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Tuesday
Oct182011

Kona Coffee from Hawaii's Big Island, Simply the Best 

Thanks SF Examiner and Sheila O'Connor, SF World Traveler Examiner, for the article on Kona coffee.  

Kona Coffee from Hawaii's Big Island, Simply the Best 

KAILUA-KONA, Big Island, Hawaii -- San Franciscans love their coffee.  And there's nothing better than Kona coffee. If you're visiting the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, a tour of the Kona Coffee plant is a must-do.

It won't come as a surprise to San Franciscans that real Kona Coffee (unlike the Kona coffee blend which may actually hold as little as 10 percent of real Kona coffee) is highly treasured throughout the world. It has a full-bodied flavor and an aroma that makes it worth waking up for. This is one kind of daily grind you won't mind.

While visitors might gripe that the weather here in Hawaii isn't 100 percent sunny all the time, the coffee trees on the Big Island of Hawaii actually do well on the cool slopes found in the Hualalai and Mauna Loa Mountains.

It's that very same dark volcanic soil and the afternoon cloud cover that allows these coffee trees to thrive (don't worry, sun seekers will find that any rain that does arrive, passes pretty quickly and you can go back to working on your tan).

The coffee trees found in the Kona area usually bloom after Kona's dry winters have passed.  The coffee is then harvested in autumn.  One place to see a coffee plant in action is at Greenwell Farms on the Big Island of Hawaii.

You might not know that the coffee grown and cultivated in the North and South areas of Kona on Hawaii's Big Island is the ONLY coffee that's allowed to be called "Kona Coffee," (in much the same way that Champagne can only be from the grapes grown in the Champagne area of France.)

Kona coffee is always hand picked, pulped, dried and hulled and there are four layers before you get to the tiny bean inside. It's left to machinery at the coffee mill to then sort the beans into different grades, usually by size and shape.

So if there are so many shapes and sizes, what one is top of the line?  That would be Peaberry.

Each Peaberry bean occurs when one side of the coffee flower fuses into the other, creating  just one bean in the coffee cherry, rather than the usual two.

That single Peaberry bean has a more concentrated flavor than the dual beans do.  It also makes up only around 5%-10% of the complete Kona Coffee harvest. 

The grades of coffee (in descending order after Peaberry) that conoisseurs should know about are: extra fancy, fancy, No.1 and prime. It doesn't hurt for the rest of us to know that too.

After the Kona coffee is sun-dried, it is custom-roasted and that process can vary in length of time, depending on how moist the beans are.  The roasting can determine the flavor of the bean and so too can the WAY the bean is roasted. For many, the roasting process can come down to a real art form.

If the resulting roast is dark, it usually goes by the name of French Roast, Italian or Espresso.

Medium roasts, on the other hand, result in the Full-City or Vienna coffee labels.
 
If you prefer flavored coffee, then know that the flavor is usually sprayed on or added in powder form right after the coffee is roasted.  That's when the coffee is at its freshest and the added coffee flavor at its strongest.

To keep that freshness, however, airtight containers have to be used.  A whole coffee bean can stay as fresh as the day it was picked for up to 3 months.

Ground coffee, on the other hand, can only stay good for around a month (that's why the supermarkets want you to grind your coffee right before you buy it from the store, or, better yet, buy whole beans and grind your own coffee at home, just before you make a pot).

So if it's Kona coffee you want, make sure that that's what you're getting, by reading the label. If it says KONA BLEND, then only around 10% of the beans are actually from Kona.

The others are imported from countries like Brazil, Central America, Africa and from Indonesia.

But if you're buying your coffee on the Big Island of Hawaii and it's on the Kona Coffee Belt, then you can rest assured that you're getting 100% of that wonderful aromatic Kona Coffee.

You can smell -- and taste -- the difference.  Mmmm.  Enjoy.

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