A bold experiment conducted by Hula Daddy Coffee has given credibility to the argument that the average quality of 100% Kona coffee is damaging Kona coffee’s brand integrity as much or more than Kona coffee blends. I’ve made similar arguments favoring quality improvement over protectionism and written about it in detail as recently as last September when a consumer filed a lawsuit alleging that Safeway stores had sold “inferior” coffee blends in packages labeled as Kona coffee. As the result of falling standards for what can be sold legally as 100% Kona coffee, my speculation at the time was that “blending coffees from Central / South America may have improved the product’s taste for consumers” rather than damaging quality in the attempt to lower the cost per package.

Hula Daddy put that theory to the test by bringing in trained coffee cupper / certified Q Grader to blindly evaluate five grocery store Kona coffee products, including three 100% Kona coffees with an average retail price of just under $25 per pound and two 10% Kona blends averaging under $11.50.

Tasting results

The three higher priced 100% Kona coffees scored lower in objective quality evaluation than the two inexpensive blends; only 1 of the 3 coffees 100% Kona coffees qualified with the minimum score of 80 points to be considered specialty coffee by SCAA standards. Both of the blended products cleared the 80 point hurdle.

From this data, one may infer that the 90% of coffees added from other origins improved the quality of the 10% of Kona in each package. So where does that leave local Kona farming groups’ objections to blending? The argument that blending 100% Kona coffee with less expensive coffees from other origins somehow damages Kona coffee quality is necessarily true, in fact blending seems to improve the quality of average Koan coffee roasted products.

Kona coffee farming groups assert the that 10% blended Kona coffee products are the equivalent of brand imitation knockoffs: inexpensive, inferior products appearing to be Kona coffee and using the good Kona coffee name to increase value — like a fake Rolex watch bought from a street vendor for $10. The unfortunate reality for average Kona coffees today is that those ‘knockoffs’ have become better quality than the genuine article.

Why would Hula Daddy Coffee, a farm that sells only 100% Kona coffee products, expose this issue at the risk of lowering consumer demand for their own 100% Kona coffee? The answer is simple: Hula Daddy recognizes that brand labels are useless without underlying value.

Certifying bad products as being 100% genuine lowers all others using the same name to the level of the weakest link.

Please read the article Are Coffee Roasters Eroding the Kona Coffee Brand