Kona Coffee: What’s in a Name?

That which we call Kona - by any other name - would smell as sweet. Shakespeare would probably agree that Kona is a unique coffee with a great aroma. It’s also the subject of some confusion as to what exactly differentiates coffee we call “Kona”. Some say it’s the Typica variety, and others say it’s more than that. What IS Kona anyway? John Heckathorn cleared up the confusion in a recent Honolulu Magazine article. He quoted a member of the Dept of Agriculture in Hawaii, who stated, “Kona is a geographical region, not a variety of coffee. If it’s grown in Kona, it’s Kona coffee.”

After all, there are many varieties that are grown in the Kona region; despite their differences, they are all Kona coffees. Napa Valley wines were used as a comparison - just like many varieties of wine grow in Napa Valley and earn the label Napa wine, many varieties of coffee from Kona can be called Kona. The climate and soil of Kona provide excellent growing conditions for a number of coffees, not only the traditional Typica variety that was introduced to Hawaii from Guatemala almost a century ago. Today’s coffee growers aren’t afraid to mix it up a little and have planted more than a few different varieties of Arabica coffee.

Even blends can be called Kona if they are at least 10% from Kona, so be careful. The Hawaiian coffee farmers are trying to change this, because 90% of any coffee mix should not be confused with true Kona coffee. They may taste great, but they won’t exhibit the true Kona flavor.

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