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Arabica Coffee vs. Kona Coffee

Arabica Coffee vs. Kona Coffee

You know the feeling.

The one where you wake up in the morning, eyes bleary and your limbs lead-like as you shuffle into the kitchen to throw on a pot of coffee. The shrill sound of your alarm still rings in your ears, but this is the kind of tiredness that even an alarm cannot rid you of.

No, you need a special kind of remedy — a vitamin that begins with the letter C.


As a java enthusiast, you appreciate your morning cuppa joe. You can practically feel the caffeine coursing through your veins with every sip, from your lips to your fingertips. It shocks your system into wakefulness, preparing you for the day ahead and sustaining you from one hour to the next.

That said, a dedicated coffee drinker like yourself searches for a coffee that does more than wake you up. You look for coffee with character, coffee that delights your senses and soothes your soul.

To find what you seek, you must first know what you’re putting in your cup every morning.

So let’s go back to coffee bean basics.

Arabica and Kona Coffee — What’s the Difference? 

Arabica coffee is the world’s most revered coffee variety, made from the beans of the Coffea arabica plant. Kona coffee belongs to the same type of coffee bean classified as Arabica because they, too, come from the arabica plant.

Once upon a time, when Kona coffee was one of the few prolific production regions in Hawaii, it may have been possible to distinguish Kona coffee from other species of Arabica, based on its taste profile alone.

Now, however, one can take up cup after cup of different Arabicas, and not necessarily be able to identify Kona coffee from the crowd. This is in part due to the fact that Kona as a region has more competitors on the Hawaiian coffee stage than historically it’s ever had, and in part due to the nature of the Kona region itself, which, wile home to great coffees and coffee producers, is not home to any native scientific property – like the soil, for example – that elevates it above alternative species of Arabica coffee.

There are, however, some notable exceptions to this rule, which are attributable more to the methodologies behind the production of the Kona coffee than to the characteristics of the final product – but more on that later.

A Brief Overview of Arabica Coffee 

While Robusta coffee is on the rise in certain emerging regions, Arabica coffee remains the favorite of coffee drinkers worldwide.

Farmers cultivate Arabica beans in a few choice regions, but most are grown primarily in Central and South America, Africa, Indonesia, and India. The cultivation process for this plant takes place in mountainous highlands and luscious rainforests close to the equator. It is here, approximately 1500 to 2000 meters above sea level, that these plants flourish.

Grown best in tropical and subtropical climates, these plants require plenty of rain and warm temperatures (between 60˚F and 80˚F) during the growing season. While Arabica thrives in these climates, it can grow successfully in temperate climates with a mild winter, under the right supervision and controlled conditions.

Arabica plants produce small red cherries as they mature. Farmers harvest the fruit by hand and leave it out in the blazing sun for drying. When roasted, its familiar aroma is released, and you enjoy a decadent taste that is equally rich, robust, and balanced.

Coffee Cherries

What Does Arabica Coffee Taste Like? 

Arabica coffee is often compared to a ‘fine wine’, in the sense that more experienced coffee drinkers are apt to notice subtleties in the flavor profile that less experienced coffee drinkers are apt to overlook.

There are, of course, also flavor variations within the Arabica species itself, and the regions where the cherries grow, the soil in which they are grown, the climate that surrounds them, and the methods used in their cultivation all contribute to these flavor variations.

All Arabica coffee drinkers, however, will take note of the overall sweetness of the cup; the hints of chocolate and nut; and a friendly level of acidity. At the bottom of the cup, sensitive coffee drinkers will observe traces of florals and fruits. If you are not tasting these traces, consider trying your Arabica coffee ‘chilled’ – a process known to highlight these subtler flavors.

What Makes Arabica Coffee So Special?

With these flavors in mind, those who’ve tasted all of them within a single cup will readily understand why Arabica coffees are so desirable – indeed why, in many cases, they are considered part of a ‘gourmet selection.’ It isn’t easy to get the science right, and with so many flavors commingling for a share of your taste buds, one oversight – anywhere from planting, to harvesting, to roasting – can throw off the balance of what in most cases is a highly technical, complex flavor profile.

But when you get it right, there are few greater joys in life than Arabica coffee.

Kona Coffee Overview 

When it comes to specialty coffee, Kona is widely recognized as a prolific producer of quality Arabica coffees.

Kona coffee's cultivation history dates back 150 years to the Kona District of the Big Islands of Hawaii. Located on the north end of the Island, the Kona Coffee Belt is one of the largest coffee-growing regions on the planet. This growing region consists of a land strip of mineral-rich volcanic soils extending over thirty miles, making it the perfect location for growing grounds.

The region's climate is ideal for producing coffee plants, with warm temperatures throughout the day and cool but mild nights that foster continuous flowering and fruiting throughout the year. The elevation also plays an essential role in producing high quality beans. Kona coffee beans grow best at elevations between 1000 and 3000 feet above sea level, where the plants receive plenty of rain without too much sun or wind.

In the words of Goldilocks, the conditions for growing coffee are ‘just right.’

What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?

Kona is a mild Arabica coffee known for its distinctive flavor and gourmet quality. Coffee connoisseurs describe it as smooth and full-bodied with low acidity and a rich aroma. This combination of factors makes for a reliable and consistent cup of coffee, no matter your palate preferences.

What Makes Kona Coffee So Special?

As we alluded to above, while exceptional coffees come from the Kona region, and Kona remains the best known coffee region in Hawaii, there are emerging localities, like Ka‘ū and Puna, all across the state of Hawaii now producing Arabica coffee of equal quality – which is why, as we’ve said, the methodologies behind the coffee production are more important markers of distinction than the final product.

In other words, the quality of your Kona coffee – and anywhere else in the world for that matter – will always be in direct proportion to the quality of the methods used in its production.

For Paradise Roasters, who regularly cultivate coffees in the region of Kona – and are responsible, too, for helping elevate some of the emerging regions in Hawaii – these methods must encompass strict criteria for selection and attention to detail at every step of the coffee production process, from the cherry stage to the bagging of the beans.

With so many great Arabica coffees to choose from on the market, this is where one can continue to find innovation in the Kona coffee region, and produce coffees of extraordinary quality.

Closing Considerations 

Arabica is the world’s most popular type of coffee, and Kona will always have an important place on this list.

With so many great regions, however, in Hawaii and the world making exceptional coffees for our consideration and enjoyment, the top spots on this list remain contested.

Part of the work Paradise Roasters undertakes regularly is searching for and uncovering new opportunities for coffee growth and production in places not often regarded as suppliers of exquisite, specialty coffees, while also finding new and creative ways to elevate coffees in those regions with an already established gold standard – Kona included.

But don’t just take our word for it!

Check out the coffee selection today and see for yourself why Paradise is the most reliable roaster around!


Paradise Roasters Offers The Most Exclusive & Rare Coffees

Our specialty coffees have been rated 93 - 97 points by Coffee Review on over one hundred occasions since 2002! 

We curate with an emphasis on distinction, seasonality, and emerging origins. As often as possible our coffees are purchased direct from the farmer and sustainably grown, and all Paradise coffees are roasted to order.

For a taste of paradise delivered to your door, start a coffee subscription today!

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