State lawmakers passed a bill that says roasted, instant and ready-to-drink coffee sold with packaging using Hawaii place names must contain at least 51% of coffee grown in a region of Hawaii. Hualalai 100% Kona coffee, left, sells for $17.99 for 4 ounces. Aloha Aina’s Signature Blend, a 10% Kona coffee blend, sells for $9.49 for 7 ounces.

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Many Hawaii coffee farmers got most, but not all, of what they wanted at the state Legislature this year to protect valuable crop origin names.

House Bill 2298, if enacted, will require that by July 1, 2027, roasted, instant and ready-to-drink coffee contains at least 51% of coffee grown in a region of Hawaii if the product package uses the name of the region — such as Kona, Kau, Waialua, Molokai, Maui and Kauai — in a blend with foreign coffee.

The bill’s passage was lauded by some legislators as historic, given that the local coffee-growing industry has been trying for decades to expand and strengthen a 32-year-old state law that requires only 10% Hawaii coffee in packages of blended coffee using Hawaii geographic origin names.

The final version of HB 2298 also represents a big compromise from the bill’s original aim, which was to prevent any blended packages of roasted, instant or ready-to-drink coffee from using Hawaii geographic names of origin after July 1, 2027.

Mark Petersen, president of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, said a new push for higher protection could come a few years from now depending on how the market changes after 2027 if HB 2298 is enacted. But he also said he’s happy with what was achieved this year.

“We are really thankful that this finally got passed, and that the lower limit is no longer 10%,” he said. “Hawaii coffee farmers are incredibly patient, because it’s been 30 years to get to this point.”

Slow drip

Hawaii coffee farmers, mostly growers of highly regarded and expensive coffee in Kona, have been frustrated for decades that attributes and prices of what they grow have been devalued by blending.

“Since 1992, the 10 percent blend law has damaged the reputation of Kona coffee and threatened the economic well-being of Kona coffee farmers,” the association said in a petition to Hawaii lawmakers in 2007, a year after two bills proposing a 75% minimum for Kona coffee blends failed to receive a hearing.

This year, a long-running clash was rehashed at the state Capitol mainly between farmers who want the use of Hawaii place names for blended coffee eliminated, and processors that sell blends of Hawaii and foreign coffees.

“We’re one of the only geographies in the world that allows its geographic name to be used on products that are not 100% from that region — and it needs to change,” Kona coffee farmer Joshua Montgomery of Guard Well Farm told the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection during a March 20 public hearing. “It’s like somebody putting a Mercedes-­Benz seat in a Ford Fiesta and then selling it as a Mercedes. It’s dishonest, and it damages the brand.”

Other supporters of the original version of HB 2298 included the state Department of Agriculture, Hawaii Farm Bureau, Hawaii Coffee Association and Ka’u Coffee Growers Cooperative.

Opponents of the bill included Retail Merchants of Hawaii, Hawaii Coffee Co., Dealer Store Hawaii and Mulvadi Corp.

Gerard Bastiaanse, Hawaii Coffee Co. president, expressed concern in written testimony that implementing the original or subsequent version of HB 2298 would hurt Kona coffee sales by taking more affordable blends off the market, which in turn he said would result in the company cutting jobs.

Hawaii Coffee Co., which has brand names that include Royal Kona, Lion and Hawaiian Isles Coffee Roasters, sells 7-ounce packages of 100% Kona coffee for $30 and 10% blends for $12.

“We believe it is important to offer consumers a range of coffee products so they have options to choose based on taste preferences and affordability,” Bastiaanse testified.

Some Kona coffee farmers did oppose HB 2298 over concerns that they won’t be able to sustain high enough sales if blends are banned.

Naneki Astronomo of Menehune Coffee Co., which sells both 100% Kona coffee and a 30% blend, testified at the March 20 hearing that the existing law is fine because it requires the amount of Hawaii-grown coffee in a package to be disclosed to consumers.

“The consumers are not deceived,” she said, adding that her 200-acre farm in Captain Cook would be hurt by prohibiting Kona blends.

Economic study

In the past, there was more uncertainty from Hawaii coffee growers over whether such a ban would hurt or help their business. This year, however, the industry had an economic-­impact study that said a net economic benefit would result for farmers.

The 110-page report, a result of a 2022 bill passed by the Legislature, concluded that transitioning from a minimum 10% to 51% blend for coffee using the Kona name, or preventing Kona blends altogether, would redistribute an economic benefit from “downstream intermediaries” such as blenders and roasters to growers and consumers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are around 1,100 coffee farms in Hawaii covering about 7,400 acres and a harvested crop valued in recent years between $48 million and $64 million.

Carolyn Witcover, a small Kona coffee farmer, told lawmakers in written testimony that the study gives rise to passing HB 2298.

“It is time for the Legislature to get behind Hawaii farmers,” she said.

There was some criticism from bill opponents that the study was flawed, given that its authors said limited available data from a constrained project timeline significantly impacted the precision of their conclusions.

Lawmakers wielding power over the bill appeared deeply divided.

Blended result

The original draft of HB 2298 introduced in January proposed raising the minimum amount of Hawaii coffee in blends using local place names in four steps, starting with 25% on July 1, then 50% a year later followed by 75% after another year and then finally banning such blends as of July 1, 2027.

On Feb. 27, the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce led by Rep. Mark Nakashima (D, Hamakua-Hilo) amended the bill to have only three steps ending with a 50% minimum in 2033.

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection led by Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D, Kaneohe-Kailua) put the original steps phasing out blends back in the bill after a March 20 public hearing.

Ultimately, a conference committee led by Nakashima and Keohokalole agreed on the final draft with a 51% minimum taking effect July 1, 2027.

The bill passed May 1 with a 49-2 vote in the House and a 24-1 vote in the Senate.

Lead introducer of the measure, Rep. Nicole Lowen (D, Kailua-Kona-Honokohau-­Puuanahulu), told her colleagues before the final House vote that establishing a 51% minimum represents “huge progress” but also only a “half step toward doing the right thing” for farmers who have sought legislative help for over three decades.

Lowen noted that you can’t buy a package of Georgia peaches that are only 51% from Georgia, Idaho potatoes that aren’t all from Idaho, Champagne that isn’t from Champagne, or Bordeaux wine that isn’t from Bordeaux.

“For more than 30 years, Hawaii has been the only region in the world to allow the use of regional names on packages of specialty ag crops with only 10% genuine content,” she said. “The farmers will be back undoubtedly to fight for 100%, and hopefully it won’t take 30 more years to get there.”

Sen. Dru Kanuha (D, Kona-­Kau-Volcano) led the introduction of a companion to HB 2298 in the Senate, and urged his colleagues to pass what he called “historic” legislation.

HB 2298 also elicited praise from Sen. Tim Richards (D, North Hilo-Waimea-North Kona) moments before the final vote in the Senate.

“This elevates Kona coffee, actually regional coffee, … and will raise the quality of our coffee that we are selling throughout the state,” Richards said. “This has been a long time coming.”

Why is Hawaii the only state that can grow coffee?

Coffee first arrived in Hawaii around 1820. Today, it is the only state in the US where coffee is grown on a commercial scale. Furthermore, its volcanic soils and tropical microclimates make it perfect for growing specialty coffee.

What is the history of coffee in Hawaii?

The first coffee was planted in Kona by missionary Samuel Ruggles in 1828 or 1829. These first arabica trees were taken from cuttings planted on Oahu a few years earlier. Coffee and Kona were a perfect match – Kona with its rich volcanic soil, hardworking family farmers, and perfect climatic conditions.


Brandon von Damitz is the co-founder and co-owner of Big Island Coffee Roasters – located on the eponymous island, which is the largest in Hawaii.

He tells me: “The history of Kona coffee dates back to 1828, when it was first introduced to the Big Island by Reverend Samuel Ruggles, who brought seeds from Brazil to Hilo. Soon after, seedlings made their way over to Kona – the humble beginnings of what is now a globally recognised coffee origin, protected by state law.”

“At the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna, Kona coffee received its first international accolade,” Brandon tells me. “The Hawaiian coffee industry was developed mostly by the efforts of smallholder farmers and migrant workers.”

Many of these workers originally came from Japan and China. However, Brandon says that native Hawaiians also helped the regional coffee industry to grow. At the time, most farms were owned and operated by European and American colonists.

However, Brandon explains that commercial agriculture in Hawaii has not historically favoured coffee as a cash crop.

“While coffee has been in Hawaii for nearly 200 years,” Brandon explains, “sugar and pineapple remained the dominant crops of the islands during the 19th and 20th centuries.”

Hawaiian coffee survived, expanding and contracting in the 20th century, until about 30 years ago, when things started changing.

Brandon says: “During the 1980s, sugar and pineapple production started declining in Hawaii. At the same time, global specialty coffee production started gaining momentum. As coffee enthusiasts around the world sought higher quality and more ethically sourced coffee, Kona was able to claim and maintain a brand of excellence in the eyes of coffee lovers.”

Two types of Hawaii coffee.


Since the 1980s, Hawaiian coffee production figures have soared. More Hawaiian farms now produce coffee than any other crop. In January 2021, the USDA reported that some 6,900 acres of land across the state are used for coffee cultivation.

Brandon says: “Hawaii produces approximately 5 million pounds (2.3 million kg) of green coffee per year.” 

While this does represent less than 1% of all coffee grown in the world, the country’s coffee sector is still worth some US $250 million – split between production and consumption.

Juleigh Burden is a research assistant at the Hawaiian Agricultural Research Centre. She says: “Arabica is the main species commercially grown in Hawaii. There are small amounts of robusta grown, but these aren’t commercially available.

“Liberica is used sometimes as a rootstock for Kona if there are known issues with pests, such as nematodes.” 

The root-knot nematode damaged coffee trees across Hawaii during the 1990s, affecting production volumes as a result. However, researchers were able to graft arabica plants onto liberica roots to create pest-resistant plants.

Coffee has also spread further afield since arriving in Kona in the 19th century. While Kona remains the best known of Hawaii’s coffee-growing regions, arabica is now cultivated all across the state.

“The main coffee growing regions are Kona, Ka‘u, Puna, Hamakua (all located on the Island of Hawaii), Maui, Kauai, O‘ahu, and Molokai,” Juleigh explains. “These are the largest in terms of commercial production, but coffee can be cultivated nearly anywhere on the islands. 

“There are even a few backyard farmers who grow coffee as a hobby for their own personal consumption.”

Cross section of green coffee beans.


Since Hawaii is a US state and must follow federal minimum wage laws, coffee grown in Hawaii represents one of the most equitable coffee supply chains in the world. 

For example, an average of approximately 5% to 10% of the cost paid by consumers goes to coffee farmers around the world. However, in Hawaii, it’s estimated that 40% to 60% (or more) of the cost paid by consumers goes directly to the producer.

Juleigh adds that the terroir of the Hawaiian islands has a unique effect on the coffee grown there.

“Hawaii has suitable temperatures, soils, and infrastructure in place to make growing, selling, and exporting coffee profitable.”

She goes on to explain that climate, in particular, is a key point.

“One of the most important factors to consider when planting coffee is the climate,” Juleigh tells me. “Temperature is largely determined by latitude and altitude.”

This is why, unlike many other producing countries, coffee can be grown at significantly lower altitudes in Hawaii, at a maximum of around 1,000 m.a.s.l. This generally means less acidity in the cup, which is why Hawaiian coffees are often noted for being sweet.

However, Juleigh adds that Hawaiian coffees shouldn’t be generalised, as there can be key differences across the different growing regions. While average temperatures generally remain the same across the islands, rainfall fluctuates significantly from region to region. 

For example, the Kona district is mostly dry and sunny, whereas Puna, on the opposite side of the same island, is significantly wetter. This means the state can offer a range of flavour profiles and coffee experiences as diverse as the growing conditions. 

Big Island Coffee Roasters Hawaii coffee.



The western Kona district is the largest coffee-growing area in the state, comprising some 900 farms alone. 

The Kona Coffee Belt lies between the slopes of the Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanoes, and is a perfect location for growing coffee, thanks to its nutrient-dense, volcanic soils. The majority of coffee grown on the Big Island is from Kona.

Kona coffee trees bloom from January to February and the fruits are harvested from August to December. After processing and drying, coffees are then graded according to size and quality. Notable Kona grades include “Kona Extra Fancy”, “Kona Fancy”, and “Kona Peaberry”.

Many varieties are grown in the Kona region, including the unique Kona Typica mutation. While there are no botanical records, it’s believed that when Guatemalan beans were imported into Hawaii in the late 19th century, they naturally mutated as they adapted to the islands. However, Brandon notes that other varieties are also grown in Kona.

“At Big Island Coffee Roasters, Kona Peaberry is our top seller, but we’re also known for providing a diverse array of specialty-grade Hawaiian and Kona coffees roasted with care and attention to detail,” he says.

Kona coffee, popularity & labelling disputes

Over the years, Kona coffee has gained a reputation in the coffee industry for its unique history and highly-prized flavour profiles. 

Throughout the 1980s, Kona was considered one of the highest quality coffees in the world. It was renowned for its mild, sweet, and chocolatey flavours. Today, it still commands a premium price; roasters buying 100% Kona green (unroasted) coffee often pay over US $25/lb.

However, with its reputation and high value came many imitation products which have threatened to drive down the quality of coffee labelled as Kona. As a result, in the early 1990s, the State of Hawaii introduced a 10% Kona coffee blend statute. 

This law requires any coffee packaging that advertises the word “Kona” must contain a minimum 10% Kona coffee by weight in order for the Kona name to be used. 

However, over the years that followed, many brands took this as an invitation to label coffee as being “Kona coffee” when it contained just 10% of the expensive Hawaiian beans. The remaining 90% were often of considerably lower quality, creating a cheaper blend that didn’t represent 100% Kona coffee. 

In a landmark case in March 2021, several US brands paid a total of US $13 million in a class action settlement, concerning products that were falsely advertised as Kona coffee. Following the suit, the Hawaii County Council passed a resolution urging state legislators to ensure that all blends labelled as Kona include at least 51% Kona coffee. 


Before coffee, the southern region of Ka’u was a prominent sugarcane producer. The first coffee tree was planted in Ka’u in 1997

As well as being home to rich volcanic soil, Ka’u is known for having a good volume of rainfall and plenty of sunshine. 

Despite being a relative newcomer to coffee production, the region has flourished and scaled quickly over the past 25 years. In the 2016/17 crop year, it grew more than 351,000 lbs of coffee. 


Much like Ka’u, Hāmākua was also known for its sugarcane production before it switched to coffee.

With only 45 small farms, Hāmākua (which is located in the northeastern part of the Big Island) produces smaller amounts of coffee in comparison to Kona, Maui, and Ka’u. However, it is rapidly making a name for itself in the Hawaiian coffee industry.

Big Island Coffee Roasters Hawaii coffee.


“At scale, the primary processing methods in Hawaii are washed and semi-washed,” Juleigh tells me. 

However, experimentation with processing is becoming more common, as Brandon says. “In the last few years, yeast-inoculated washed coffees have really started gaining traction. Honey and natural processed coffees are also becoming more common as farmers learn how to diversify their crop offerings.”

Juleigh adds: “More recently in Hawaii, some producers have started taking advantage of innovative processing technologies, including new styles of fermentation.

“The annual state coffee competitions typically highlight these successful innovations, as well as the unique varieties being grown.”

Brandon tells me that Big Island Coffee Roasters prides itself on offering a wide range of different coffees to really explore the breadth and diversity of Hawaii’s terroir. 

“Some of our coffees include a washed Ka’u Maragogipe, a natural Ka’u Maragogipe, a barrel-aged Puna Caturra, and a black honey Ka’u Typica, for instance,” he says.

As for a cup profile, Hawaiian coffee naturally varies depending on variety, terroir, processing method, roast profile, and a number of other factors. 

However, Kona coffee is usually described as being smooth and delicate with a silky mouthfeel. Common tasting notes include milk chocolate, caramel, and florals. Meanwhile, coffees from Ka’u are generally described as being more robust, rich and complex, similar to Colombian coffee.

As for varieties, Brandon says: “The most commonly grown variety across the state is Typica: you can find it on almost all coffee farms. It also grows wild.” 

He also tells me more about some of the other varieties that grow across Hawaii, including in Maui. 

“In terms of acreage, Yellow Caturra is the most planted. Other common varieties include Red Caturra, Red Catuai, Red and Yellow Bourbon, and Maragogipe. Gesha is also starting to increase in popularity with the more progressive farms.”

Juleigh, meanwhile, notes that Mokka and Mundo Novo are both prominent, and tells me that “many other varieties are grown in varying quantities”.

Hawaiian coffee beans drying out.

Hawaii may not account for much of the world’s coffee supply, but production is expected to increase significantly in the years to come. However, don’t let that detract from your perception of it as a coffee origin: its beans are unique, complex, and well worth trying.

Thanks to its distinct climates and varieties, and its rich, volcanic soil, Hawaii’s reputation as an origin seems set in stone for the years to come. Just make sure that when you do look for Hawaiian coffee, whether it’s from Kona or elsewhere, you buy from a roaster who ethically sources high-quality beans from farmers who love what they do.

Which coffee is grown in Hawaii?

Kona coffee
Nearly all Hawaiian coffee is Arabica, which is self-pollinating, meaning it doesn’t need bees to produce coffee 🐝 . Most Kona coffee is a variety of Arabica called Kona Typica, but all over Hawaii coffee farmers grow varieties like Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Geisha, etc.

What is special about Hawaiian coffee?

Kona coffee is a hard bean that forms as a result of the bean variety, the weather, and the rich volcanic soil. Coffee beans harvested in the Kona region have a very high density, which leads to complex bean development during the roasting process and unique and fantastic flavor profiles once brewed.

What exactly is Kona coffee?

Kona Typica coffee beansKona coffee is coffee that is grown in Kona, Hawaii. Kona coffee is primarily made from the bean variety Guatemalan Typica, a type of Arabica. However, coffee farmers have introduced new strains over the years by planting Red Caturra and Bourbon coffee trees. 

Kona coffee is a hard bean that forms as a result of the bean variety, the weather, and the rich volcanic soil. Coffee beans harvested in the Kona region have a very high density, which leads to complex bean development during the roasting process and unique and fantastic flavor profiles once brewed.

Where did Kona coffee originate?

In 1817, the Brazilian horticulturist Don Francisco de Paula Marin brought coffee plants to Hawaii and planted the trees in the Manoa Valley. The venture was initially unsuccessful, so Reverend Samuel Ruggles took some coffee plants to the North and South Kona Districts. The plants flourished, but bad weather and pests diminished production in the 1850s. In 1892, coffee production resumed when Hermann Widemann introduced a type of Guatemalan bean, Kona Typica, to the Big Island. 

How does Kona coffee differ from regular coffee?


Kona coffee offers several qualities that distinguish it from regular coffee, including: 

Volcanic soil located at San Francisco Bay Coffee's farm in Kona, Hawaii
  • Prime Farming Location – The coffee is grown in the Kona Coffee Belt, a 35-mile long and mile-and-a-half-wide swath of land that spans elevations from 500 to 3,200 feet.
  • Volcanic Soil – The new soil that has recently erupted from deep inside the earth is rich in macro and micro elements, providing a full nutritional offer to the different crops. The rich soil helps the coffee plants flourish and contributes to a rich and unique flavor profile.
  • Climate – Western part of Kona, where Kona coffee is grown, is ideal because of the sunny mornings, mild nights, and afternoon rainfall. The western slopes and daily clouds protect from excessive heat. 
  • Terrain – The terrain is ideal for growing coffee because the steep terrain allows for optimal drainage. 
  • Production Processes – Instead of following traditional machine-picking methods that shake trees and collect mixtures of ripe, unripe, and overripe beans, Kona coffee beans are handpicked when they are perfectly ripe from the same trees throughout the harvest season.  
  • Delicious, Unique Taste – Kona coffee beans deliver a bright and clean taste with hints of honey, brown sugar, milk chocolate, spiced wine, and fruit. The citrusy aftertaste offers a slight acidity that refreshes the palette.  
  • Lovely Aroma – The aroma of Kona coffee beans is a lovely mix of caramel, butter, and cocoa.  
  • Rarity – Kona coffee beans are incredibly rare. They make up about 1% of coffee worldwide.  

How is Kona coffee made?

The harvest season for Kona coffee spans from August to December. Perfectly ripe coffee berries are handpicked from the trees and then put into a basket. The beans go through a machine to remove berry pulp. Next, they go into fermentation tanks, where they sit for 12 hours at lower elevations and 24 hours at higher elevations. Then, the exposed beans are carefully washed and allowed to air dry, where they develop a stiff coating called parchment. Through a milling and polishing process, the parchment is removed. Finally, the beans are roasted to perfection.

Mamalahoa Estate, Kona, Hawaii

Mamalohoa Estate Kona Coffee


At San Francisco Bay Coffee, we are passionate about providing you with the freshest, most flavorful Kona coffee experience possible. Our Kona beans are carefully selected from our farm located in the South Kona region. It is one of the most iconic coffee farms in the area with 150 acres total and 130 planted with Kona Typica coffee varieties. We carefully select and roast these rare beans to perfection, ensuring an unforgettable taste with every sip! 

Which of our coffees are from Kona? 

Mamalahoa Estate coffee bagOur Mamalahoa Estate 100% Pure Kona is a premium medium roast made from beans grown exclusively on our farm. The flavor is rich, balanced, and tropical.  These beans create the essence of aloha!

Our 100% Pure Kona OneCUP™ pods feature the same great coffee, but they are compatible with K-cup machines and commercially compostable.

We also offer a Kona blend that incorporates beans from Kona and Central America. It is available in OneCUP™ pods and has a balanced and smooth flavor, with a sweet finish. 

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