Hawaiian Coffee: Taste, Plantation, Best Products
Hawaii is the only state in the USA that produces and sells coffee commercially. And when you think about the best Hawaiian coffee, Kona coffee is probably what comes to mind as it is famous across the world for being one of the highest quality coffee types.
But, there is more to Hawaiian coffee than Kona as there are many varietals grown in the state and in different islands besides the larger main island of Hawaii. And like with many other coffee growing regions, most of the coffee in Hawaii is grown in small scale estates.
Coffee farms in Hawaii make most of their profit from selling to tourists as there is no much coffee produced in the state to bring in huge profits like other coffee producing giants like Brazil or Vietnam.
To help shed more light on what makes the Hawaiian coffee special and to help you know how and where to get the best, below we highlight a few important points about this coffee and review a few good Hawaiian coffee options.
- Special Points
- History of Planting Hawaiian Coffee
- How It Is Produced
- Growing Conditions
- Big Island – Coffee Growing Regions
- How Do They Roast It?
- Best Brewing Methods
- Why is Kona Coffee Super Expensive?
- Summary of Facts about Hawaiian Coffee
- 4 Best Hawaiian Coffee Options
Flavor Profile – The flavor profile of Hawaiian coffee depends on the particular region it is grown in. For example, coffee grown in Kona will have a noticeably different flavor profile from what you get from other regions like Puna and Hamakua.
With the more popular Kona coffee, you can expect to taste honey, milk chocolate and brown sugar with hints of fruit flavors. And with coffee from other islands, you get brighter floral notes like rose or fruity notes like orange and a molasses-like sweetness. Generally, Hawaiian coffee will be rich but not very overpowering and with a slightly syrupy body.
Varietals – Like with a majority of other coffee growing regions, there are many varieties of coffee grown in Hawaii. However, the 6 main ones found across the state are Kauai Blue Mountain, Caturra, Catuai, Typica, Mundo Nova and Mokka.
Aroma – Just like the flavor, the aroma that you get on your Hawaiian coffee will depend on the varietal and where it is grown. For example, Catuai coffee will provide a sweet aroma characterized by earthy notes while Caturra has berry aromas and the Mundo Nova will provide a distinctive spicy aroma with a slight hint of clove.
History of Planting Hawaiian Coffee
It is widely believed that the first few coffee plants in Hawaii were introduced by Don Fransisco de Paula who was an adviser to Hawaiian King Kamehameha in 1817. However, these plants did not grow well or at least did not thrive.
In 1825, Chief Boki who was the governor of the Oahu brought a few coffee plants from Brazil that he then planted in Manoa Valley. These Brazilian coffee plants were more successful and they inspired people who then started planting more coffee plants in different parts of the Islands.
But, it was not until 1828 that a missionary by the name Samuel Ruggles planted the first coffee plants in Kona on the main islands. And these plants are believed to be the descendants of the now world-famous Kona coffee.
The first commercial coffee operation was started in Kona in 1836 just a little over a decade since the first coffee trees were planted there. Today coffee is grown on 4 other Hawaiian Islands (Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and Molokai) besides the big island.
How It Is Produced
Coffee in Hawaii is mostly produced by small scale farmers with smaller farms that are typically only a few acres large, but there are also a few notable large scale coffee producing estates like the two in Molokai and Kauai.
There are about 790 of these small scale farmers that plant coffee in about 8,200 acres of land across 5 Hawaiian Islands including the big one. Kona, in the main Island, is the largest coffee growing district in the state with up to 2,000 acres under coffee that produce around 2.4 million pounds of coffee annually.
Annually, the state will produce over 6 million pounds of coffee which seems quite tiny when compared to other coffee producing countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia. But, given the small acreage under coffee, Hawaii has quite a high output per acre.
Hawaii typically grows the higher quality Arabica coffee type which is available in 6 main varietals which are Kauai Blue Mountain, Caturra, Catuai, Typica, Mundo Nova and Mokka.
Hawaii is full of active volcanoes that from time to time can be very problematic, but these volcanoes are also the reason why it is one of the best coffee growing areas in the world.
The ash from the volcanoes helps give the Islands their rich volcanic soils which are great for the growth of coffee as they are rich in minerals that encourage the fast growth of healthy coffee trees.
Also, in all the coffee growing islands, rain is also abundant which not only provides enough water for the plants but also a much-needed break from the sun.
Overall, the Hawaiian Islands offer a perfect balance of sun, rain and low winds which create a conducive coffee growing environment. There is lots of sunshine in the state and the temperatures range from 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit which is ideal for coffee.
Besides the ideal soils and climate, Hawaii also has high elevations which can be up to 3,000 feet above sea level in places like Kona. And with the high elevations, you can be sure of getting rich tasting coffee beans.
Big Island – Coffee Growing Regions
#1. Kona – Kona is the most famous and largest coffee growing area in the Big Island, and it is famous for its high-quality beans that are meticulously cultivated and processed. And the region accounts for up to 95% of the coffee grown in the main island.
#2. Puna – In the mid-1800s there were more than 6,000 acres planted in coffee in Puna but with the coming of sugarcane, coffee almost disappeared completely. However, in the past few years, coffee has been making a comeback and there are now more than 100 acres planted in coffee in the region. With Puna coffee, you get a heavy and full body coffee with some nutty overtones.
#3. Hamakua – Besides the scenic drives and rolling hills, the Hamakua region is also slowly but steadily transforming into a coffee growing country. Most of the coffee farming here is small scale with the majority of farms being around 5 acres. Also, Hamakua coffee beans are typically hand-picked and they are characterized by a rich flavor with a chocolaty smooth finish.
#4. KA’U – Coffee from the Ka’u region has a distinctive aroma and a very smooth taste which should explain why it is slowly gaining popularity.
Note: There are still other coffee growing regions in Hawaii besides the Big Island and they include Kuai, Molokai, Oahu, and Maui.
How Do They Roast It?
If you prefer to roast your own coffee, it is always a great idea to know how best to roast any coffee that you prefer like Hawaiian coffee.
Because the coffee beans from Hawaii have a medium body and medium acidity, they will do great with a medium roast. A medium roast will bring out all the distinctive flavors and allow you to enjoy this coffee more.
Also, if you want to highlight the coffee's natural flavors, go for a light roast and a light to medium roast to experience the real taste of the volcanic slopes. And while a dark roast can also work for those looking for something stronger, it will cover up the smooth flavors.
While still at roasting, be careful not to roast too light as you can leave the beans underdeveloped while roasting too dark will remove most of the natural flavors in the coffee.
Best Brewing Methods
Because coffee from different regions have a different flavor profile that you will want to highlight when brewing, it is important to make sure you choose an appropriate brewing method.
Maui and Kona coffee from Hawaii will have a clean, sweet and bright taste if brewed properly. Most Hawaiian coffee can also be quite mild, and so if not brewed properly the coffee will not be strong enough for some drinker.
However, in most instances, you cannot go wrong with Hawaiian coffee beans if you use drip and French press brewing methods.
French Press – You can probably make any coffee taste great by French pressing it, and the Hawaiian coffee beans are not an exception. These coffee beans are not too acidic, and so with French press, you will end up with a smooth and well-rounded cup of coffee. Also, the cup will be full bodied and with a nice sweetness. But for the best experience, keep the roast medium-dark.
Drip Coffee – Drip style brewing will produce some great tasting Hawaiian coffee whether it is a pour over or automatic drip machine. Drip coffee making maintains the perfect balance of body and acidity while also highlighting the coffee’s natural flavors. This coffee making method will work best for Hawaiian coffee if it is a light roast.
Why is Kona Coffee Super Expensive?
Generally, Hawaiian coffee is more expensive than what you get from other coffee growing regions with the Kona variety being the priciest. The higher price tag mostly stems from higher production costs brought about by the high labor costs in the USA.
Besides the higher production costs, Kona coffee is always in high demand thanks to its superior quality which further drives the price up.
Also, there is not much of it to go around because it is only grown in about 2,000 acres of land that produces a little over 2 million pounds every year. What this means is that the demand easily outstrips the supply which further increases the price as consumers scramble for the little quantity available.
Summary of Facts about Hawaiian Coffee
#1. Coffee growing areas encompass more than 8,200 acres of land in 790 farms
#2. Hawaii currently produces around 7 million pounds of coffee per year
#3. This produce is about 0.04% of the global coffee supply
#4. The coffee is grown primarily for sale to tourists and for coffee blends
#5. Kona is the largest coffee growing district in Hawaii
#6. Coffee is now grown in 5 Hawaiian Islands which include the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and Molokai.
#7. There are 6 main coffee varietals grown in the state which are Kauai Blue Mountain, Caturra, Catuai, Typica, Mundo Nova and Mokka.
#8. Coffee farmers in Hawaii make significantly more money from the trade than any other coffee farmers across the globe
4 Best Hawaiian Coffee Options
1. Bean Box Deluxe Hawaiian Coffee
Sometimes you just want to taste all kinds of Hawaiian coffee before deciding which one will be your favorite. If this is the case for you, Bean Box is the best Hawaiian coffee brand for you as they make this possible by providing different varieties in one pack.
The Deluxe pack contains 100% Oahu, 100% Kona and two blends of different Hawaiian coffee, and so you have the best Hawaii has to offer in one fairly priced package.
Better yet, the coffee is hand-picked to ensure only the best quality beans end up making your cup, and freshness is also guaranteed by the fact the beans will only be roasted when you make your order. And the roasting is always in small batches to ensure uniformity and consistency.
Buy it here
2. Royal Kona Coffee Whole Bean Medium Roast
Hawaiian coffee does not get better than Kona beans, and so the fact that these ones are 100% Kona coffee is enough to show you that you will be getting top-notch quality, flavorful and delicious coffee.
You can also be confident of getting consistency in every cup as the beans are all sourced from a single estate. And the fact that the beans are medium roasted, you can be sure that they will provide the perfect balance of flavor and acidity.
These whole beans are "extra fancy" which is the highest grade of Kona beans, and they are also perfectly packaged to preserve the freshness and flavors for the longest possible.
Buy it here
3. Hawaiian Gold Gourmet Blend Ground Coffee
Hawaiian Gold makes this Kona blend for individuals looking for the amazing Kona coffee but without the hefty price tag that comes with it as it is a more affordable option.
What makes these some of the best Hawaiian coffee bean grounds is the fact that they are single sourced from the Parry estate which is famous for practicing sustainable agriculture in its 900-acre estate.
Also, the company uses state of the art roasting facilities to ensure you always end up with the perfect roast for every single bean. And by roasting the beans in small batches, uniformity and consistency are also guaranteed.
Buy it here
4. Hawaiian Isle Kona Sunrise Ground Coffee
You will not truly get the true Hawaiian coffee experience until you taste Kona coffee. And if you are looking for a more affordable blend, the Kona Rise by Hawaiian Isle is perfect.
This coffee blend offers a smooth and unique taste that will make you want to take more and more Hawaiian coffee, and the beans are always freshly roasted to ensure you end up with the freshest grind possible.
And because these coffee grounds come in an all-purpose grind, they will be ideal for any coffee brewing method. Besides having a rich and flavorful taste, this coffee is also properly packaged in a multilayer pack that will ensure it preserves the coffee for long, and that the grounds do not go stale before you get to use them.
Buy it here
Hawaii might not be as large as other coffee producing states or even produce nearly as much coffee but it makes up for what it lacks in size and volume by producing some great-tasting coffee.
From the rich volcanic soils in Kona to the favorable climate in Maui and Oahu, there is Hawaiian coffee out there to suit any taste and preferences.
And now that you know a little more about this coffee from our guide above and because we also highlight some of the top products in the market, finding the best Hawaiian coffee to suit your taste buds should be effortless.