Kona Coffee: Sometimes It’s Not in the Name

When you see a bag with the words Kona coffee blend on it, what does it bring to mind? Do you assume most of the beans in the blend were grown in the Kona region? What percentage? This question and the range of answers are a big deal with Kona farmers, which is perfectly understandable.

Kona coffee stands out from the rest, due to the conditions under which it grows. A volcanic soil, great humidity and lots of sun work together to create one of the richest and most delicious coffees out there. Its farmers are right to protect its image, and of course, it does affect their profit margin. As a recent Associated Press article points out, truth in labeling should be on everyone’s list of concerns, and we as consumers should demand it. That’s why the percentage of Kona coffee should be placed on the label.

Currently the only law applies to coffee sold in Hawaii, where blends must have at least ten percent Kona coffee. Other packages do state the percentage of Kona in a blend, but that is voluntary. Now Kona farmers are seeking to upgrade the Kona blend labels, so that they show where the blended coffees originate as well. For example, the label might state 10% Kona, 90% Brazilian. A bill reflecting this is being submitted soon to the Hawaii legislature. Hawaiian farmers cannot make such labeling laws mandatory in the rest of the world, but they can pressure companies to follow the precedent set by Hawaiians.

Consumers should know what’s in the blend. Such a law already follows a precedent. When it comes to wine, the label can’t state the origin unless 85% of the grapes came from that origin. So Napa Valley can’t be listed as the origin of a wine unless 85% of the grapes are indeed Napa Valley grown.

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