A Taste of Hawaii in Chelsea

Specialty coffee shop Kona Coffee & Company brings Hawaiian flavors to NYC

| 08 Feb 2022 | 12:10

Grown in Hawaii but brewed in New York, the coffee beans used by specialty Hawaiian coffee shop Kona Coffee & Company bring an array of tropical flavors to New York City.

Following the success of their East Village shop that opened in 2017, Kona Coffee & Company announced a grand opening of their second location in Chelsea last month. On the corner of 21st Street and Seventh Ave., the shop’s signature menu boasts a variety of unique drinks, from a macadamia-infused Hawaii Latte to an iced Coconut Matcha, as well as a selection of sandwiches and pastries.

Tae Kim, the founder and owner of Kona Coffee & Company, grew up in Hawaii where he worked in his family’s restaurant. Following his passion for hospitality, he sought out a way to bring not just the coffee, but the easy-going vibes of island life into the city. “I know a lot of people in New York City are very busy,” says Kim. “I wanted to bring a small [part of] Hawaii to New York and provide a more relaxed environment”.

His new shop does exactly that. Long communal tables stretch across the room in shades of light wood that match the floors. Decorations are minimal, aside from some potted plants and products neatly arranged on shelves around the room. Big windows let in rays of natural light, and the music plays low; the perfect study spot for a college student, or anyone in need of a break from the bustling streets outside.

The real highlight of the shop though, is the coffee itself. Each month, Kona Coffee & Co. receives a shipment from Hawaii, where they partner closely with the farmers who grow their beans. Once they arrive, the green beans are sorted before being roasted on-site in East Village. “Having its own flavors and a good amount of acidity is the key to good coffee,” says Kim. “We spend a lot of time trying to make sure what we do is always consistent”.

Kona Coffee Belt

Kona Coffee refers to coffee beans grown on the Kona Coffee Belt, an area defined by a narrow region of growth: the mountains of Hualālai and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. The land stretches approximately 26 miles in length by two miles in width, limited land in comparison to other coffee-growing regions. Each harvest, the beans are picked, sorted, and graded by hand. As a result, Kona coffee racks up a higher price tag, but for good reason.

“The soil is mineral rich because the islands are volcanic islands”, explains Kim. “They grow coffee at a higher altitude in comparison to other regions, so less oxygen slows down the growth of the coffee”. It’s this elongated growth period and tropical climate that gives Kona coffee the time to develop its distinct flavor.

At Kona Coffee & Co., three types of Kona beans are available for direct purchase, including their most popular 100% Kona Coffee Peaberry. Unlike the typical coffee cherry, which contains two beans per fruit, Peaberry coffee beans fuse together during growth. With a mutation found in a mere 5% of yearly harvests, these specialty beans are considered more flavorful than others, and thus are more sought after.

“A lot of people move to California [from Hawaii], but fewer move to the Northeast,” says Kim as he explains the absence of other Hawaiian coffee shops in the city. “Knowing how good Kona coffee is, I wanted to bring that to NYC”.

“I know a lot of people in New York City are very busy. I wanted to bring a small [part of] Hawaii to New York and provide a more relaxed environment.” Tae Kim, founder and owner of Kona Coffee & Company