WHAT'S THE BEST HAWAIIAN COFFEE?
A HAWAIIAN COFFEE BUYING GUIDE
There are roughly 1,000 coffee farms in the state of Hawaii, and most are charmingly small, handcrafted, boutique. But when aggregated, Hawai‘i’s nearly 1,000 coffee farms produce one of the state’s most important crops: Hawaiian coffee.It's a charming place to search for exciting, new coffees, which is what we do much of the time. In addition to harvesting, milling and roasting Big Island coffee from Puna, Ka'u, Kona and Hamakua, we also collaborate with farmers behind-the-scenes.
Today, we offer the widest array of fresh, specialty Hawaiian coffee worldwide, including seasonal micro-lot and award-winning Hawaiian coffees throughout the year.
While Coffee Club members regularly enjoy the best Hawaiian coffees we find (a new Hawaiian coffee is featured each month), it's not uncommon we get asked the ubiquitous question "So, what's the best Hawaiian coffee?" or "Is Kona coffee really the best from Hawaii?"
What's the best Hawaiian coffee?
If you've wondered if Kona is the best Hawaiian coffee, you'd be right to ask. While Kona coffees have scored high in local competitions repeatedly over the years, they're also the most widely available (and most frequently counterfeited).
Best scoring Hawaiian coffees have been produced in Ka'u, Maui and Puna. In fact, Ka'u coffees scored among the top 10 in the world via a global Specialty Coffee Association cupping several years in a row! Not just one Ka'u coffee, but several.
In our search for the best Hawaiian coffee, this article will be focusing on Hawaii Island coffees only - not Maui, Oahu or Kauai. Why?
(1) Because Kona, Ka'u, Puna, Hamakua, and Hilo are all coffee growing regions located on Hawaii Island (aka the Big Island).
(2) Hawaii Island is the only island exclusively producing hand-harvested coffees. Due to the rocky, volcanic terrain, there are no mechanical harvesters on Hawaii Island.
(3) Hawaii Island offers the greatest array of coffee varieties (Kona Geisha, Ka'u Maragogipe, etc) and processing methods (washed, semi-washed, natural, yeast processed, etc. )
Our shameless hope is that by the end of this article you'll be thrilled to taste and explore the rainbow of coffee in Hawaii, and you'll know how to choose the best coffee to buy.
Kona is the state’s most recognized coffee region, commanding some of the highest prices in the world. One reason for the prices is that all Kona and Big Island coffees are hand-harvested. Another is that they are relatively rare, and everyone in the supply chain receives a living wage. (As a side note, that's why there's little purpose to having Fair Trade certifications within Hawaii. You can read more about the cost behind Hawaiian coffee here.)
WHAT DOES KONA COFFEE TASTE LIKE?
The variety ‘Kona Typica’ is the most commonly grown and is responsible for the balanced, sweet, slightly fruity, slightly floral tasting notes of great Kona coffee.
Compared with other Big Island coffees, Kona coffees have flavors reminiscent of chocolate, jasmine and peaches. Often you'll have notes of stone fruit and cocoa butter with lighter roasts, and chocolate, nuts and graham cracker with darker roasts. Both are great for coffee lovers who like balanced, smooth coffees with a hint of fruit or floral notes, but not enough to be overpowering.
BEST OF KONA COFFEE
Kona Peaberry is our best Kona coffee and an all-time customer favorite. It has hundreds of 5-star reviews and raving fans. For those who love dark roast Kona coffee, Kona Moon is our next most popular, and favorite for dark roast aficionados.
WHAT DOES KA'U COFFEE TASTE LIKE?
Most Ka'u coffee farms are located 1500′ – 2100′ above sea level and exhibit tasting notes and flavors similar to many Central American coffees: a syrupy mouthfeel, complex fruit and honey flavors, and notes of nuts, berries, brown sugar, and vanilla at light and medium roasts.
Compared with other Big Island coffees, at darker roasts Ka'u coffees have spicy-sweet tasting notes like fudge, cardamom, and spruce. Light and medium roast Ka'u coffees have brighter flavors, like pineapple, blood orange, and jasmine.
FAN FAVORITE KA'U COFFEEKa'u coffee farmers produce a wide variety of coffees, including caturra, maragogipe, yellow bourbon, pacamara, etc. So if you're looking our best Ka'u coffee, check out our Ka'u Yellow Bourbon, Ka'u Maragogipe, and Ka'u Wood Valley Single Estate .
Hamakua coffee has been under the radar, so to speak, for years due to the rarity. But the region has amassed its own following of aficionados; in fact, our two Hamakua coffees – Hamakua Mahina and Hamakua Stout Heart Dark – are two of our top requested coffees for those who prefer nutty or chocolatey coffees instead of citrus or spice-like notes.
It's a small coffee growing region, only comprising some 150 acres of coffee farms, averaging between five to seven acres, anywhere from 350 to 2,500 feet above sea level.
The region is cool with plenty of rainfall, making it perfect for growing the Typica variety, although Caturra and Catuai are also popular.
WHAT DO HAMAKUA COFFEES TASTE LIKE?Great Hamakua coffees are often deep and smooth, reflective of their deep rich soils.Ours are notable for being full-bodied with notes of roasted hazelnuts, milk chocolate and molasses.
Unlike Ka'u coffees, it's not common to find bright citrus or exotic fruit notes in Hamakua coffees.
PUNA COFFEEOur Puna coffees are rare to come by, and usually reserved for members of our Wild Hawaiian Coffees Club.
In general, Puna coffees have striking, intense, dramatic aromas, possibly due to the young volcanic cinder they grow in, in addition to enduring 200+ inches of rain annually. They're a stark departure from the typical profile of Hawaiian coffee, often with strong notes of almond, red wine and rose.