Enigmatic, exclusive, unforgettable, phenomenal, "God in a cup". These have all been used to describe the elusive, sexy Geisha coffee variety, originally from the Gori Gesha Forest in Ethiopia and now grown in Kona.
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Best Coffee in Hawaii
You may have never thought about it, but all the coffee beans in the United States have been imported from another place. In fact, the only state that grows and sells coffee beans is Hawaii, making Hawaii the only real contender for best coffee in America. Think about it. When have you ever sampled some great coffee from California or elsewhere in the U.S.? You can't, and that's why the best coffee in Hawaii is also the best coffee you can get nationally.
But if you go to your local coffee shop or grocery, you won't find 100% Hawaiian coffee on their shelves or in their cups. That's because we import tons of the stuff from places in the world that grow their coffee for pennies on the dollar, and much cheaper than it would cost to grow it domestically -- from the labor to the land. The result is that coffee in Hawaii is made to be even more delicious than most of the coffee we import from elsewhere, and growers in the state are engaged in making the best coffee in Hawaii that you can buy.
Aside from being the only state that grows coffee commercially, Hawaii's burgeoning coffee industry includes about 800 coffee farms, with the largest growing district in Kona on the Big Island. Blooming in late winter and early spring -- February and March -- Kona coffee is grown at higher elevations, which enhances flavor and tastiness, but it also makes growing the coffee more difficult.
As the most popular coffee beans in Hawaii, Kona beans are a hit with tourists that are looking for a great cup of coffee during their leisurely stay in Hawaii. But don't fall for the trap of Kona blend coffee where they mix a small percentage of the good stuff with a low-quality bean imported from elsewhere; 100% Kona coffee is actually pretty rare, but their interesting taste profile and premium prices are a dead giveaway.
It all starts with the soil.
In Hawaii, volcanic soil is rich with nutrients and minerals that yield some of the tastiest coffee beans you'll find anywhere. It also rains a lot, which produces water for the coffee plants and provides some much needed bits of shade during the hot, sunny days. Low winds and mild nights round out what makes the best coffee in Hawaii great, and the higher elevations are even more desirable when it comes to flavorful coffee that has a unique taste you can't find anywhere else.
Crucially, however, these higher elevations are fairly mild compared to coffee grown elsewhere, which keeps the bitterness and acidity down, giving Hawaiian coffee a mild yet delicious taste. Kona coffees are regarded as crisp and bright, or clean, and contain notes of brown sugar, milk chocolate, honey and some fruity flavor. Other Hawaiian coffees tend to be sweeter or more floral, with orange or blackberry and other sweet flavors.
In general, the best coffee in Hawaii has a bright, fruity flavor and a syrupy body with floral aromas. Rich but not overpowering, Hawaiian coffee tends to be more expensive than other coffee imports, but as the only American coffee you can buy, it stands alone as a tasty and unique alternative to all the other imported coffee out there.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous coffee brands have jumped on the Hawaiian coffee bandwagon and have started to sell Kona or Kona blend coffee that may only contain 10% Kona coffee, which means 90% of it is likely cheap, imported coffee. With a significant markup to match the Kona designation on the label, you could be paying twice as much for lousy coffee that lacks the flavor and body of true, 100% Hawaiian coffee.
While Kona coffee gets all the attention with its unique and delicious flavor, there are other types of Hawaiian coffees that shouldn't be overlooked. In fact, Maui Mokka is widely regarded as the best tasting Hawaiian coffee, though it is difficult to produce and it can be hard to find even in Hawaii. Ka'u coffee is another great tasting bean, which is produced in large numbers like Kona coffee.
But altogether, Hawaii only produces less than a tenth of a percent (0.04) of the world's coffee supply. Hawaiian coffee production peaked in 1999 with 10 million pounds of coffee beans produced, though in recent years production has fallen to about seven million pounds per year due to a lack of rain and pesky beetles -- the coffee borer -- that eat the coffee cherries and prevent them from turning into coffee beans.
Once you have your 100% Hawaiian coffee, you still have to turn those beans into a pot or cup of coffee. To do this at home, you should use a drip coffee machine or a French press. The drip machine actually maintains the unique flavor profile of Hawaiian coffee and is the preferred way to brew lighter roast coffee. For medium or darker roasts, turn to the French press, which will create a sweet, full-bodied taste.