Laws
Kona Coffee Brewing Lawsuit

Kona Coffee Brewing Lawsuit

Two new Kona brewing lawsuit settlements may signal the end of Kona’s monopoly in Hawaii. Recently, two different class-action lawsuits were handed down by the Hawaiian State Supreme Court, claiming big-name coffee makers’ Kona brand is “too expensive.” These suits come at a time when Hawaii is starved for coffee beans and Kona is one of the best known brands in Hawaii. The high pricing is partially due to high demand and partly because Kona is so unique. But this shouldn’t put Kona out of business, especially if it can continue to brew strong and delicious blends like the Haze and other famous lines. Kona has already indicated it will not be easy, but if the lawsuits force them to cut their prices, they might reconsider and return to their original strategy of maintaining exclusivity.

In one recent win for plaintiffs’ attorneys against Kona deceiving labeling claims brought against the company by Hawaiian wholesalers… If you never remember, back in 2021 a group of wholesale Kona coffee lovers sued the world’s largest Kona coffee company for making what they called unappetizing blends that were not actually “Kona” coffee. After the suit was filed in January of that year, Kona released statements saying it would never produce unappetizing blends, and it would start selling only “quality” Kona coffee. But a few months later, two more lawsuits were filed claiming the company is still making unappetizing blends. So, what really is going on?

Well, to begin with, Kona itself is not deceptive in any way, shape or form. It doesn’t care about your feelings on coffee. The coffee company did not file for bankruptcy to Dodge lawsuits; it is a huge financial giant that will continue to expand no matter what the competition does in Hawaii. And the coffee industry as a whole is far larger than just one corporation. So, it’s not likely that this latest brewing lawsuit will have much effect on the overall ability of the largest and most successful company in Hawaii.

On the other hand, the coffee beans that are produced at Kona’s Oahu operations, which are the main part of the company’s Hawaii operations, are not being roasted at a higher temperature than normal. This is important because when a coffee bean is being roasted, the caffeine content rises because more of the surface area of the bean is exposed to the heating elements. When Kona Coffee is roasted, the opposite occurs. So, while it may make for a bolder tasting cup of coffee, the lawsuits may put some extra pressure on other Hawaii coffee roasters to roast their beans at the same high temperatures, which could make the Kona taste artificially flavoured and less fresh.

The brewing lawsuit comes at a time when there seems to be an ongoing war between big coffee companies such as Starbucks, which has been aggressively marketing its Hawaii coffees, and smaller competitors. Although the coffee industry is perhaps best recognized for its high-quality single origin blends, Kona Coffee is also known for its extraordinary single origin blends. However, the brewing lawsuit may put a bit of competition into place for these single origin coffees, since they are becoming more readily available to retailers. Another example of where a brewing lawsuit could impact the market, is if a single-source distributor tried to take over the popular Maui Brewing Company. Both companies produce exceptional single origin blends, so there may not be much effect on the market for either Kona or Maui Coffee.

It’s also important to note that the controversy could have a broader impact on Hawaii’s entire coffee industry. Since Kona Coffee is a highly specialized and expensive bean, only the best roasters and retailers can make a consistent business profit. Since Kona Coffee is the only type that uses the traditional charcoal method of roasting, the quality of the coffee is often more expensive than other types of coffee, which also makes it a more expensive beverage to drink on an individual basis. With any luck, this latest brewing event in Hawaii will bring more attention to Kona Coffee and the roasting process, as well as introduce more consumers to Kona Coffee. Whether or not the brewing lawsuit has any long term effects on Kona Coffee is hard to say, but as with all new products, it’s best to take one look at a new product and judge for yourself.

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