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Kona coffee--my honest review

A friend of The Mama had a deal too good to pass up. It was basically, "I'm going to buy 2 pounds of green Kona coffee. You roast one for me and ship it back. Keep the other for yourself." An especially nice offer considering it was not something I would have splurged on for myself. If you're reading, dear giver, I really appreciated the opportunity.

Kona is tricky. If you're not a coffee geek, you've probably seen things labeled "Kona" in stores. But these are often blends with very little actual Kona and mostly other beans. You'll know real 100% Kona when you see it by the price tag...often $30-50 per pound. Not uncommon to see packs with, say, 5 pounds from a grower in Hawaii retailing for $200. I've heard it can be quite good. I've also heard it can be quite mediocre. And I've also heard from my fellow geeks that Kona is currently in a down trend (like a few other areas) that will take time to recover.

A few observations...
It had a very long roast curve meaning it needed added time on a normal roast cycle to finish first crack. It also struck me as a fairly large bean. Or maybe I've just been roasting a few especially smaller beans lately? It smells delicious right away. Very sweet, very pleasing aromas. After resting, the fresh grind retained a lot of this. But it had a noticeable drop off when water is poured over the grounds. (I use a Softbrew.) I was really hoping for a nice body, good flavor, good sweetness mixed with other compounds to offer a complicated taste.

In my opinion though? A little flat. A little on the thin side. The Mama noted (and I agree) a slightly grassy flavor. Not bread-yeast type. Not foul. Just jarring when you're expecting a super quality cup. The sweetness was still there and it wasn't bad. But not as smooth as I like. Not as interesting as I like.

So...my final takeaway is really more of a complaint/suggestion. Others have said it better but I'll agree with a test sample of only 2 pounds roasted--you can get cheaper, superior coffee elsewhere. If I'm going to spend $30 on a pound of coffee it better be the best damn coffee I've ever tasted. Not when third wave coffee companies are going directly to farmers and bringing you nearly-perfect cups for closer to $20 per pound. Some of you who know me know that my Valentine gift was a couple of pounds from Counter Culture. I'm currently drinking a Peru that is just as good as the Kona at half the price it would sell for.

Kona was definitely mild, sweet, and not defective. But--to me--it bears more in common with the stereotypically "boring and balanced" Costa Rican beans that are almost "too perfect." My personal preference is for more in-your-face coffees that have personality and thick body and interesting flavors. I like a spectrum of hot-to-cool changes where a taster can find multiple families of taste in a cup. I like coffees that hold their own from dry to wet to cup. That's just me.

In short, would I pay $30 for another pound of Kona? Probably not. Would I pay $30 for a good pound of something spectacular from somewhere else? Sure. Would I give Kona another chance? Probably. I'm not writing all coffee from Hawaii off based on my limited experience. But definitely noting that if you find something good and reasonably-priced, drink up.

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