Coffee Origins: Kona
Recently, as Jaho has started roasting its own coffee, I have been exposed to new types. One of these that certainly demands attention is Kona coffee from Hawaii. This special bean is sought after all over the world for its rich flavor that is unlike anything else on the coffee market. Kona coffee comes from the Kona districts of Hawaii, which is on the biggest island and includes the slopes of Mauna Loa and Mount Hualalai. Only coffee grown in the Kona district can legally be labeled as Kona. Hawaii produces 8.5 million pounds of coffee a year and 93% of the acreage devoted to growing coffee is located in Kona.
The secret behind these great beans is all Hawaii. First off, some of the most fertile soil on earth is volcanic soil, which is what makes up most of the Hawaiian Islands. Volcanic soil contains several different minerals including silica and phosphorus; which are very beneficial to plant life and are components in most fertilizers. But Hawaii holds another secret as to why this coffee is so good; the climate is perfect for great tasting beans. The weather patterns there include mild nights, bright mornings and rainy afternoons making it a lush landscape conducive to growing coffee.
The first coffee plants came from Brazilian cuttings and were introduced to Hawaii in 1813, but it wasn’t planted in Kona until 1828. Kona coffee when through highs and lows with the economy for several years until it was recognized as one of the best coffees in the world. The production of this coffee even neared extinction at one point near the turn of the 19th century. And when the market was bad in 1932 with the depression, Kona district schools changed their vacations to coincide with the coffee harvest so the children could help, it continued this way until 1969.
The story of Kona is a fascinating journey and struggle, one that almost came to an end several times. These days I doubt Kona will ever go away for good; the coffee world has fallen head over heels for its incredible taste and it is here to stay.