Hawaii’s unique geography enables this island to produces one of the best coffees in the world. The minerals in the volcanic soil combined with the island’s ideal climate makes Hawaii the only place in the world which can make the best Kona coffee. Hawaiian Kona coffee is always in great demand and on top of the priority list of every coffee enthusiast.
Kona coffee trees are harvested during July and December, the coffee cherries start as a flower by February and March and then turn into green berries by April. The green berries become ripe and turn into red berries resembling a cherry. The cherries are handpicked during harvest season by experienced farmers and are placed into burlap sacks. A farmer can harvest an average of 100 to 300 pounds of cherries a day.
To produce the best Hawaiian Kona coffee, each sack is inspected to make sure that only the freshest and ripest cherries are processed. After inspection the cherries undergoes a process called wet milling. The cherries go into a pulper machine, where the pulp is separated from the beans. Afterwards, the beans are soaked in water for 8 to 18 hours or even overnight.
After soaking, the beans are sun-dried to preserve the natural flavor of the coffee. This process takes at least a week but some companies use mechanical dryers to quicken this process. But it is believed that the best Hawaiian Kona comes from naturally sun-dried beans only. After the beans have dried out and the parchment like cover has been removed, the beans undergo another inspection process. Here the beans are graded and sorted out according to size and weight.
Grading the beans after they are dried is very important because it make sure that the quality of every cup of Hawaiian Kona is high and distinct. Beans undergo a gravity table where the weight is measured, this step make sure that the beans are not hollow which may spoil the taste if not removed. The beans are also inspected for defects. Once checked, these defective beans are removed from the batch. Grading is a very strict process that assures that each bean is classified according to its grade.
There are five primary grades of Hawaiian Kona; the peaberry, extra fancy, fancy, Number 1 and Prime. Each grade is different from another in terms of taste, weight and size of the coffee bean. The peaberry comes only from coffee cherries with a single bean instead of two, while extra fancy Kona coffee comes from the biggest and heaviest beans.
Fancy and Number 1 coffee on the other hand, comes from smaller yet denser beans which is said to yield the best coffee. The prime coffee is the lowest grade and it comes from the smallest beans which have some defects but still produce a great cup of coffee. Also the price of Prime Kona coffee is much cheaper compared to the other higher grades.