Kona Coffee is grown on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the Kona district of Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. The conditions and soil in the region give it a specific taste that’s unique and big in demand. Considering there is only a (relatively) small area that can grow this coffee, and the high demand, Kona Coffee is fairly expensive.
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Let’s look at the best Kona coffee options available, and what to look for an authentic experience.
Best Kona Coffee Picks For 2020
- Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee
- River Moon Coffee Kona Coffee Beans
- Kona Gold Coffee Whole Beans
- Hualalai Estate – 100% Pure PREMIUM Kona Coffee
- Mountain Thunder 100% Kona Coffee – Private Reserve
- Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Co. Kona Vanilla Macadamia Nut Ground Coffee
- Volcanica Coffee Kona Peaberry Coffee
Looking for single-serve options? Check out our recommendations for the best Kona Coffee K Cups.
Editor’s Choice: River Moon Coffee Kona Coffee Beans
Well-priced and delicious, River Moon Coffee’s Kona Coffee offering is something to love. It tastes incredibly well and the blend has been created in a way that the constituents support each others’ strengths. This smooth and flavorful coffee is a great balance for taste and cost.
Kona Coffee Review: Top Picks For You
1. Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee
If you’re looking for pure Kona Coffee and are willing to pay the price, this is the coffee to pick. Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee includes only Kona Coffee beans, sourced directly from the company’s coffee estate.
Well, it’s a family farm where they claim that the coffee is grown using the best practices. It’s shade-grown and handpicked coffee that’s very suited for providing the authentic Kona experience. The coffee doesn’t simply rely on the location for its goodness, it seems they put in an effort to grow and cultivate great coffee.
Blue Horse claims their coffee is sustainably grown, without the use of pesticides or herbicides. They don’t have a specific certification, but their push towards organic coffee seems likely.
On a side note, one thing I especially like about this seller/company is that they actively engage with customers. On Amazon, you can see the seller answering questions about their brand, coffee, and Hawaiian Kona coffee in general.
Their description is interesting and gives you a fair idea of what to expect when you buy Kona coffee.
- Package includes only 100% Pure Kona Coffee Beans
- Excellent taste, flavor, and aroma
- Sourced from a single-estate
- Shade grown and handpicked coffee
- Dark roast coffee
2. River Moon Coffee Kona Coffee Beans
Awesome as Kona coffee is, most of us can’t spend that kind of money for our daily cuppa. That’s a big reason why Kona blends are so common and popular. The idea is to get the taste and flavor of Kona coffee, without having to deal with the cost. Of course, the blend has to be masterful so that the coffee used for the blend doesn’t interfere with the Kona taste.
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River Moon Coffee Kona Coffee Beans fits the bill quite wonderfully, which makes it great coffee and our editor’s pick for this category. The blend is truly wonderful and accentuates the taste of Kona coffee. It almost seems like an authentic Kona experience at a fraction of the cost.
The exact composition of this blend isn’t revealed – the roaster says it’s proprietary. However, they use an organic Congo coffee as the base and top it with Kona coffee. The amount of Kona coffee used is under 50%. My guesstimate says it’s somewhere around 10-20%, but there’s no real way to find out.
Irrespective of all those details, this is great coffee and truly enjoyable.
- Blend of Kona, organic Congo, (and possibly other) coffee beans
- Good taste, flavor, and aroma
- Good value for money
- 100% Arabica beans
- Medium roast coffee
3. Kona Gold Coffee Whole Beans
Kona Gold Coffee Whole Beans can claim to be the choice of connoisseurs. The coffee is the best 2018 AVPA Paris silver award winner, the Kona beans also took the top place at the 2016 Kona Coffee Cupping Competition.
This is an expensive coffee, with the beans being rated Extra Fancy by the Hawaii Agricultural Society. That’s also the larger difference between this coffee and the Blue Horse coffee that also features on this list. Kona Gold includes only the coveted “Extra Fancy” beans, while others often use the “Estate Grade” that has all sizes mixed together.
The company’s claim to high-quality also rests on the fact that only less than 10% of Kona beans produced get the “extra fancy” rating. So this is basically the top of the top on offer. Even in the class of gourmet beans, these are fancy. These beans are a great pick for the more discerning consumer.
Kona Gold Trading Co. says that the beans are all-natural, hand-picked, sun-dried, and air roasted. The clean-tasting and unique coffee is tough to beat in flavor and quality.
- High-quality, “Extra Fancy” 100% Kona Coffee whole beans
- Excellent taste, flavor, and aroma
- Shade-grown and handpicked coffee beans
- Available coffee roasts: medium, medium/dark
4. Hualalai Estate – 100% Pure PREMIUM Kona Coffee
Hualalai Estate – 100% Pure PREMIUM Kona Coffee is another top-of-the-line pick for premium Kona coffee. It sits between the “extra fancy” Kona Gold coffee and the “estate grade” Blue Horse coffee, both of which are on this list.
Beans in the Hualalai Estate packaging are graded by size and are consistent in roast. Estate grade beans are a mix of different sized beans. Separating beans isn’t a huge improvement over the estate grade, but can make a difference for the more discerning consumer.
100% Kona Coffee from Hualalai Estate claims to use pesticide-free beans in a uniform and consistent roast. It has a balanced taste, and the aroma is wonderful.
- High-quality 100% Kona Coffee whole beans
- Great taste and flavor
- Pesticide-free coffee beans
- Coffee roast: Medium-Dark
5. Mountain Thunder 100% Kona Coffee – Private Reserve
Another great pick for pure, 100% Kona Coffee, Mountain Thunder Private Reserve picks the best of Kona. This is a pre-ground coffee with all the flavors, freshness, and aroma sealed nicely into the bag.
I am not a big proponent of buying ground gourmet coffee. Not using freshly ground beans or using old beans defeats the purpose of gourmet coffee, in my opinion.
If we’re paying a premium for gourmet coffee, might as well go the few extra steps to ensure the quality and flavor of our pick. However, personal opinions and prejudices shouldn’t weigh over a review, which is why this ground coffee makes an appearance on our list. This is excellent coffee where quality Kona coffee beans are freshly roasted and ground before packaging.
Mountain Thunder 100% Kona Coffee – Private Reserve is available in French Roast and Vienna Roast. Both of these are excellent in taste and flavor, but I’m partial towards the Vienna roast. If you buy this coffee, be sure to have a fit-for-purpose, opaque, airtight storage container available. Good storage is important for any coffee, more so for ground coffee.
- High-quality, 100% Kona Coffee
- Available as whole beans and ground coffee
- Excellent taste and flavor
- Coffee roast: Vienna Roast, French Roast
6. Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Co. Kona Vanilla Macadamia Nut Ground Coffee
This flavored and delicious blend of Kona coffee offers a great taste at a reasonable price. As a blend, this has about 10% Kona coffee. Other coffees and flavoring complete the remaining amount.
Even though the Kona coffee barely touches 10%, its flavor shines through and makes the brew quite enjoyable. Vanilla Macadamia Nut combo goes pretty well with the coffee and adds to the overall taste and flavor. The brew is quite enjoyable and definitely has a gourmet feel to it.
Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Co. Kona Vanilla Macadamia Nut Ground Coffee is available as an “all-purpose grind”. The grind is on the coarse side of things, perhaps better suited for a French press coffee. I’d say it’s a bit too coarse even for French press, so be prepared for long steeping times!
- Blend of Kona, other coffees, macadamia nuts
- Ground coffee, very coarse grind
- Good taste and flavor
- Medium roast coffee
7. Volcanica Coffee Kona Peaberry Coffee
Volcanica Coffee could claim to be the best Hawaiian coffee with this pick of Kona Peaberry. The coffee is pretty much as the name implies – high-quality Kona coffee with beans chosen from the peaberry variant. This is a top-of-the-line offering and is second to none in quality and flavor.
The coffee has won several awards for being one of the best Kona coffee options available. It has the same coveted flavor of Kona coffee, though it gets more intense considering their decision to only use the peaberry. Great flavor and attention to detail in this Kona Peaberry Coffee, 100% Pure, Gran Reserve comes at a price – be prepared to shell a pretty penny for this coffee!
- High-quality Kona coffee, whole beans, peaberry
- Intense flavor and aroma
- Medium roast coffee
A Buying Guide To The Best Kona Coffee Beans – Things You Should Know
What Is 100% Kona Coffee? What Should I Look For In Pure Kona Coffee?
Kona coffee is rare and prized, which is why it gets so much attention and has a high price. Unfortunately, these qualities also attract unscrupulous businesses that use the name of the coffee to instead sell cheap coffee or blends.
Kona Coffee is exclusively grown in the State of Hawaii, and they’ve been trying to fight off the incorrect labeling and shady practices used by other businesses. One of the ways they’ve tried to reduce the problems is by introducing laws related to labeling. Only authentic Kona coffee can prominently display the words “100% Kona Coffee”.
Since there is no matching Federal law, some businesses get away by using terms like “Kona Roast” or Kona Style, even if they don’t include any Kona coffee at all.
Another problem is blends using the words “100% Kona Coffee”. It’s basically a legal loophole, where coffee blends use the term 100% Kona Coffee to signify that they’re using legit Kona coffee. The percentage of Kona coffee in these blends can be as low as 10% (some go even lower). This just signifies that the (small) amount of Kona coffee they use, is 100% Kona coffee.
However, highlighting the term is confusing to the customer, who may buy the blend thinking they got gourmet 100% Kona coffee for a low price!
So yeah, be very careful when you buy Kona coffee. Read the labeling carefully and make sure you’re buying the right coffee. There’s nothing wrong with buying a blend, but a customer must know they’re buying a coffee blend when buying it.
It’s also useful to check for 100% Kona coffee lettering, emblem, and logo issued by the state of Hawaii to ensure you’re getting a good quality coffee.
Kona Coffee Vs Hawaiian Coffee
Kona coffee is exclusively cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. Only coffee grown in this region can carry the name of Kona coffee or be certified as “100% Kona Coffee”.
However, coffee grows in several areas of Hawaii, not just the Kona district. All of this is labeled as Hawaiian coffee. Interestingly, even for coffee grown in the aforementioned region, the Kona tag doesn’t come automatically. Only quality coffee classified as Type I or Type II gets the Kona coffee tag. Lower quality beans, rated Number 3 or Triple X cannot be legally labeled as Kona coffee, and are called Hawaiian coffee instead.
To sum up, all Kona Coffee comes from Hawaii, but all Hawaiian coffee is not Kona. Only coffee grown in the Kona region can be legally labeled Kona coffee, while all other coffee-growing regions can be grouped under Hawaiian coffee.
What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?
A big reason for the fame of Kona Coffee is its unique taste and flavor. The rich flavor and complex aroma of the coffee are bound to win hearts and palates. Kona coffee is generally described as bright, crisp, and clean.
Keep in mind, the taste and flavor of the coffee are bound to be affected by its roast, the age of beans, quality/grade of beans, and the roasting process. However, the general profile of Kona coffee can be described as taste notes of honey, milk chocolate, and brown sugar. Its acidity is bright and vibrant, yet mild.
The coffee has a full body that generally leads to a lingering taste of nuts on the palate.
Where To Buy Kona Coffee?
Given that it’s a rare, gourmet coffee, Kona doesn’t generally line the shelves of stores, so where to buy Kona coffee? If you have a store that carries Kona Coffee of your choice, that’s great. For most people, buying online is a viable option. Most roasters only work with small batches, so customers usually get fresh-roasted coffee when buying online.
It’s also worthwhile to look into coffee subscription boxes that may offer Kona Coffee at your convenience. Another option is to buy from Amazon or even subscribe to your favored brand using their “Subscribe and Save” feature. The latter allows some discounts with every delivery.
The option is not available with all coffees, but several of the Kona coffee options listed here are available for subscription.
Kona Coffee FAQs
What Is So Special About Kona Coffee?
Genuine 100% Kona Coffee is prized around the world for its complex aroma and pleasant taste. The unique weather, soil, and coffee growing conditions in the Kona district of Hawaii allow this coffee to get its pleasant characteristics.
The brilliant and sweet taste is liked by coffee lovers, which makes this coffee high in demand and so popular.
Does Kona Coffee Have More Caffeine?
Kona coffee essentially comes from the arabica plants that are known for their milder caffeine and complex flavors. So Kona coffee has less caffeine than most robusta varieties, but it has a relatively higher caffeine content than comparable arabica coffee plants.
Kona beans usually have between 1.20 to 1.32% caffeine, which is very similar to Guatemalan coffee beans. However, this means little to the consumer. The caffeine content will be affected by the roast, your choice of coffee drink, and bean quality.
For example, how much caffeine in a cappuccino depends on the number of espresso shots it uses. However, by volume, a cappuccino will have lower caffeine than espresso!
Can You Bring Kona Coffee Back From Hawaii?
Yes. If you’re a US Citizen, you can bring back pretty much unlimited amount of green beans or roasted coffee from Hawaii to continental USA. Of course, bringing significant amounts will require an inspection by USDA. However, there is generally no restriction on moving coffee from Hawaii to other parts of the USA.
The Bottom Line — The Top Picks For Kona Coffee
Kona coffee is readily available for those who appreciate the fine taste of this gourmet coffee. It does tend to be expensive, but most coffee lovers will agree that it’s well worth the price. When you buy Kona coffee, be sure to read the label to ensure you are getting 100% Kona coffee, not some cheap misdirection.
Our top choice for this category is the River Moon Coffee Kona Coffee Beans – it’s a wonderful coffee blend at a great price. If you want the authentic 100% Kona, buy the Kona Gold Coffee Whole Beans. These “extra fancy” beans are the best Kona coffee experience on offer.