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"Kona in a Cup": Everything you need to know about Kona coffee before you buy

Hawaii is the only U.S. state where coffee is grown.

You’ll find coffee farms on five Hawaiian Islands—Maui, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. But the Big Island lays claim to the Hawaii-grown bean that is one of the most in-demand and most expensive in the world.

Kona coffee is that prized bean. Grown on just 2,300 total acres on a 20-mile belt of land on the steep slopes of Big Island volcanoes Hualalai and Mauna Loa, Kona coffee claims a price-per-pound, consumer awareness and marketing advantage no other coffee in the world can match.

In HAWAII Magazine’s January/February 2010 issue feature “Kona In A Cup,” we explored the popularity, history, business and mystique of Kona coffee. How did Kona coffee earn its worldwide acclaim? Why can a one-pound bag of 100% Kona coffee claim a price double or triple that of other beans? How much Kona-grown coffee does a cup of “Kona blend” actually have? What are some tips every Kona coffee fan searching for exceptional beans should know?

We visited Kailua-Kona’s coffee country to get answers to the questions above and sample some great coffee.

Here and on the following pages we present the HAWAII Magazine feature “Kona In A Cup,” in its entirety:


“Kona In A Cup”

By Derek Paiva
(from the January/February 2010 issue of HAWAII Magazine)

Barely 20 minutes from Kailua-Kona airport, and I’m already in Kona coffee country.
I’m headed south on Mamalahoa Highway, two lanes of historic blacktop winding through cool, green highlands more than 1,000 feet above the bone-dry Kailua-Kona coastline.

Welcome to the Kona Coffee Belt, a 20-mile stretch along the steep slopes of the two Big Island volcanoes, Hualalai and Mauna Loa. It’s barely a mile across at its widest, but this corridor of rich farmland hosts about 800 small, mostly family-owned farms—farms that produce one of the most expensive and in-demand coffees in the world.

I’m cruising the belt hoping to find out firsthand how Kona coffee earned worldwide acclaim and a retail price as high as $60 per one-pound bag—and if it truly deserves both. I’m also here hoping to find some great coffee.

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