Are you looking for the best coffee in Kona? This guide from a Hawaii local includes everything you need to know – including coffee shops, coffee farms, coffee festivals, and so much more!
Kona coffee is one of the most popular exports from Hawaii. As a matter of fact, the only other product that might compete is pineapple. So it’s completely understandable that when people visit Hawaii – or more specifically, Kona – that they want to have some Kona coffee.
Some visitors just want to drink Kona coffee in Kona, and there are loads of fantastic Kona coffee shops to visit. But other visitors also want to visit Kona coffee farms, pop by Kona coffee festivals, and buy some of the best coffee in Kona to take home with them. Regardless of which group you fall into, this guide has everything you’d like to know.
Questions About Coffee in Kona
In order to understand what makes the best coffee in Kona, there are some questions that I need to address first. After all, it’s important to know what makes some Kona coffee better than others.
Is Coffee Native to Hawaii?
Even though coffee is grown all over Hawaii, coffee is actually not native to the islands.
Coffee was first introduced to Hawaii from Brazil in the 1820s. This new crop was originally planted in Oahu’s Manoa Valley, but it didn’t really thrive. As a matter of fact, coffee crops in Hawaii struggled for a while – at least until coffee was planted on the Big Island in 1828. And, as they say, the rest is history.
How Many Coffee Farms are in Kona?
There are nearly 800 coffee farms in Kona! While there are a few scattered around Hilo (the other side of the Big Island) and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, the vast majority of Hawaii’s coffee farms are in Kona.
Why Is Kona Coffee So Special and Expensive?
There are a few reasons for this. First, it’s the location. Most Kona coffee farms are located on mineral-rich volcanic soil, which, as you can imagine, is rather rare. These unique growing conditions also enhance the flavor of the coffee beans. In other words, it’s no surprise to find out that Kona coffee is widely regarded as the best coffee in the world.
The second reason (which is primarily in reference to the high price) is because everything in Hawaii is expensive. The land in Hawaii is expensive, the utilities in Hawaii are expensive, and the supplies in Hawaii are expensive. On top of that, many Kona Hawaii coffee companies hand pick the coffee berries (or coffee cherries – the fruits that hold the coffee beans). This means that there is also a high cost of labor to factor in.
Third, supply and demand. There is a limited supply of Kona coffee (much of which is due to the limited supply of mineral-rich volcanic land in Kona) and a soaring demand. Even if we just look at the demand for coffee grown in the United States, Hawaii and California are the only two states in the country that grow coffee.
What Are Kona Coffee Blends?
Let me just tell you right off that bat that Kona coffee blends aren’t worth your time. In order to be considered Hawaiian coffee or Kona coffee, blends need to have just 10% of its beans sourced from Hawaii or Kona. That means 90% of the beans can be from anywhere else in the world! And if you’re looking specifically for Kona coffee, that’s not what you want.
You’ll also want to avoid anything that says “Kona roast” or “Kona style.” These are not protected terms, so they can have literally 0% Kona coffee.
Bottom line: you need to be especially vigilant and look for products that say 100% Kona coffee.
Best Coffee Shops in Kona
You’re in Kona. The land of coffee. So it only makes sense for you to drink some of this famous coffee while you’re in town! So don’t expect any Kona Starbucks locations on this list. The coffee shops below showcase the best Kona coffee brews in town.
Kona Coffee & Tea
If you’re looking for the best coffee in Kona, you’ll definitely want to check out Kona Coffee & Tea in Kailua Kona. This family-run coffee shop uses 100% Kona coffee that is grown on their farm in all of their coffee drinks. So whether you want a latte, pour over, cold brew, or Kona bullet, you know you’re drinking only the high-quality coffee.
And if you’re not in the mood for coffee one day, Kona Coffee & Tea can still deliver! (After all, “tea” is part of the name as well!) The chai tea latte, the matcha latte, and the Kona vog are all crowd favorites.
Last but certainly not least, Kona Coffee & Tea also serves some breakfast bites, like breakfast sandwiches, acai bowls, and coco chia parfaits. These are perfect if you’re on the go and want to just grab something to eat before your day full of adventures.
The Coffee Shack
A visit to The Coffee Shack is super special. It’s undoubtedly one of the best cafes in Kona for so many reasons. As a matter of fact, it’s so amazing that it made it onto my list of spectacular things to do in Kona.
First, let’s talk about the most important aspect of this coffee shop: the coffee. All of the coffee drinks at The Coffee Shack are made from 100% Kona coffee that is grown on their property! In other words, the espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes are all absolutely wonderful.
On top of that, you get to enjoy stunning views of the beautiful Kealakekua Bay and dine on some delicious food bites. Try the Hawaiian French toast, the eggs benedict, or the macadamia nut pie.
On the mainland (read: the continental U.S.), there are a lot of aesthetically pleasing coffee shops that are perfect for just hanging out. We don’t have a lot of those in Hawaii, but HiCo is one of the few. With its sleek wood countertop, natural lighting, and thriving potted plants, it’s definitely Instagram-worthy.
HiCo uses 100% Hawaii-grown coffee. (If this is important to you this isn’t exactly the same as 100% Kona coffee. The beans can come from anywhere in Hawaii, not just Kona, but that’s okay with me.) Try the macchiato, the flat white, or the nitro brew. Or if you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy drink to go with atmosphere, the bright purple ube latte is definitely what you should order.
And if you want a bite to eat, HiCo has a few cool options that you can’t find anywhere else on the island. Try the cucumber mac nut toast, the vegan musubi, or the loaded musubi.
BONUS: Big Island Coffee Roasters Cafe
Even though this article is all about the best cafes in Kona, the new Big Island Coffee Roasters Cafe in downtown Hilo can’t be missed. This Kona-based coffee farm recently opened their flagship cafe on the other side of the island — and it’s absolutely incredible. From creamy lattes to sweet honu turtle mochas, you can find just about any coffee drink you can dream of at this coffee shop.
And like all of the best Big Island coffee shops, the Big Island Coffee Roasters Cafe serves up a few treats to enjoy alongside your coffee. If there’s one that you can’t miss, it’s the popover with lilikoi butter. Delicious!
Best Coffee Farms in Kona
If you want to learn everything you can about Kona coffee and more, the Kona coffee farms listed below are all incredible options.
Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm
When searching for coffee tours in Kona, Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm will undoubtedly pop up, because it’s a customer favorite. Their tours are completely free, and they teach visitors all about the coffee growing and roasting processes. As an added bonus, you’ll also get to enjoy a free cup of 100% Kona coffee on the tour!
Hula Daddy Kona Coffee Farm
Hula Daddy Kona Coffee Farm is another fantastic Kona coffee farm to visit. One of the best parts is the free coffee tasting. But if you’d like a more in-depth look into the coffee production process – including the coffee orchard and the roasting room, you can reserve a paid ($30/person) tour in advance.
Greenwell Farms is well-known as one of the best coffee farms in Kona. Not only do they produce some awesome coffee beans, but they also have a wonderful Kona coffee farm tour.
Their free, 45-minute tours explain everything you’d like to know about coffee in Kona – from seed to cup. You’ll even get to sample of many of Greenwell Farms’ best coffee products.
As an alternative, this Kona coffee farm also offers private tours and tastings. For a group charge of $75, this 90-minute tour is ideal for coffee lovers.
Kona Coffee Living History Farm
This Kona coffee farm is a little different from the others on this list. While the other Kona coffee farms focus on the agriculture and production of coffee, the Kona Coffee Living History Farm focuses on the historical side of things.
The Kona Coffee Living History Farm was started in 1906 by Japanese immigrants. Eventually, this farm helped to put Kona Coffee on the map!
You can learn all about the fascinating history of coffee in Kona at Kona Coffee Living History Farm’s outdoor museum. This museum is so amazing that it’s actually associated with the famous Smithsonian Museum! And you’ll of course be able to try a delicious cup of their Kona coffee too.
BONUS: Hilo Coffee Mill
I know this article is all about coffee in Kona, but there’s a good chance that some of you are also looking for coffee farms in Hilo, the other side of the Big Island of Hawaii. If that’s the case, the Hilo Coffee Mill will not disappoint.
You have two options when it comes to the Kona coffee tour at Hilo Coffee Mill. You can either take the free, 20-minute tour or the paid, 90-minute tour. It all depends on how much you’d like to learn about the coffee-making process. Regardless of which tour you choose, you’ll be able to sample some of Hilo Coffee Mill’s best brews.
*Pro Tip: Hilo Coffee Mill is also one of the best places to get a cup of freshly brewed coffee in Hilo.
If coffee farms aren’t the only agritourism places you’re hoping to visit, check out our list of Hawaii farms as well.
Best Coffee Events in Kona
As expected, a town that’s so famous for coffee has to have a Kona coffee event! And what better time to have coffee in Kona?
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is definitely best coffee-themed event in town. Every November, over 30 different Kona coffee farms together for this incredible festival. And this has been going on for over 50 years!
While at the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, you can learn about the history of Kona Coffee, watch an international panel of judges pick the best cup of Kona Coffee, and even join the Kona Coffee Lantern Parade.
Best Coffee to Buy in Kona
While certain Kona coffee farms have the best tours, others have the best beans to buy (although a few have both). If you’re looking for the best coffee in Kona to buy, check out the options below.
100% Kona Coffee Kona Peaberry from Big Island Coffee Roasters
Big Island Coffee Roasters is undoubtedly one of the best producers of coffee in Kona. First of all, it has won quite a few awards, including Honolulu Magazine’s “Best Local Coffee Company” in 2021, Coffee Review’s “Top 30 Coffees of 2020,” and Hawaii Magazine’s “Small Business Editor’s Choice Awards.”
And while it’s one thing to make an award-winning product, it’s quite another to make one that’s good for the planet. But Big Island Coffee Roasters has managed to do that too! Thanks to their commitment to sustainability, this Hawaiian coffee company uses 100% renewable energy, pays living wages, sources beans from local Hawaii farmers, and donates a part of their profits to wildlife rescue and habitat restoration charities.
With all of those perks, it’s no wonder that a Big Island Coffee Roasters product made it onto this list of the best coffee to buy in Kona. As for which specific roast to buy, the 100% Kona Coffee Kona Peaberry is their most popular product.
*Fun Fact: Big Island Coffee Roasters recently had one of the best Hawaii artists, Nick Kuchar, design their boxes!
100% Kona Private Reserve Coffee from Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation
Just about every coffee aficionado I know thinks that Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee from Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is absolutely fantastic.
By far the most popular product from Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is the 100% Kona Private Reserve Coffee. Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is sure to put the best of their (already incredible) crop into these bags of coffee. And with the perfect balance of acidity, aroma, and flavor, what more could you ask for?
If you like, Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation also grows a bit of organic Kona coffee. To try that, get the Organic 100% Kona Coffee Vienna Roast.
Kona Silk from Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm
Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm isn’t only a great place for a coffee tour in Kona. It also happens to whip up some of the best coffee on the Big Island.
While Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm has a few noteworthy Kona coffee products, the Kona Silk is undoubtedly their best offering. Garnering over 13 awards, you definitely don’t want to miss out on these fantastic coffee beans.
Full City Roast from Greenwell Farms
The Full City Roast from Greenwell Farms is their best-selling 100% Kona Coffee product – and for good reason! Buyers describe the flavor of the Full City Roast as having a wide variety of notes, including citrus, vanilla, caramel, and chocolate. In other words, it’s the perfect drink to have first thing in the morning.
For a more comprehensive list of the best coffee to buy in Kona, check out our list of the best Kona coffee brands.
Where to Buy Kona Coffee in Kona
There are loads of places to buy fantastic coffee in Kona. Check out the recommendations below to find out more.
That said, if you run out at home, you can always buy some more online (although it may be a tad pricier, due to shipping costs). And if you find that the Kona coffee you bought doesn’t suit your style, you can explore our list of the best Hawaii coffee companies. This list includes coffee from all of the main Hawaiian Islands.
Directly from the Farms
If you have the option to buy directly from the farms, do it. Odds are, you’re getting the freshest beans and the lowest price. (The only exception to the price part may be Costco in Kona.)
From the Coffee Shops
If you can’t get your coffee in Kona from the farms, the coffee shops are the next best thing. I would recommend getting it from one of the coffee shops recommended above. But be sure to read all of the labels to make sure you’re getting what you want. Keep an eye out for that signature 100% Kona Coffee label!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world did Costco make it onto this list? It’s purely for price point purposes.
Since Costco buys everything in bulk, they can afford to give the products to their customers at a more affordable rate. Consequently, the Kona coffee beans at Costco are likely cheaper than most other spots on the island. As a matter of fact, the Kona coffee beans at Costco may be sold at a lower price than they are at the actual farms! And luckily for you, there’s a Costco right in the heart of Kona!
That said, there are two downsides to this. First, you don’t get to pick which specific farm the Kona Coffee comes from. So if you went to Greenwell Farms and absolutely adored their Full City Roast, buy it from Greenwell Farms. But if you’re open to whatever 100% Kona Coffee Costco has in stock that day (since it’s always changing), Costco is a fantastic spot.
Second, you have to be meticulous about reading the label. Not all of the coffees at Costco Kona are 100% Kona coffee. As a matter of fact, most aren’t. So don’t buy anything without that 100% Kona coffee label!
Is there anything else you’d like to know about coffee in Kona? Let me know in the comments below!
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