Why is Kona Coffee so special?
Although Kona Coffee is perpetually in high demand, the 600-700 small-scale coffee growers in the Kona district provide less than one percent of the world’s supply of coffee because growers are limited by land. This relatively small ecological niche is surrounded by areas inhospitable to coffee cultivation, yet the Kona Coffee Belt is perfectly suited for coffee’s finicky cultivation preferences. Kona coffee is described as delicious, aromatic, and has a medium body. It is surely one of the best ways to get a taste of the unique geography of the Big Island.
Kona Rose Coffee not only brings 100% Kona gourmet coffee to you, it is also farm direct, roasted weekly and Certified Organic. This makes Kona Rose Coffee a very special and highly exclusive treat! Enjoy the difference in a perfectly balanced, rich and chocolatey, cup of Kona to your table.
The island of Hawaii, locally known as “The Big Island,” is home to one of the world’s most diverse array of climatic conditions and ecosystems. This is considerably impressive because such expansive geographical diversity is packed within an island less than 100 miles across at its widest point. In fact, humid rain forests, polar mountain tops, black lava fields, shrubby deserts, world-famous Hawaiian beaches, and many more different micro-climates are all within a day’s drive.
Out of this vast array of nestled micro-climates, it is no surprise that one of them holds the perfect mix of elevation, temperature, precipitation, and sunlight to produce some of the world’s best coffee. This niche of ideal coffee growing conditions is located in the Kona district, known as the “Kona Coffee Belt” of Hawai’i.
Kona is located on the leeward side of the Big Island. In fact, the word “Kona” in the Hawaiian language refers to the leeward winds that flow opposite to the prevailing trade winds. These Kona winds bring life-giving rain to the otherwise dry and sunny Kona Coast.
Coffee is a particularly picky plant. It needs rich soil, proper drainage, sufficient and constant rainfall, high elevation, ample sunshine, and can prosper only in a relatively narrow temperature range. These ecological factors combine in the Kona Coffee Belt, thanks to neighboring active volcano Mauna Loa, making Kona a superb growing region for great tasting coffee.
Rich and Well-drained Soil
The island of Hawai’i is the youngest Hawaiian island. Due to its relatively young geological age, Hawaii does not have much soil, but decomposing volcanic ash and rock serve as growing substrate for vegetation. This volcanic material originated from previous eruptions of Mauna Loa, the active volcano that the Kona Coffee Belt is perched upon.
This volcanic soil is nutrient rich and extremely fertile; as the natural elements chemically and mechanically weather the ash and lava rock, useful nutrients and minerals are released that support coffee plant growth and coffee bean production.
Coffee plants grow best in well-drained soils. If left in standing water, coffee plant roots are vulnerable to infestation by fungi or bacteria that cause root rot.
Root rot destroys the root of the plant, making it impossible for the plant to extract the necessary nutrients, minerals, and water from the surrounding soil. Coffee plants are especially vulnerable to root rot, so it is vital that this crop is cultivated in well-drained soil.
Mauna Loa once again provides the optimal growing conditions for Kona coffee plants: volcanic soil drains extremely well. In addition, the Kona Coffee Belt is located on the slope of Mauna Loa, further facilitating soil drainage.
A Perfect Balance between Sun and Rain
The weather in Kona is uncannily suited for the cultivation of the coffee plant. Kona mornings are known for their clear blue sunny skies. By noon, moist air masses are obstructed by the gargantuan Mauna Loa volcano that the Kona Coffee Belt rests on. Due to orthographic lifting, Mauna Loa forces the air masses to rise. As the air rises, water vapor condenses to form clouds. This daily afternoon cloud cover helps to protect the coffee plants from excess heat and sun, while also providing daily light rain showers.
Coffee plants require at least four hours of sunlight a day. With too little sunlight, coffee plants are unable to obtain enough energy to grow and produce coffee beans. At the same time, too much sunlight can cause wilting, heat stress, and even death. To protect the delicate coffee plants, it is a common practice for farmers in other parts of the world to plant taller vegetation in coffee fields for shading and protection from excess heat exposure. However, in Kona, farmers are able to rely on Hawaiian weather to provide this same purpose.
Coffee plants require at least an average of 40 inches of rain a year. Light but frequent showers are the preferred vectors of precipitation. Kona receives an average of forty-five inches of rainfall annually, so there is no need for irrigation in most, if not all, of the Kona Coffee Belt. Kona coffee farmers are fortunate enough to receive the optimal amount of water from the Hawaiian sky. Thus, the same clouds that provide afternoon shading also provide light but daily rain showers.
Coffee is generally cultivated in high elevation tropical regions because these sites have a lowered mean temperature as well as copious amounts of sunlight. These environmental conditions slow the growing process without killing the coffee plant, allowing the bean to mature over a longer period of time. This drawn-out and slower-paced growing cycle allows more complex flavors to develop in the growing bean, resulting in the rich flavor bouquets desired in superior coffee.
The Kona Coffee Belt ranges from 500-3000 feet in altitude. Kona coffee is unique in that it can be successfully grown at such low elevation. Geographically situated at a relatively high latitude, the Kona Coffee Belt simulates the environmental conditions of higher altitude sites despite its low elevation. This slows the growing cycle of the bean, creating the rich flavors characteristic of Kona coffee.
Not surprisingly, coffee plants are also considerable picky when it comes to temperature. They prefer average temperatures above 55°F. Coffee plants are easily killed by frost and cannot tolerate temperature below 40°F. Conversely, temperatures above 80°F will cause heat stress, preventing coffee plants from growing well or producing much fruit. In addition, consistently high temperatures significantly reduce the quality of coffee flavors developed in the bean.
Kona temperatures average around 60°F, making it a perfect fit for coffee’s narrow temperature range. Here, coffee plants are free from the risk of frost and are at minimal risk of heat stress.
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