Day Trip: Kona Coffee Country
Who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning? If you’re even remotely interested in Kona Coffee, you simply cannot visit the Big Island without sampling 100% Kona Coffee.
Visiting the “Kona Coffee Belt” this is a great day trip from the Kailua- Kona area or anywhere on the Kona Coast. As an added benefit, it brings you up to about the 14,000 ft. elevation mark on Mt. Hualalai, so you’ll be able to enjoy cooler temperatures and a different climate than down on at sea level.
Day Trip Tips
- First, we suggest getting an early start if possible as it can occasionally be a bit cloudy or rainy in the afternoons – this is part of what contributes to such ideal growing conditions for the Arabica trees that produce Kona Coffee.
- Wear comfortable shoes, especially if you’re interested in taking a tour, as this may include walking over uneven ground in the coffee orchards.
- Keep in mind that depending on the time of year, your tour may be different depending on what part of the growing or harvest season (roughly July-December) the farms are in, except the tasting of course!
What makes Kona Coffee so special?
Similar to the way that sparkling wine isn’t allowed to be called Champagne unless it is from that particular region in France, Kona Coffee refers to coffee grown in North or South Kona districts – a strip roughly 2 miles wide and 20 miles long. Most of the time when you see “Kona Coffee” on a label, you’re drinking a Kona Blend – the law requires that a blend only have a minimum of 10% Kona beans in it! So for the good stuff, the 100% Kona, you’ve got to come to the source.
Tasting, buying, and storage tips
There are many subtle nuances that go into making a cup of coffee, many of which you’ll probably learn about on your farm tours. The soil, the weather, the quality of the beans, the methods of pruning, drying, roasting… sometimes the best way to tell your favorite is to just dive right in and start sampling.
Most tours will include a variety of samples at the end of your tour, ideally placed from the mildest or lightest to the strongest or darkest. Keep in mind that dark roast doesn’t always mean the “best” or even the most flavor. Kona growers often believe that a medium roast is the best way to really appreciate the flavor profile of a true cup of Kona, but even this is highly subjective depending on who you ask!
Of course, your own palette will ultimately be your guide, but it’s interesting to hear it from the experts – the farmers themselves – and to get a first-hand look at what goes into a great cup of coffee. You won’t look at your morning cup the same ever again.
When choosing your own coffee to take home, buy the freshest possible beans – whole bean helps to retain the flavor and freshness until you grind, right before brewing. You’ll also want to follow the recommendations for brewing and storage to ensure the best possible cup of coffee.
Coffee Farm Tours & Tastings in Kona
Mountain Thunder Coffee
Kona Lea Plantation
Bay View Farms
>>These are just a few of the Kona Coffee farms in the Kona district, for a do-it-yourself driving tour, refer to this map from the Kona Coffee Festival website.
To make a weekend out of it:
If you’re up for a splurge, I’d recommend Holualoa Inn. It’s a charming bed and breakfast right in the middle of the village of Holualoa and provides the perfect home base for exploring Kona Coffee country.