"Kona tastes better than all other coffees, wherever they come from or whatever their name is", take Marc Twain's word for it.
It's difficult to describe it, because everything is there: honey, blackberries, candied lemon, caramel, sweet hazelnut, milk chocolate, even banana! And everything, which is even rarer, miraculously in balance.
PS our roaster swears that every time he chews a freshly roasted bean it is as if he finds a gianduiotto in his mouth.
The Kona Coffee of Hawaii is, like the equally famous Blue Mountain Jamaican, a monocultivar of Typica alone, one of the very few native varieties of the Arabica species, with a fascinating history.
It is a tall variety characterized by very low production, susceptibility to major diseases and extraordinary quality in the cup.
The Typica group, like all Arabica coffees, is native to southwestern Ethiopia. In the XV-XVI century it was brought to Yemen. In the 1700s the seeds of Yemen were planted in India. In 1696 and 1699 coffee seeds were sent from the Malabar coast of India to the island of Batavia (now called Java in Indonesia). These few seeds were what gave rise to what we know today as the distinct Typica variety.
In 1706 a single Typica coffee plant was brought from Java to Amsterdam and housed in the botanical gardens; from there, a plant was shared with France in 1714. From the Netherlands, Typica was sent on colonial trade routes in 1719 to Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) and then to Cayenne (French Guiana) in 1722, and from there to the northern part of Brazil in 1727. It reached southern Brazil between 1760 and 1770. From Paris, plants were sent to Martinique in the West Indies in 1723. The British introduced Typica coffee from Martinique to Jamaica in 1730.
Because Typica is both low-yielding and highly susceptible to major coffee diseases, it was gradually replaced throughout much of the Americas, but is still widely planted in Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, where it is called Jamaica Blue Mountain. [To know more: World Coffee Research].
Bill Cornwell now leads the historic family farm, which has always been one of the reference points for the best Hawaiian Kona Coffee. A coffee as rare as it is subject to fraud, at least until about twenty years ago, when the government of Hawaii decided to establish strict criteria by law with blanket checks on producers' labels.
The deserved fame of this rare coffee has been built over the last 150 years, since it was discovered that the ancient variety of Coffea Arabica Typica coming from Yemen planted on the volcanic and dry soil of Kona District of the main island of Hawaii was capable of producing extraordinary coffee. Note that in Hawaiian there It means downwind, designating the western region of the island, which the Hualalai volcano protects from winds and heavy rains: an ideal microclimate for healthy and slow ripening, which requires a selective manual harvest of coffee cherries that lasts all year.
The harvesting of the coffee cherries is strictly done by hand, and this not for romantically nostalgic reasons, but to allow for the most accurate selection of fully ripe cherries, leaving the more unripe ones for the next step, in picking phases that follow one another almost all year long.
The freshly picked and selected coffee cherries are subjected to mechanical removal of the pulp. The resulting grains, still fresh and full of pulp residues (sugars and fibers) are left to macerate in tanks full of water. Once submerged the grains begin to ferment. The fermentation process dissolves the residues of the pulp, allowing the total cleaning of the coffee bean which will pass on to the phase of drying in the sun.
Roasting 10kg of Kona Coffee Extra Fancy, the highest quality selection and the largest calibre, creates in every roaster respecting a mixture of excitement and fear: the excitement of being faced with one of the rarest and most beautiful coffee beans in the world, the fear of not being up to the formidable work done so far by nature and by the farmer . For our Kona Coffee we have chosen a rather aggressive path in the very first phase dedicated to the evaporation of humidity, to leave much more space and time for the delicate and progressive development of the Maillard reactions. The end result is a large, beautiful, very sweet grain.