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Hawai‘i’s famous coffee
Of all the products produced on the Big Island, none is more well known or has received more accolades than Kona coffee. Though now out-produced in quantity by Kaua‘i, Kona coffee is unmatched in terms of quality. With the possible exception of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, Kona coffee is widely considered to be the best in the world. Good Kona coffee lacks the bitterness of coffees from other parts of the world. By the way, contrary to nearly everyone’s belief, lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts. (Caffeine cooks away during the roasting process.)
A quality cup of coffee has little resemblance to mass-produced coffee you see on most supermarket shelves. (Of course, you pay more for the good stuff.) Good Kona coffee will set you back $20 or more per pound. Surprisingly little profit is made by the farmer at that price. Most small farmers grow coffee as a labor of love. If you see 100 percent Kona coffee (not a blend) selling for $12 per pound, it might be poorly chosen, broken or contain poorly roasted beans. You usually get what you pay for. And if you’re told in a restaurant that they serve Kona blend because pure Kona is too strong, it’s like saying that champagne needs to be blended with gasoline because pure champagne is too strong. Kona blends (which are blended with cheap beans from elsewhere) are less mellow than pure Kona. Blends are usually served because they’re cheaper, not better.
Some of our favorites… and some we don’t like
Being wretched coffee addicts, we’ve tried them all. For what it’s worth, we like Kona Amor, Holualoa Kona, Greenwell, and Kona Blue Sky. Some aren’t available in stores, only by phone or mail order. Kona Joe grows their trees on a trellis, like grapes, and the Trellis Reserve medium roast is very good. But at $99 per pound you’ll be forgiven if you want to pursue less expensive vices, such as caviar or Cristal champagne.
Coffees that we’ve tried and didn’t like are Bad Ass Coffee, Ferrari Mountain Gold, Royal Aloha, and Starbuck’s Kona coffee (This one is surprising.) We are not saying that these companies are bad, just that we didn’t like their coffee and didn’t think it was worth the money.
Coffee tours and farms
Coffee tours are available from many growers, but coffee farms that claim to offer tours are often poorly marked, and owners and employees sometimes seem shocked when you show up to buy coffee. Greenwell and Hula Daddy have good tours, though many of the other growers have been improving their operations in recent years.
If you’re a coffee lover, enjoying a cup of pure Kona coffee is just one of those things you have to do when visiting Hawai‘i. If you’ve got your sights on spending time on the Big Island, visiting one of the coffee farms while exploring the island is a definite bucket list item. (Plus, it will give you lots of street cred at your home coffee shop.) We here at Revealed Travel Guides probably wouldn’t be as productive without our daily dose of coffee, and we consider ourselves lucky to be so close to the source of one of the best coffee varieties you can find anywhere.
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Enjoying the fruits of Hawai‘i goes beyond coffee. Farm tours, beaches, jungle hikes, waterfalls and more await. Pick up our believable guides and start planning an unbelievable vacation.