Best Kona Coffee vs. Best Costa Rican Coffee Smackdown

For over a decade, I’ve been extolling how fantastically smooth and flavorful the best Costa Rican Coffee can be. I think it’s high-time that we test this against the world renowned best Kona coffee.

Costa Rican Coffee Field

Great Coffee Starts With Great Beans

Let’s face it, not all coffee beans are created equal. Before comparing the best Kona coffee to the best Costa Rican coffee, let’s look at why these two coffees are some of the smoothest and most flavorful coffees in the world.

Very few coffees in the world can say all that’s listed below, but both our Costa Rican and Kona coffee can.

  • Single Origin (all the beans come from the same field)
  • SHB – “Strictly High Grown Bean”, i.e. over 1,200 meters above sea level
  • Shade Grown
  • Hand Picked
  • Mountain Water Washed
  • Sun Dried
  • Hand Sorted
  • Burlap Bagged, lined with A Plastic GrainPro Bag (to keep the beans dry).

Costa Rican Picker

Best Costa Rican Coffee

Sadly, most coffee companies never taste test the beans that they buy. On rare occasion a company will taste test two or three beans. Each year we taste test about two dozen different beans, all from the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica.

The beans that we’re searching for must be super smooth with prominent notes of chocolate, with a variety of minor notes, such as citrus, bark, nut, earthy, etc. Additionally, the flavors must be well balanced and sophisticated.

Single Origin

Costa Rica Tarrazu La PastoraFor our best Costa Rican Coffee test, we’ll use our 2022 choice of Costa Rican La Pastora Tarrazu SHB/EP beans. These beans are the very best beans that I’ve ever tasted from Costa Rica. They are also the most expensive beans that I’ve every purchased from Cost Rica.

Each of these La Pastora beans are “single origin”, thus these beans are not just grown and picked from the same field, but they are also picked on the same day and therefore have the same lot number. As I said, we’re picky.

La Pastora’s Roast

These La Pastor beans roast very well from medium brown to very dark brown (almost but not quite black).

For this taste test, I’ve roasted these beans to a medium dark, a mere 24 hours before the taste test.

patriot coffee

Russell Roasting

La Pastora’s Aroma

The aroma of these La Pastora beans is absolutely divine. The smell alone is enough to die for.

This aromatic coffee even smells smooth. Additionally, you can easily smell notes of chocolate.

Best of all, these beans transported me back into my grandmother’s kitchen, who always had a pot of fresh roasted coffee on the stove.

La Pastora’s Crema or Foam

If you were brewing with an espresso machine, aficionados rave about the “crema”. Since we’re using an AeroPress, we’ll just call it “foam”. Truly fresh roasted coffee will generally foam a bit when adding water to the grounds. The foam doesn’t affect the flavor, it only means that the coffee beans are young, alive, high quality, and fresh roasted.

The La Pastora is nearly unsurpassed in creating foam or crema. When brewing with a AeroPress, the first filling of water generates foam in the top 1/3 of the container.  I’ve never come across any other coffee bean that can compare in this foretelling variable.

La Pastora’s Taste

Happy drinkerOMG! You talk about smooth as silk. Cleopatra would have died for sheets as smooth as this coffee. Smooth is great, but the taste was even better. The strong notes of chocolate, with a hint of nut, was nothing short of amazing.

Here’s the weird thing about this coffee. If you make it stronger than normal, this bean’s true nature comes out. Unlike it’s weaker cousin, the stronger version of the La Pastor has strong cherry notes, right along with its strong notes of chocolate.

Best Kona Coffee

Hawaiian WomanKona is a small town and coffee district on the Big Island of Hawaii. The coffee from this region is world renowned. Why? Mostly because of good Wall Street marketing. But, let’s see if there’s more to this coffee than just slick marketing.

Single Origin

For our test, we’ll be using Royal Coffee’s Hawaii Kona Extra Fancy coffee beans.  At around $70 per pound, these beans are one of the best Kona coffee beans in the world.  They’re also, one of the more expensive beans.

Kona Roast

Kona coffee fieldThese Kona beans are one of those few high-quality beans that roast very well from medium brown to very dark brown (barely dark).

For this taste test, I’ve roasted these beans to a medium dark. They were also roasted less than 24 hours before the test.

Kona Aroma

Imagine, flying to Hawaii, stepping out of the tarmac, and getting your first whiff of Hawaii. The smell of flowers, humid thick air, earthy soil, salt water, and life is almost overwhelmingly divine. That’s exactly what these fresh roasted Kona beans smell like.

Kona Crema or Foam

Man with long hair riding bikeBecause these beans were roasted less than a day before this taste test, (brewing in the AeroPress), just like the Costa Rican, 1/3 of the brew is crema or foam. This is a very good thing. It simply means that the ground beans are “alive” and active.

It also means that the coffee will likely be very rich. Honestly, these Kona beans are the first beans that have matched the La Pastora for crema/foam.

Kona Coffee Taste Test

This Kona coffee starts off really smooth. There isn’t a hint of bitterness. This is unique for any coffee. Again, this Kona is the first coffee that I’ve ever tasted that could equal the Costa Rican Tarrazu La Pastor for smoothness. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Once you get past the shock of how smooth the coffee is, the next thing is the obvious floral notes. The floral notes are prominent at the front, middle, and backend of the taste. There is also a wonderful hint of berry.

I found this coffee to be very enjoyable, which is a rare thing for me, since I’m so picky about coffee. Bottom line; I liked Royal Coffee’s Hawaii Kona Extra Fancy coffee beans!

Conclusion = QPR

Older couple drinking coffee on bed.In this side-by-side comparison between the best Kona coffee and the best Costa Rican coffee, I say, they both taste pretty darn good. They’re both smooth as silk, rich, and the flavors are well balanced.

So, which is better? Frankly, with coffee this good, it’s mostly a matter of personal preference. I like smooth chocolate, you might like smooth floral with wonderful cherry notes.

There is only one major difference. Cost.

As a comparison, in the wine world, the Quality to Price Ratio (QPR) is very important. You can buy a pretty darn good Pino Noir for $25. Or for $125, you can buy a Pino Noir that’s maybe 5-10% better. Which is the better buy? It depends on your budget and your palate.

The same can be said in this comparison between the best Kona coffee and the best Costa Rican coffee. The QPR definitely leans toward the Costa Rican as a much better bang for your buck.

Customer Review – Marty of Sarasota, FL (Aug 30, 2021)

“Hi Russell, We are in Kona now and I have to say, you’ve spoiled me. Th­e Kona brews just don’t do it for me anymore. Can you please (I’m on my knees begging) send to me 3 bags of medium ASAP to our address here in Kona? Thanks! Desperately, Marty”.

Lake City Coffee

Russell and Alisha

Russell and Alisha

Here at Lake City Coffee, Alisha and I sell 100% of our whole bean coffee via the internet and ship all over the United States. Additionally, each week we roast and ship our beans on the same day. In fact, the beans are still warm when they go into your shipping box.

If you’re looking for smooth coffee, that’s super fresh, and want some fun people to work with, check out our website. I think you’ll find our folksy and humorous style, worth your while.

kona coffee field


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