Ed's Coffee Library

and Other Thoughts and Findings

By Ed Chen on 2015 28 August

Why is Kona Coffee So Expensive??


Kona Coffee is typically farmed meticulously by small family farmers on plots less than 10 acres a piece. The traditions of Kona Coffee have been passed down from old Hawaiians from 100 years ago and have been largely preserved by the generations of new farmers to enter the coffee farming enterprise, who included first the Japanese, and then the hippies from the 1960s and 1970s who disavowed a corporate rat race life, and came to Hawaii to find that the previous generation of Japanese farmers were eager to sell out their farmlands leaseholds, many of which were still owned by foundations dedicated to supporting the native Hawaiians and delegated by law to remain in agricultural production. Because of this special reserve of land in Kona, who proceeds go to educate native Hawaiian children, the land has been preserved from other uses, and has remained agricultural preserves for over a century.

Because Kona coffee is farmed by many different families with small plots of land, the quality tends to be higher. Industrial farming methods used on plantation coffee farms are nearly impossible both because of the small acreage of each farm, as well as the rocky terrain of the prime coffee growing areas. Hawaiian mountain soil is some of the newest terrain on the planet, with some of the soil literally just formed. Most of Hawaii island is between 0-400,000 years old, making it the youngest land on earth, and therefore, the least polluted. Hawaiian soil does not have any previous contaminants, such as heavy metal toxins, and remains one of the most isolated regions of the world.

All Kona coffee has to be hand picked, while most coffee in production today is pulled from trees with machines which strip the coffee of its leaves and beans, to be sorted later in machines. Kona Coffee is meticulously picked by hand and each coffee berry is examined by the farmer for size and color before being picked, if the farmer cares about his or her coffee. The volcanic rock and ash in Hawaiian soil also gives it a strong base of micronutrients, which agriculturalists know give fruits and vegetables, of which coffee berry is one, the sweetness and special oils and richness of taste which are not available to commercially and industrially farmed produce, which uses a standard and often bland set of fertilizers which lack micronutrients such as zinc, copper, selenium, and a whole array of other metals found at the parts per million levels, which only come to the surface from volcanic ash. How many places in the world can say they are regularly covered in rain that is nucleated from volcanic ash?

The mountains on the Kona Coast also regularly receive sunshine in the mornings and afternoons, while receiving rain in the middle of the day, due to the natural weather patterns which move water vapor from the sea to the mountain and back to the sea every day. This weather barely changes from day to day and season to seasons, giving Kona Coffee a consistency that is hard to repeat in other areas.

Finally, Kona coffee has to conform to meticulous standards in labeling. No GMO coffee is allowed to be called Kona Coffee, and all Kona Coffee has to be of the species Coffea Arabica, rather than Coffea Robusta, which is often used in instant coffees due to their higher productivity and high Caffeine content.

In the '90s there was a push by corporate coffee producers, who wanted to use the highly valued Kona name in their coffee, without having to put in the work by labeling coffee Kona Coffee, when they only used a small percentage of Kona Coffee beans in their coffee, mixing the rest with standard coffee. However, our founder, Mike Craig, led the push to force companies to label the percentage of Kona Coffee used in their coffee. Mike paid a price for this resistance to corporate coffee, but ultimately he and his association of Coffee Growers in Kona prevailed against the large plantation coffee producers whose actions would have put an end to the variability of the small plot farming traditions of Kona Coffee.

Kona is a region almost exclusively dedicated to the coffee industry, with mills, pickers, drop of stations, and farmers all working together constantly to harvest, process, mill, and roast the coffee, making each batch of Kona coffee that is sent out to the mainland some of the freshest coffee available. Our coffee is milled in 100-500 Lb as needed, and always from parchment coffee beans which is never older than 8 months old. Parchment coffee keeps the green coffee beans underneath the skin fresh and unexposed to oxygen, protecting the flavor. After the parchment is stripped from the coffee, the green coffee is quickly roasted and sealed in bags in 25 Lb increments. If you grind the coffee you get from Kona, you'll notice that the coffee grounds will leave a sticky resin at the bottom of your grinder, and will stick to itself in the grinder, which will not happen in the coffee beans you buy in the store, even if it contains 10% Kona Coffee. The taste and feeling you get from the coffee is very different as well. Kona Coffee makes me feel relaxed as well as caffeinated, quite unlike the coffee I used to drink in New York and New Jersey, which always made me buzzy and have to use the bathroom. Anyone who really wants to know what good coffee feels like should come to Kona and try the plethora of cafe's serving coffee over mountainside views of the coast of Hawaii. In fact, every year, Kona has a coffee festival, so come out to Kona, drink some fresh grown roasted and brewed coffee, and then take a 20 minute drive down to the beaches where Surfing was invented. There is nothing like it in the world, and the best part is, you're still in America, with all the conveniences it offers -- for example if you really want your Starbucks, we have that here too.

Being one of the oldest organic farms in Kona, we have some of the thickest soil and largest berries which gives the sweetest coffee. But you'll have to try it for yourself. Let us know if you want to try a small sample before making the leap and buying a pound.

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