarity. Nonetheless, the region has amassed a dedicated following of coffee enthusiasts. Two popular Hamakua coffees, Hamakua Mahina and Hamakua Stout Heart Dark, continue to receive high demand, especially from those fond of nutty or chocolatey profiles, as an alternative to citrus or spice notes.
Covering a small area of only 150 acres, Hamakua coffee farms range from five to seven acres and sit at elevations between 350 to 2,500 feet above sea level. This cool and rainy region provides the perfect conditions for growing the revered Typica variety, although Caturra and Catuai variants also enjoy popularity.
WHAT DO HAMAKUA COFFEES TASTE LIKE?
Great Hamakua coffees boast full-bodied richness attributable to their deep and nutrient-rich soil. Our Hamakua coffees stand out with prominent notes of roasted hazelnuts, milk chocolate, and molasses. Unlike Ka'u coffees, which feature bright citrus and exotic fruit flavors, Hamakua coffees tend to lean towards a deeper, more decadent taste profile.
Puna coffees, known for their rarity, are usually exclusive to members of our Wild Hawaiian Coffees Club. This unique coffee possesses striking, intense, and dramatic aromas, likely due to the volcanic cinder soil it grows in along with its exposure to approximately 200 inches of rain yearly. In contrast to the typical Hawaiian coffee profile, Puna coffees exhibit pronounced notes of almond, red wine, and rose.
Kauai coffee, produced in Hawaii's largest coffee-producing region, offers a taste comparable to Kona. With its mild acidity and decadent flavor, Kauai coffee provides a satisfying experience for any coffee enthusiast.
Top 5 Best Hawaii Coffee Brands
Hawaii's volcanic soil and distinct growing climate etch its name as a producer of some of the world's finest coffee.
If you're eager to savor Hawaiian coffee, keep an eye out for these five exceptional brands.
- Consists of 100% Kona coffee, delivering robust and delectable flavors
- Only hand-selected, highest quality beans are used
- Natural processing imbues the coffee with richer and more distinct flavors
- Smooth and light texture enhances drinking pleasure
- As a premium gourmet brand, it comes with a higher price tag
Regarded as the best overall Hawaiian coffee brand, Koa Coffee showcases the epitome of Kona's excellence. Featuring premium Kona coffee beans, this brew strikes a perfect balance between bitterness and sweetness. Koa Coffee specializes in medium roast, allowing the natural flavors to shine. Sourcing beans from the Mauna Loa Volcano, every bean ensures a refined and unique coffee experience. For a truly sophisticated cup, try their Kona Natural Medium Roast variant.
Discover the product here.
Volcanica Coffee Company
- Delivers a rich array of complex coffee flavors for a truly indulgent experience
- Smooth texture enhances drinkability
- Beans are cultivated in optimal conditions, resulting in robust coffee taste
- Being a gourmet brand, it comes with a higher price point
Volcanica Coffee Company is another brand that offers exquisite Kona coffee. Sourcing beans from various volcanic locations globally, this gourmet coffee brand delivers a captivating range of flavors. Their best-selling Kona Peaberry flavor, for example, presents a rich brew with low acidity and a medium body. These beans are grown along the slopes of Mauna Loa Volcano. Peaberry beans are unique as they develop from a fruit mutation that yields a single bean instead of the usual two. This mutation results in higher sugar content and more complex flavors.
Explore Volcanica Coffee Company here.
To find other exceptional Hawaiian coffee brands, check out the following:
Big Island Roasters Peaberry Kona Coffee
The best Kona peaberry coffee, our 100% Kona Peaberry coffee earned the highest rating during a Hawaiian coffee cupping evaluated by Coffee Review in May 2019. Peaberry coffees possess a higher density of flavors, sugars, and lipids compared to regular coffee beans. These unique Kona peaberry beans are akin to the "only child" of a coffee cherry, benefiting from all the nutrients exclusively. To learn more about one of the finest Hawaiian coffees we've ever tasted, check out our comprehensive Big Island Roasters review.
Peaberry coffees are a rarity, constituting only 3-7% of the total crop. These pea-shaped, naturally occurring coffee bean formations result from the coffee flower losing multiple pistils, ultimately producing a single seed within the coffee fruit instead of the usual two.
- 100% Kona Coffee
- Rare Peaberry coffee, accounting for only 3-7% of the total crop
- Medium Light Roast
- Tasting notes: Cinnamon, caramel, plum, a hint of cacao, and cedar. Offers a deeply sweet and rich flavor.
Grade: Grade 1 (Extra Fancy)
Discover more about our Big Island Roasters Peaberry Kona Coffee here.
Royal Kona Medium Roast
At the top of our list is the Hawaiian Coffee Company. Comprised of multiple sister companies, they offer some of the most authentic Kona and Hawaiian coffee available. Having tried their Kona products, we wholeheartedly recommend this company. Their estate medium roast epitomizes the true Kona experience, boasting one of the smoothest cups of coffee on the market. Made solely from 100% authentic Kona beans, this brew offers a remarkably clean flavor, all at an attractive price.
Grade: Grade 1 (Extra Fancy)
Discover Royal Kona Medium Roast here.
Out of the Grey Coffee Kona
Out of the Grey Coffee takes pride in producing an impeccable 100% organic single-origin medium dark roast coffee with a wide palette of complex and well-balanced flavors. Look forward to fruit-toned notes of strawberry and watermelon, accented by dark chocolate. This rich coffee features a uniquely vibrant acidity and a dry finish. Out of the Grey Coffee consistently earns a spot on our best coffee lists due to their unwavering commitment to exceptional quality. It is no surprise that they also belong among the best Hawaiian coffees.
Grade: Grade 1 (Extra Fancy)
Explore Out of the Grey Coffee Kona here.
Volcanica Coffee Hawaiian Coffee
Volcanica Coffee has steadily established itself as a household name among coffee enthusiasts. Their Hawaiian coffee showcases the highest grade of Hawaiian beans (Extra Fancy), guaranteeing unrivaled excellence. As a medium-roasted, shade-grown coffee, it strikes a rare balance between low acidity and robust flavor—a coveted sweet spot on the flavor profile spectrum. This coffee is not for those seeking budget options, as it appeals to coffee drinkers who prioritize quality and are willing to invest in it.
Grade: Grade 1 (Extra Fancy)
Experience the excellence of Volcanica Coffee Hawaiian Coffee here.
Hayman Kona Coffee
Hayman is a celebrated brand renowned for its exotic specialty coffees. It comes as no surprise that they feature on our list of the best Hawaiian coffees. Like other brands on this list, Hayman exclusively offers 100% pure Kona coffee, free from any other bean blends. Their single-origin coffee captivates with a genuinely balanced and sweet flavor profile complemented by impressive caramel notes. Roasted in small batches and shipped on the day of roasting, Hayman ensures the freshest coffee experience possible. As an added bonus, Hayman also offers Kona brew in Nespresso-compatible pods.
- 100% Kona Coffee
- Medium Roast
- Sweet, balanced, and remarkably smooth flavor profile, with distinct caramel notes
Discover Hayman Kona Coffee here.
Koa Coffee TriPack
For those eager to try different award-winning varieties of authentic Kona coffee, this TriPack offers an excellent choice. Considering the price of top-rated Kona, this TriPack offers exceptional value. Koa Coffee, known for maintaining the highest standards, presents this TriPack with three 1lb bags of coffee:
- Grande Domaine Kona Coffee: Winner of the esteemed Kona Coffee Cupping Contest, showcasing outstanding quality and balance.
- Award-winning Private Reserve Kona Coffee: Recognized by Forbes as "Best in America."
- Estate Kona Coffee: From a high-elevation, single estate farm, providing a classic taste of Aloha.
Grade: Grade 1 (Extra Fancy)
Discover Koa Coffee TriPack here.
Carta Coffee Merchants
Although Carta Coffee is a relatively new player compared to other 100% Kona brands, it delivers exceptional Kona coffee. Their Meridian roast is light and perfectly roasted, allowing the bean's intricate nuances and flavors to shine. It offers a slightly sweeter taste compared to other Kona coffees, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer sweeter profiles. Additionally, this brew boasts a creamy texture. Loaded with an array of natural flavors, Carta Coffee truly embodies the well-balanced taste of Kona. For more information, delve into our complete Carta Coffee review.
Grade: Grade 1 (Extra Fancy)
Explore Carta Coffee Kona here.
Different Types of Coffee on the Big Island of Hawaii
Okay, so you may have heard the saying "I make beer disappear. What's your superpower?". Well, for me, it's always been coffee - my ultimate "feel good" companion. I have an absolute love for coffee, not just for its taste but also for the way it makes me feel.
Drinking multiple cups of coffee throughout the day has become my cherished ritual, and I'm not content with simply visiting coffee houses - I actually explore cities and states in search of unique varieties, especially the local flavors. Coffee has become my obsession!
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful island of Hawaii, the only state in the U.S. where coffee is grown. If you're a coffee lover, you're probably aware of the popularity of Hawaiian coffee, with an annual production exceeding 8 million pounds. There are many reasons for its appeal, but the natural environment stands out as the most significant factor.
The Big Island, where coffee is cultivated, is truly blessed with favorable conditions. It boasts warm and sunny weather, rich volcanic soil, and picturesque slopes. Even the wind and rain contribute profoundly to the art of coffee farming. All these elements combined make Hawaiian coffee truly irresistible.
Big Island Coffee Guide
Welcome to the comprehensive guide that showcases the top 7 coffee brands from the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii. In this guide, you will not only discover the renowned coffee brands, but also delve into their fascinating histories, backgrounds, and locations where you can purchase your favorite coffee.
So, get ready to embark on this delightful journey of coffee exploration. (I can already imagine the tantalizing aroma! But before we begin, I must confess, I already have my favorite coffee by my side!)
When it comes to Hawaiian coffee, it's impossible to overlook the world-famous Kona coffee. This exquisite coffee variety is exclusively grown on the slopes of two captivating volcanoes on the Big Island.
With over 600 farms dedicated to cultivating Kona coffee in Hawaii, it's no surprise that nearly half of the total coffee production on the island is Kona coffee.
Raw Kona coffee boasts an enchanting aroma that captivates the senses. While some people prefer to blend Kona coffee with other varieties, avid coffee enthusiasts opt for 100% Kona coffee to fully experience its authentic flavor.
Interestingly, locals have a preference for blended Kona coffee as they find raw Kona coffee to be quite strong. They enjoy the unique flavors achieved by blending Kona coffee with other types of coffee.
If you're eager to explore Kona farms and witness the art of coffee farming firsthand, you can arrange a visit through The Kona Coffee Farmers Association and schedule an appointment.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that in November, the Big Island hosts the esteemed Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. If you're a devoted coffee lover, make sure to plan your visit accordingly for an unforgettable experience.
Ka’u Coffee, grown on the slopes of Mauna Loa, is another remarkable coffee variety to discover. To visit the farms, you'll need to journey through Pahala in the Ka’u region, the southern district of the Big Island.
Originally cultivated by former sugarcane workers in the mid-90s, Ka’u coffee has since gained immense popularity both locally and regionally. Its captivating aroma and unique floral and moist taste make it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts.
You can find Ka’u coffee in many farm markets, local stores, and even the well-known Hilo Coffee Mill. Additionally, you can book an appointment and learn more about their processes by visiting www.kaucoffeemill.com. While there, you can indulge in their finest coffee offerings and purchase handcrafted coffee, green bean coffee treats, and souvenirs.
Pro Tip: If you're looking for alternative locations to find Ka’u coffee, consider exploring the Hilo Coffee Mill, known for its exceptional offerings.
Puna Coffee, also cultivated on the slopes of Mauna Loa, can be found near Hawaiian Acres in Puna, situated between Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HVNP).
The growth cycle of Puna coffee starts with the plants blooming and emitting a jasmine-like fragrance at the beginning of the year. The coffee cherries then undergo a transformative phase during the summer season, leading to the final picking process in autumn.
Puna coffee is widely recognized for its full-bodied and dense qualities. A full-bodied coffee offers a sophisticated and complex taste as various flavors intertwine, creating a rich and admirable flavor profile.
As a coffee enthusiast, I find Puna coffee incredibly satisfying and pleasing. When roasted to a medium level, it unfolds subtle hints of fine mochas.
Pro Tip: You can easily find Puna coffee at farmer markets, local grocery shops, or even purchase fresh Puna coffee online. Wai Puna Coffee offers free shipping on all orders above $50.
On the slopes of Mauna Kea, the captivating Hamakua Coffee is grown. This particular coffee variety is cultivated in the Hamakua district on the north side of Hilo, the largest city on the Big Island.
In the year 2000, coffee farming made a comeback in Hamakua when 13 farmers decided to revive the industry. This endeavor offered significant opportunities to local farmers who had not seen any industries or coffee farming activities in the area for the past century.
Each year, these farmers harvest approximately 100-200 acres of coffee. The allotted land consists of lots ranging from five to seven acres, providing ample space for cultivating this exceptional coffee variety.
When exploring the Big Island, you can purchase Hamakua coffee at farmer markets, local stores, and the iconic Hilo Coffee Mill.
Pro Tip: If you're seeking a coffee with a chocolate finish and incredibly rich flavor, don't miss the opportunity to try Hamakua coffee. Its smooth taste will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression during your time in Hawaii.
Imagine a place where 22,000 acres of former sugar cane lands were transformed into thriving coffee farms. This remarkable feat was accomplished by Kauai Coffee Company in 1987. Presently, the company exclusively grows 100% Kauai coffee using different varieties of Arabica coffee beans.
In 1992, Hurricane Iniki devastated the crops, causing extensive damage to the farms. However, the determined farmers persevered, and by 1996, the annual harvest of Kauai coffee equaled that of the renowned Kona Coffee Belt.
You have the opportunity to visit the Kauai Coffee Company center, where they offer informative walking tours or insightful video tours. These tours provide an in-depth understanding of the entire coffee farming process, from initial blossom to final roasting.
The Kauai Coffee Company center, located on the southwest side of Kauai, also features a delightful array of different coffee types to taste and an enchanting gift shop.
Pro Tip: Many coffee enthusiasts now prefer Kauai coffee over Kona coffee due to its mild acidity and unique flavor offerings. Make sure to indulge in the flavors of Kauai coffee when you visit the Big Island.
For those who value the roasting process, a visit to the village of Kualapuu on Molokai Island is a must. This area boasts a 500-acre land with a fully-operational mill managed by Coffee of Hawaii.
Molokai coffee is celebrated for its rich body, complemented by a chocolate finish, medium roast, and mild acidity. Additionally, the coffee presents a distinct flavor derived from Molokai's red volcanic soil.
While there, take a moment to relax at the Espresso Bar and explore the charming gift shop, where you can bring a piece of Molokai with you.
Pro Tip: Once you've acquired a taste for Arabica beans, don't hesitate to try Molokai coffee. It is made using carefully washed and sun/air dried Arabica beans, resulting in an exceptional coffee experience.
Waialua Coffee of Oahu
Waialua estate, situated between the cities of Wahiawa and Waialua, is where the exquisite Arabica Typica coffee variety thrives. The estate spans over 160 acres of land, located approximately 650 feet above sea level. Additionally, the estate boasts a 20-acre Cacao orchard.
Waialua coffee offers a medium-bodied cup with a clean finish. It tantalizes the palate with hints of chocolate and leaves behind a pleasant, exquisite aftertaste. Once you savor a cup of Waialua coffee, you'll discover its exceptional balance and well-rounded flavor.
Pro Tip: Trust me, you must experience a cup of Waialua coffee for yourself—it's an absolute must-try!
Tips to Taste Hawaiian Coffee
During my time on the Big Island, I indulged in various coffee experiences and discovered some essential factors to consider when tasting Hawaiian coffee:
- As mentioned before, it's crucial to savor Kona coffee in its raw form. Avoid any blended variations when it comes to Kona coffee. Some retailers may sell "Kona Blends" with as little as 10% Kona coffee. While these blends are more affordable, they lack the authentic taste of 100% Kona coffee.
- For a cup of Kona coffee, pay attention to the proportions of sugar, milk, chocolate, honey, and fruity flavors to enhance your enjoyment.
- Hawaiian coffee is known for its smooth finish and a slightly syrupy body, distinguishing it from other coffee varieties.
- Other coffee types from the Big Island may surprise you with aromatic notes of roses or hints of various fruits. Flavors such as orange and blackberry are commonly found in Hawaiian coffee.
- The brewing ratio plays a crucial role in determining the strength of the coffee. Adjusting the amount of coffee and water used in the brewing process allows you to customize the strength. However, when made from the same beans, coffee will have a consistent body.
Difference between Kona roast, Kona style, Kona blend, and Kona coffee
When exploring Hawaiian coffee options, sellers may attempt to confuse you with terms like "Kona Roast" and "Kona Style" coffee. However, it's important to understand that these variations cannot be compared to the original Kona coffee you desire. Let me highlight the primary differences:
Kona Roast: This type of coffee can be made from any coffee beans, and sometimes, it doesn't contain even a single percent of Kona coffee. Therefore, it is best to avoid Kona roast.
Kona Style: Similar to Kona Roast, "Kona Style Coffee" may not feature 100% Kona coffee. Instead, it may contain 10% or a specific percentage of Kona coffee. When purchasing "Kona Style Coffee," be sure to carefully review the ingredients and proportions.
Kona Blend: As the name suggests, Kona Blend is a combination of Kona coffee and other coffee varieties. It typically contains a minimum of 10-15% Kona coffee, but it is not 100% Kona.
Kona Coffee: If you're looking for the genuine Kona coffee experience, choose "Kona Coffee" made exclusively with Kona coffee beans.
Unfortunately, finding authentic Hawaiian coffee outside of Hawaii can be challenging. While some coffee shops claim to offer Hawaiian coffee, it's best to source fresh beans directly from Hawaii and brew your coffee to ensure a delightful and pure experience that elevates your senses.
** This Big Island coffee guide is a guest post.
From Catuai to Caturra: The 6 Most Commonly-Grown Coffee Varieties in Hawaii
One of the many distinctions of the Hawaiian Islands is the presence of ten distinct climate zones within such a small area. This unique composition allows for the cultivation of various coffee varieties beyond the well-known Kona beans. From Mokka to Mundo Novo, Hawaii now produces specialty coffees that consistently receive critical acclaim, satisfying even the most discerning coffee connoisseur.
Here are the six most commonly-grown coffee varieties in Hawaii and what you can expect from each:
1. Catuai: This popular coffee variety is known for its excellent yield and resistance to diseases. Catuai coffee plants produce small cherries, resulting in a bright and acidic flavor profile.
2. Typica: As one of the oldest coffee varieties, Typica offers a mild and smooth taste with a delicate acidity. Its plants have a distinctive elongated shape and require precise cultivation conditions.
3. Caturra: Developed as a natural mutation of Typica in Brazil, Caturra coffee boasts a smaller size and higher yield. It showcases a lively and fruity flavor profile with a pleasant acidity.
4. Mundo Novo: This hybrid coffee plant combines the characteristics of Typica and Bourbon, resulting in a unique cup with a rich body and balanced acidity. Mundo Novo typically carries notes of chocolate and nuts.
5. Mokka: Named after the ancient port city of Mocha in Yemen, Mokka coffee cherries are exceptionally small, producing small beans with intense flavors. Mokka coffee often exhibits a combination of spicy and fruity notes.
6. Yellow Caturra: Similar to its sibling variety Caturra, Yellow Caturra offers a vibrant and distinct cup. It showcases a smooth body with bright acidity and tropical fruit flavors.
Each of these coffee varieties contributes to the diverse range of flavors and aromas found in Hawaiian coffee. Exploring these different varieties allows coffee enthusiasts to appreciate the exceptional craftsmanship and dedication of Hawaiian coffee growers.
In conclusion, Hawaii is not only a paradise for its stunning landscapes and warm beaches, but also for its exceptional and diverse coffee offerings. From the world-renowned Kona coffee to the lesser-known but equally delicious coffee varieties like Ka'u and Hamakua, the Big Island effortlessly captivates the taste buds of coffee connoisseurs. Whether you prefer the rich volcanic soil flavors of volcanic coffee, the medium roast of Royal Kona, or the unique blend of Koa Coffee, there is a perfect cup waiting for you in Hawaii. So, next time you find yourself on the islands, be sure to indulge in the aromatic pleasures and explore the different types of coffee that Hawaii has to offer.
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