Kona coffee is the market name for a variety of coffee (Coffea arabica) cultivated on the slopes of Mount Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. This coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. Only coffee from the Kona Districts can be legally described as "Kona". The Kona weather pattern of bright sunny mornings, humid rainy afternoons and mild nights creates favorable coffee growing conditions.
There are approximately 800 Kona coffee farms, with an average farm size of less than 5 acres (20,000 m2).
Kona coffee blooms in February and March. Small white flowers cover the tree and are known as Kona Snow. In April, green berries begin to appear on the trees. By late August, red fruit, called "cherry" because of the resemblance of the ripe berry to a cherry fruit, start to ripen for picking. Each tree will be hand-picked several times between August and January, and provides around 20-30 pounds of cherry.
Within 24 hours of picking, the cherry is run through a pulper, the beans are separated from the pulp, and then placed in a fermentation tank overnight. The fermentation time is dependent on the temperature and therefore on the elevation; about 12 hours at a low elevation or 24 hours at a higher elevation. The beans are rinsed and spread to dry on a "hoshidana" or drying rack. Traditional hoshidanas have a rolling roof to cover the beans in the event of rain. It takes 7-14 days to dry the beans to an optimal moisture level of between 10-13% (by Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture regulations: 9.5-12.5%). From here, the beans are stored as "pergamino" or parchment. The parchment is milled off the green bean prior to roasting or wholesale.
It takes seven to nine pounds of cherry to make one pound of roasted coffee. Thus 100 pounds of cherry will yield about 12 pounds of roasted coffee.
Kona coffee beans are classified according to the seed type. Type I beans consist of two beans per cherry, flat on one side, oval on the other. Type II beans consist of one round bean per cherry, otherwise known as a peaberry. Further grading of these two types of beans depends on size, moisture content, purity of bean type and size. The grades of Type I Kona coffee are Kona Extra fancy, Kona fancy, Kona Number 1, and Kona Prime. The grades of Type II Kona coffee are Peaberry Number 1 and Peaberry Prime. There is also a lower grade of coffee called Number 3 which can not legally be labeled as "Kona". (Wikipedia)