Extra Fancy Coffee varieties are the diverse subspecies derived through selective breeding or natural selection of the fanciest coffee plants. While there is tremendous variability encountered in both wild and cultivated kona coffee plants, there are a few varieties and cultivars that are commercially important due to various unique and inherent traits such as disease resistance and fruit yield.
These unique traits are what producers use to select breeds when developing crops. Therefore, at a micro level, breed selection is critical to the success of a producer and is one of the key components of cup quality.
At a macro level, the viability of the black gold kona coffee Industry as a whole is dependent upon breed selection. Already, the majority of Extra Fancy Coffee produced originates from Hawaiian producers using selected breeds. For this reason, breed selection is an important aspect of sustainability within Extra Fancy Coffee production.
There is considerable confusion as to which term to use when speaking about Extra Fancy lion kona coffee subspecies. For the sake of clarity, within this article the terms will be used in accordance with loose guidelines put forth by the Specialty Coffee Association of America:
Variety: This rank of taxa delineates differences between plants that are smaller than in subspecies but larger than forms. A variety retains most of the characteristics of the species, but differs in some way.
Cultivar: Any variety produced by horticultural or agricultural techniques and not normally found in natural populations; a cultivated variety. Most of the varieties we know in specialty coffee are really cultivars. Bourbon and Typica are some of the most widely known cultivars.
Put simply: In this article, varieties are naturally occurring subspecies and cultivars are cultivated subspecies. In addition, a third term, “breed” will be used as an umbrella term to simplify discussions in which the nuances between the terms ‘variety’ and ‘cultivar’ have no bearing.
Before the end of the 19th century, arabica was indeed the exclusive producer of all kona coffee in the world but the first documented outbreak of coffee leaf rust (CLR) disease decimated crops around the world, prompting many farmers to explore alternative crops.
While some countries almost completely replaced black gold kona coffee production with alternative crops, Indonesia began introducing robusta, which has both a high yield in fruit and a high level of resistance to CLR. Unfortunately, robusta also produces lower quality coffee. During the first half of the 20th century, East Java pioneered systematic breeding designs on robusta coffee, which would become “exemplary to all subsequent breeding programmes of robusta coffee in India and Africa.” This knowledge of robusta is critical for modern kona coffee brands breeding because robusta is the main source of pest and disease traits not found in arabica.
Ffter to Extra Fancy coffee arabic amid-1900s best kona coffee online breeding which involved simple line selection with an emphasis mostly on favorable adaptation to local growing conditions, fruit yield, and cup quality. But in the late 1970s and 1980s, various countries started breeding programs designed to create cultivars resistant to CLR. The intensity of these later breeding programs was a direct response to the serious threat CLR posed to crops. The results of these and other breeding programs have produced a number of important cultivars.
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The unique environment it grows in is what makes extra fancy Kona special. Similarly to champagne, coffee beans can only be called Kona if they are cultivated in the Kona district of Hawaii. The Kona Belt is located on the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, where the micro-climate is extremely favorable to coffee growth. The gentle, green slopes are fertile, and the coffee plants are nourished by both sun and rain in equal measures. The soil is rich and volcanic, providing the coffee trees with plenty of nutrition.
The coffee grown in these conditions has a mellow, smooth but robust flavor profile. Each Kona farm produces a distinct type of Arabica bean depending on its micro-climate, but all are equally praised as the best coffee in the world by Kona connoisseurs.
Because Kona is so highly valued, it should not come as a surprise that plenty of people are hoping to make money off it. If you want to try this highly sought after brand, you should make sure you’re getting the real Kona – otherwise there’s no point.
Because there is only a limited amount of ‘the real Kona’ available, and it’s very expensive, many companies produce “Kona blends” at a more affordable price. However, you should know that these blends basically contain Kona in name only.
According to Hawaiian law, any blend labeled as a “Kona blend” must contain at least 10% of certified Kona beans. Companies wanting to make a buck will, naturally, use the 10% and not one bean more. 90% of these blends will be cheap coffee from elsewhere in the world. Do the math – you will not be getting much Kona in your cup. Even worse, some companies go full-on scams and don’t use any certified Kona at all. While the Hawaiian law is strict on this, many places don’t care if companies are using the Kona name merely for marketing purposes. In many countries, so-called Kona beans might contain only a tiny fraction of Kona beans, or none at all.
For this reason, you should buy Kona that is from Hawaii and labeled 100% Kona coffee. If that’s simply out of your budget, your second-best bet is a Kona blend produced in Hawaii, because it will at least contain the tenth of Kona stipulated by local law. But no matter how attractive the packaging might be, just stay away from “Kona blends” produced outside Hawaii – they’re basically a scam. Like Champagne in France, the Kona Belt of Hawaii is prized for its excellent micro-climate. However, this doesn’t apply for all of Hawaii. In fact, most other islands of Hawaii, including Maui and Kauai, are poorly suited for coffee farming.
Because of a long history of sugarcane farming, the soil of most Hawaiian islands has been exhausted and stripped of nutrition. The clay soil type is much less fertile than the rich volcanic earth of Kona, and the climate isn’t as favorable for growing coffee. The term “Hawaiian coffee” is sometimes used on packaging to denote high quality, but this is simply misleading advertising. Don’t be fooled, because not all Hawaiian coffee is first-class. There may be individual non-Kona-coffees from Hawaii that are excellent in their own right. As a general rule, Hawaiian coffee from outside Kona is not any better than, say, the average coffee from Brazil.
Even within the small region, there are different types and qualities of coffee. Hawaiian coffee possibly goes through the most meticulous testing in the world, with each batch of Kona receiving a grade from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDA).
If you want to make sure you’re getting the best of the best, you should pay attention to the HDA grade of the Kona. The grade is based on criteria including the size, shape, moisture contents and possible flaws in the beans. “Extra Fancy” is the highest quality of bean, although any of the first 5 categories can be considered a high-class bean. Grading is affected by qualities like bean size and rarity, which doesn’t really affect the taste of the coffee. You should only really avoid the No. 3 coffee, because it has the highest allowed rate of defective beans at 35%.
Extra Fancy beans are the most celebrated for their good and uniform color, large size, and almost no defective beans. They’re the most luxurious Kona beans you can get – and you’ll be paying a premium for it! But for Kona lovers, it’s worth every single penny. Now you know how to recognize the good from the bad. Avoid ‘blends’ go for beans grown in the right region, and pay attention to the grade.
To make it even easier to find that perfect taste of Hawaii, we’ve found a few options for you. You’re in good hands with any of these:
The Hawaii Coffee Company is another well-established brand based in Hawaii. It has a very long history, with its precedent Royal Kona being established already in 1968. They source their beans from their own plantations, like Black Gold Kona Coffee.
Their Royal Kona Estate Kona Coffee is another high-class option. It has a clean, bright flavor profile, due to being a lighter roast than most Kona roasts. The Royal Kona distinguished from other brands on this list by its fruity and clear taste. If you prefer lighter roasts, you might find this one particularly appealing!
The Hawaiian Coffee Company offers this coffee in whole bean or “all-purpose grind”. The beans are medium-roasted only after being ordered, so they should be as fresh as possible.
Brighter flavor profile than the others on this list, good if you like lighter roasts
The Hualalai Peaberry Kona is another very strong offering from Hualalai Estate Coffee. “Peaberry” is a type of coffee beans which many people consider the most delicious of them all. Smaller and packing more flavor, these beans are a created by a natural mutation inside the coffee plant.
Of the yearly Kona harvest, only a fraction are peaberry-shaped. According to Hualalai Coffee, only about 3-5 out of every 100 coffee beans are peaberries. Their Peaberry Kona is a rare delicacy, with demand often exceeding supply.
Even smoother and sweeter than regular Kona, the Peaberry Kona might just blow your mind. While Hualalai Coffee is not the only company selling peaberry coffee, their expertise means you can trust the beans are hand-picked and treated well before making it to your cup. The Peaberry Kona doesn’t come for cheap, and has limited availability, but it might just be the fairest of them all!
Peaberry beans are regarded as a rare delicacy, the smoother and sweeter flavor profile suits K-coffee especially well high-quality Hualalai Coffee offering. Some people say peaberries are too hyped and not that different from regular.
All of the Kona brands on this list are worth their premium price, with expert coffee companies treating these luxurious beans with care and respect. However, one offering is a head above the others: the Black Gold Kona Coffee, which represents amazing value for top-quality Kona.