Company Introduces QR Codes for Kona Coffee

September 9, 2019, 10:30 AM HST (Updated September 9, 2019, 11:50 AM)
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There are about 3,500 acres of land used for coffee farming in Kona. PC: Kona Coffee Festival In Kona,

The Kona Coffee brand has been a point of contention and market confusion for decades.

An organic coffee producer on Hawai‘i Island, Hala Tree Coffee, announced it will employ technology to try and bring some clarity to the issue.

“(Hala Tree Coffee believes) in transparency and want their consumers to know exactly where their beans came from, how they were processed and roasted,” said a company release sent out Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. “In an effort to make Hala Tree Coffee more transparent and give consumers all the information they need to know about the 100% Kona Coffee beans in their cup, they have decided to publish this information on each bag. The twist is they won’t be using printed materials to describe the bean’s journey.”

Instead, the release said, each bag will have a QR Code consumers can scan, which will direct users to a unique webpage dedicated solely to information about the coffee in the purchased bag.

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“Consumers will know what date the coffee was roasted, who it was roasted by, what type of coffee bean, what process what used, what type of tree and what altitude the beans were grown at, the date of each step of the process from picking to drying to when the parchment was turned to green, and much more,” the release continued. “Consumers will literally have a detailed outline of where their beans have been, what they have been through and when.”

Every year, Kona farmers lobby for legislation to protect the name. Currently, the words “Kona Coffee” can be featured prominently, and legally, on the packaging of blends featuring only 10% the classic Kona Typica associated with the brand name.

Introduced every session, the legislation has never come close to passing. Bruce Corker, a board member of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, has accused the state of favoring large blenders on O‘ahu whose bottom lines would suffer should Kona Coffee branding restrictions become more stringent.

“I have significant concerns that the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture sided with the blenders … and that is unfortunate,” Corker said in April after the most recent iteration of the bill was gutted and then deferred by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health.

“The Department of Agriculture should be supporting farmers, not the processors and the blenders,” he continued.

In early 2019, Corker and two other Kona farmers filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court naming Amazon, Safeway, Walmart, Kroger, ABC Stores and a variety of smaller mainland and Hawai‘i-based companies for diluting the Kona Coffee brand by saturating the market with inferior, falsely-labeled coffee.

The litigation contends that Kona’s 600 to 1,000 coffee farmers produce only 2.7 million pounds of Kona green (green coffee beans) are produced every year, more than 20 million pounds of green labeled as such are sold at market.

Max Dible
Max Dible is a reporter for Big Island Now. He will also serve in a news capacity for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter and radio talk show personality with the Iowa State Daily and KURE 88.5 FM, respectively, in Ames, Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing and his work as a sports columnist.
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