Why is Kona Coffee so Expensive?

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. — T.S. Eliot

The value of coffee to life suggests we take it seriously. Flavorless coffee adds nothing to our day-to-day experience. Still, some might say world-class coffee adds only to our expenditures. Coffee connoisseurs hail 100 percent Kona coffee one of life’s must-haves. But, the question arises, why is Kona coffee so expensive?

Kona Coffee Beans are Rare

The Kona Coffee Belt along the western coast of the big island of Hawaii stretches only 30 miles. This small growing region limits the size of the crop. At one-mile deep, this narrow strip of land produces only one percent of the world’s coffee. So, why not expand the crop land?

The microclimate in the Kona district provides the ideal conditions for growing coffee beans. Sunny mornings, rainy afternoons and tropical temperatures give the beans the ideal mix of light and water to grow. Plus, the volcanic soil nourishes the plants. No other part of the island offers what the Kona coffee trees need.

Threats Decrease Kona Coffee Crops

Coffee cherry borers threaten Kona coffee crops. Infestations set farms back in production by attacking immature cherries as they mature on the trees. To rid crops of this pest, drastic measures need to be taken, including not harvesting in the year of infestation.

Furthermore, rains in the afternoon along the Kona Coffee Belt give kona trees plenty of water. However, dry seasons and droughts require irrigation to provide an ample drink daily. Even in years following a drought, trees may produce less fruit as they work to recover.

Hand Labor Raises Bean Costs

Kona coffee beans grow on the steep, rocky sides of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Located approximately 800 to 2500 feet up the largest volcano in the world, machinery is not an option. Hand laborers do the hard work of pruning, fertilizing, providing irrigation for and harvesting this crop. Plus, machine harvesting mixes mature and immature berries leading to a bitter cup of coffee.

The Kona Coffee Belt is in the United States. Federal wage regulations come into play. Unlike coffee farmers in other countries, these workers get minimum wage — a fair and equitable wage, not poverty-maintaining hourly rates. Therefore, comparing Kona coffee pricing to coffees produced outside the States is not an even comparison.

Is Kona Coffee so Expensive?

Once you even the playing field and consider the facts, the cost of a cup of Kona coffee decreases. The dollar it costs to savor an unforgettable cup of 100 percent Kona coffee proves to be reasonable, especially when you know the labor of these farmers and the fair wage they earn. Plus, isn’t life worth this small daily splurge?