A dark joke in Kona for years has been that Kona grows 3 million pounds of coffee each year while 5 million pounds of Kona Coffee is sold. Now a new class action lawsuit claims it isn’t 5 million, it is 20 million pounds of coffee labeled “Kona” that is being fraudulently sold on the world market.
The class action lawsuit by three Kona coffee farmers claims that larger retailers including Amazon, Costco, Safeway, and Kroger have been selling 19 different brands of coffee that have been mislabeled as Kona. They claim that they can prove through scientific tests that the coffees being sold did not originate in Kona. They claim that you can detect the origin of even roasted coffee beans by the amount of certain chemical elements in the beans. They are using a system that Columbia has used for years to keep counterfeit Columbian coffee off of store shelves.
How to make sure you are buying real Kona coffee:
Buy Farm Direct
Most coffee is sold from the farm, to a mill, to a several different distributors, to a roaster and finally to a retailer. Every time coffee changes hands there is the possibility it will be mislabeled. If you buy direct from the farm you only have one chance for mislabeling.
Talk to the Farmer
Ask where beans came from. We had a couple come in whose first question was where do you source your coffee beans? We told them only from our farm. They said that they were at another farm where they were told that they sourced their coffee fruit at a roadside stand. Since it is common for farmers in other Hawaiian regions to bring their coffee fruit to Kona to get a higher price, they asked “How you know the coffee fruit you buy was grown in Kona?” They didn’t get an answer.
Know the Grower
Quality coffee growers are proud of their farms and their coffee. They want to talk to you (sometimes they won’t shut up!). If the grower won’t talk to you maybe they are ashamed of their coffee.
Avoid Kona Blends
Taking two or more good coffees and creating a great coffee is a noble enterprise. Taking bad Kona coffee and smothering it with coffee from another country is a fraud.
Check the Price
A major indicator of mislabeled Kona beans is price. A farmer in Central America pays his laborers $4 to $6 a day to pick and process coffee beans. A Kona farmer pays $120 to $250 a day to process Kona beans. Land in Central America is a faction of the cost of Kona agricultural property. Real Kona coffee is expensive because the cost of production in Kona is so expensive. If the price is low then the coffee is probably fake.