Two things that visitors (and locals) go crazy for in Hawaii is the Kona coffee and the macadamia nuts. Both are produced locally on the islands, also producing a large price tag. But just because a product is produced and sold in the same location, does that mean the price should drop dramatically? Probably not. Because good quality stuff is good quality stuff, no matter where you purchase it from. However, there are ways to sample Kona’s coffee and Hawaii’s macadamias simply by visiting the farms across the islands. Most businesses welcome visitors anyways!
You might be wondering what all the hype is about with Kona coffee. First off, if you think you’ve just scored with finding “Kona Coffee” for $8 a pound, you’re wrong! Check the label. It most likely reads “Kona Blend”, meaning it is NOT pure Kona. 100% Kona coffee is a rare commodity that only grows on the Big Island in north and south Kona. A few factors come into play with this unique bean including high elevation, constant cloud coverage and rich volcanic soil from Hualalai Volcano, all factors that help create the ideal environment for harvesting Kona coffee. But just because it’s rare doesn’t mean you won’t find Kona coffee farms everywhere. Kona is home to hundreds of coffee farms, many with tours offered to the public.
Beyond just the agricultural characteristics being unique for growing, the picking and roasting is unique as well. And it takes a lot of coffee cherry to yield one cup of coffee! One coffee tree yields about 15 pounds of cherry, and 15 pounds of cherry results in about 2 pounds of roasted coffee. So by purchasing one bag of regularly priced Kona coffee, you’re pretty much purchasing an entire coffee tree for roughly $20!
Kona Coffee prices can range anywhere between $16 a pound to $35 a pound, depending on where you purchase it. Hawaii Costco’s sell Kona Coffee for $16 a pound, whereas you will find bags at Longs and ABC Stores for more like $20 a pound and boutique coffee farm shops for upwards of $35 a pound. I think purchasing Kona coffee is about the experience though. If you’re a coffee lover, or simply interested about the Kona beans, check out on of the many farms on the Big Island. And Hawaii coffee goes beyond just the Kona stuff. There are unique coffee farms on each island, definitely worth a sample!
Now onto the salty, buttery delicious flavors of macadamia nuts. Macadamia nuts were first imported into Hawaii in 1882 and quickly became a commercial crop. Hawaii has become the largest exporter of macadamia nuts, providing 95% of the world’s crop. But just because Hawaii grows them on island doesn’t make them cheap! In fact, it’s been said that macadamias are the most expensive nut in the world. This could be because macadamia nut trees have to grow for 7-10 years before they actually begin producing nuts, or it could be because getting them out of their shells in whole form is extremely difficult and time consuming (and requires 300 pounds of pressure to crack the shell!), or it could be because of its rich, buttery flavor that is loved by so many. Whatever the reason, these nuts are pricey.
Oahu has a visitor-friendly macadamia nut farm tucked away on the northeast side of the island in Kaaawa. You can check out this beautiful location and sample different macadamia flavors, plus they sell Kona coffee and offer chocolate varieties of everything too. On the Big Island, Roseanne Barr owns and operates a 40-acre macadamia nut farm with over 4,000 trees. Starring in a Lifetime reality television series, “Roseanne’s Nuts” is an organic macadamia nut farm in Hamakua. While you can’t visit Roseanne’s nut farm, you can check out Maunaloa Visitor Center and Hamakua Nut Visitor Center for tours, samples and goodies to bring home.
I don’t think that macadamia nuts (similar to Kona coffee) varies in price too much from Hawaii to the mainland. For example, an 11oz. bag of macadamia nuts at a Hawaii ABC store costs around $11.99, and a one-pound bag at Whole Foods in California costs around $16.99. These highly prized nuts are scarcer on the mainland than in Hawaii, so next time you’re visiting be sure to stock up!
Kona Coffee and macadamia nuts are treasures of the islands. They are unique to Hawaii, making them popular conversation topics, not to mention souvenir items. But if you can’t resist the rich smell of Kona coffee brewing or the buttery flavor of macadamias, then buy yourself some while you’re visiting and be sure to enjoy it on the island!
Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Mar 16, 2014