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Kona Labeling Issues

For some time now, the Kona Coffee Farmers Association has been trying to get Kona legislation to change the labeling requirements on Kona blends. Two bills have resurfaced at the Legislature recently, with large and small coffee farmers battling each other.

The current House and Senate bills would require that at least 75% Kona coffee be used for the Kona name to be on a label. The proposals also require manufacturers to disclose the origins of other coffees used in a blend.

Currently, Hawaii law allows coffee to be labeled as a Kona product as long as it contains 10% Kona beans. The Kona Coffee Farmers Association wants to the 75% Kona labeling blend to be similar to the Napa Wine regulation, which states that 75% Napa wine must be used in order to carry the “Napa” name.

“Since 1992, the 10% blend law has damaged the reputation of Kona coffee and threatened the economic well-being of Kona coffee farmers,” the 110-member Kona Coffee Farmers Association said in a petition to lawmakers. The association has said that it is not opposed to blends of 90% non-Kona coffee and 10% Kona beans as long as manufacturers do not use the Kona name.

The Kona Coffee Council say the proposed law is poorly written and could have a negative impact on coffee farmers. The Council says the primary reason the industry is opposed to raising the minimum content to 75% is the uncertainly as to what this would do for product demand. Raising the blend quotient effectively almost doubles the retail price. What concerns both associations is that there is no truth in labeling protection for Hawaiian coffees outside the State of Hawaii. Any retailer on mainland U.S. can display the words Kona on a bag with no controls whatsoever.

Does this sound familiar…remember when Central American coffee was being sold as Kona coffee? It was an embarrassing time for coffee roasters and a crime for those that deceived them.

We have a treasure here in this country. We need to protect it and call our trade associations to rally the U.S. government.

Jane McCabe
Editor & Co-Publisher



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Tea & Coffee - April, 2008

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