About Kona coffee

One of the world’s Finest & Rarest coffees comes from America.

It is grown in Hawaii – on the Big Island in Kona.

Domain Kona Coffee             100% Kona Coffee – estate grown

Treat yourself to something special !

Like fine wine - Kona coffee is expensive - because it is expensive to grow and make.   But remember a pound of Kona will last you 1 or 2 Weeks - a bottle of wine will last you 1 or 2 days !

 

Kona Coffee     

Kona, Hawaii has long been recognized as one of the finest coffee producing regions in the world. Coffee was planted on the Big Island in 1828 by Reverend Samuel Ruggles with cuttings from Brazil. It was first planted and thrived in the area of Kealakekua, very near our farm, Domain Kona. Kona's climate and soil turned out to be perfect for growing coffee. The sheltered and fertile western slopes of Mauna Loa and Mt. Hualalai along with sunny mornings and gentle afternoon rains encouraged the coffee plant to thrive in its new environment. It was not long before coffee caught on in Kona, and its distinguished flavor reputation became known throughout the world. In July of 1866 Mark Twain stated, in his Letters from Hawaii, “Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other, be it grown where it may and call it by what name you please." Soon thereafter, Kona coffee became world famous when Henry Greenwell won an award for excellence at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna for his coffee from the Kealakekua area of Kona.  In the late 1800s Guatemalan Typica coffee trees were planted.  These did even better than the Brazilian trees and Guatemalan trees are the foundation of the Kona Typica variety this is now the bedrock of Kona coffee.  Thanks to the mostly Japanese farmers, coffee orchards thrived for the next 100 years.  Today, Kona coffee is prized the world over as one of the finest and rarest of all coffees.  In fact, a tiny 0.01% of the world’s coffee comes from Kona.

As in the world of wine, much of Kona’s coffee is sold in bulk and produced as inexpensively as possible.  That being said – it is expensive to produce Kona coffee because it is almost all hand harvested due to the steep terrain.  Large agricultural farms & farm co-ops purchase and blend Kona beans of various qualities, producing good but undistinctive coffee.  As with the finest wine estates, we are taking a different route in the production of our coffee at Domain Kona.  From our own three-acre orchard in Captain Cook, in the heart of the Kona coffee belt, we are producing single orchard, all estate-grown coffee of the highest quality.  Everything here is done by hand – the cultivation of the trees, the harvest, during which we pick only the red ripe cherries, and the milling and drying of the beans. 

With nearly 40 years in the fine wine business and numerous visits to some the world’s finest vineyards, we at Domain Kona, are eager to translate the concept of “Terroir” to the world of fine coffee.  We truly believe that there is no other coffee growing region in the world better suited to express great quality via the particular climate, soil and terrain than single origin Kona coffee ! 

In many ways Kona coffee cultivation resembles that of grape cultivation in Burgundy’s Cotes d’Or.  Like the Cotes d’ Or, the Kona coffee belt is a very small delimited area—about 25 miles long and just two miles wide – virtually the same size as the Cotes d’Or.  There are about 700 farms here, the vast majority being small (3 to 5 acres) and family-owned.  The total land planted to coffee is around 4,000 acres - about the same as the vineyards planted in the Cotes d’Or.  The resulting coffee is dependably elegant, refined & well-balanced with its hallmark being its low acidity and rich round flavor.

Still, many of these family farms are not producing their own finished coffee, instead they are selling ‘cherry’ or ‘green’ coffee to local co-ops or commercial farms who then mix their purchased beans to produce a regional blend of Kona Coffee.  Further, many commercial outfits purchase much lesser beans from other countries to blend with a small percentage of the Kona beans to be marketed as ‘Kona Blend’.  Yes, coffee containing a mere 10% Kona beans may be sold as Kona Blend.  This is surely not the best way of experiencing true Kona Coffee.  

the 'appellations' of Kona

While there is no official classification of the ‘terroirs’ of the Kona coffee belt, I have found that there are 3 distinct regions or ‘appellations’ within the belt : Kona Makai, Kona Mauka, Kona Cloud Forrest. Mamalahoa Highway runs north and south thru the belt at an average elevation of 1,000 feet and naturally divides the belt in half. The orchards that are planted below the highway or below 1,000 feet of elevation definitely receive less rain and warmer temperatures. Unlike vineyards, coffee needs water and prefers slightly cooler temperatures.  These orchards on the Makai (ocean) side of the highway certainly produce good Kona coffee but the beans tend to be a little smaller and the flavor tends to be a bit less rich.   Orchards that are on the Mauka (mountain) side of the highway, above 1,000 feet, receive a more regular rainfall in the afternoon and the temperatures are cooler due to the elevation.  This is the perfect spot for Kona coffee – the beans are a bit bigger and the flavor is fuller.  Domain Kona’s orchard is nestled in that ideal spot, between 1,350 and 1,450 feet of elevation on the Mauka side of the highway.  The third ‘appellation’ is called Cloud Forest.  These orchards are very high up the slopes – over 2,000 and up to 3,000 feet.  The temperature is considerably cooler and the weather is certainly wetter.   As a result of this more challenging weather norm, the cherry often cannot reliably achieve optimum ripeness and will not as readily express true Kona depth and breadth of character.

Experience the true nature of the coffee from a small estate ideally situated in the center of Kona’s Coffee Belt.  Coffee with a long history and tradition.  We have purchased such a farm on the prized Kona Mauka portion of that very belt.  In fact, this farm received the 2016 Farm of the Year award from the Kona Conservation District !   Hand-terraced with lava rock from the surrounding area, our orchard has a feel of the terraces of the vineyards along the Mosel river in Germany.