Learn About Lion Coffee

Kona Coffee – Why So Expensive?

kona coffee photo

One of the most common questions people ask about Kona Coffee is “Why so expensive?!” 3 reasons. Listed backwards, talk-show style.


#3. The Kona Coffee Belt is very small

The Kona Coffee Belt is a tiny bit of land less than 1 mile wide and around 30 miles long. Only coffee grown in the Kona Belt can be called Kona Coffee.

To give you perspective, Rhode Island is 1045 square miles. The Kona Belt is 40 square miles. The tiny size of the Kona growing region means that the amount of coffee grown there, compared to the rest of the world, is small. Only 1% of the coffee grown in the world is Kona Coffee.

#2. Volcanos, Plus Island…

Kona Coffee grows 800-2500 feet up the side of the biggest active volcano in the world. And, it’s on an island. Which means everything has to be shipped in by ocean barge. There’s no mechanical processes, and no harvesting machines. Everything has to be done by hand. Every single Kona bean is picked by hand. Which leads to…

#1. Labor. Not at 3rd world prices.

One pound of Kona starts as 8 lbs of fruit. An entire coffee tree yields about 15-16 pounds of cherry. That means our coffee pickers pick an entire tree, by hand, to make 2 lbs of roasted Kona Coffee. That doesn’t begin to factor in cleaning, grading, drying, roasting or packaging.

Ever been to a coffee farm in Kenya, Ethiopia, Indonesia, or any other coffee country? Coffee farmers there do not make American minimum wage.

It’s not so much that Kona Coffee is “expensive” — it’s that in most coffee producing countries, there is no minimum wage and most coffee producers are forced to live in poverty. Kona Coffee is American-grown, from the only state that produces coffee. We think that’s something you can feel good about!

And, Did You Know?…

A 7oz bag of Kona will make 5 or 6 pots of coffee, depending on how strong you brew it. Which means an entire pot of Kona Coffee costs under $4.

And, if you pour 5-6 hefty mugs from a pot of coffee, that’s under $1 per cup. Compare that to the stuff that comes wrapped in a paper cup. Don’t you deserve such a modest treat? Of course you do!

> Browse Lion Kona, Here

The Amazing True Story of Lion Coffee

In the mid-1800’s, coffee was purchased raw (green) from the local grocer. Often, the beans arrived (off the ships) a little musty and worse for wear. Coffee drinkers would scorch the mix of crude green beans in frying pans over the fire…. which often made for a burnt and bitter brew.

LION Coffee roared into life in 1864, in Toledo, Ohio. Introducing the fine “fancy roasting” of coffee, Lion revolutionized the taste of coffee with careful roasting and blending of the best beans from around the world.

In the early 1870’s, LION sealed their roasted beans into one-pound bags emblazoned with the distinctive Lion trademark, pioneering new standards of freshness and creating one of the oldest trademarks in American History.


In 1882, LION Coffee became part of of Woolson Spice Company. Alvin Woolson was a man possessed. Tireless in his efforts to establish Lion Coffee as a major brand, he started including trading cards and holiday greeting cards with every purchase.

In addition to the colorful trading cards, Mr. Woolson created paper dolls and special mail-in offers that made LION Coffee the second largest coffee company in the world! “Save the wrapper” and “Cut out the Lion’s Head” became the watchword of the day in households across America.

There was something for everyone in the way of a Lion brand premium from bicycles and jack knives to lace curtains and toys. All one had to do was save the Lion Heads.



The volume of mail sent and received became so great that the United States Post Office decided to weigh Lion’s mail rather than meter it… and bulk mail was invented.

Because of LION Coffee!

News of LION Coffee’s quality “cup that cheers” spread quickly. By the mid-1890’s the company roasted a million pounds a week and had become one of the largest coffee companies in the world.


After decades of success, LION Coffee was ambushed. From inside the company, the LION was under attack by hunters disguised as business insiders. Operations scaled up higher and higher until LION COFFEE was a household name. And then suddenly, ceased.

Abandoned, the assets eventually fell to the control of The Court of Common Pleas in Lucas County, Ohio in the ’50s. The LION was forced into retreat. Alvin Woolson took the fight to the courts, to no avail.

Like Rip Van Winkle, the noble LION lay dormant, sleeping.

This would be the end of the Lion story if not for a fellow named Jim Delano. Entranced by the old LION posters and memorabilia – and a coffee fanatic as well – Delano tracked down the Lion to The Court of Common Pleas, where the noble LION lay sleeping in a musty file folder.


Delano West Ltd., a Hawaii corporation, obtained full rights of ownership to the name and assets of the expired Woolson Spice Company and relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii.

State of the art roasting equipment sailed across the ocean to assure that every hand-picked bean is roasted to purr-fection on a cushion of heated air.

In 1979, The LION awoke to discover a new home in the Islands of Aloha! Hawaii became LION Coffee Country!


LION’s popularity grew and grew until LION Coffee was named one of the 500 fastest-growing U.S. companies by Inc. Magazine in 1989.

LION Coffee has been growing steadily ever since, thanks to the enthusiastic and loyal support of coffee loving visitors in Hawaii and to our website, launched in 1999.

Today, LION Coffee’s cheery bags are shipped to coffee lovers across America and around the world. The finest beans, careful fancy roasting, assured freshness, and an abundance of cheer… and the proud tradition of Hawaii’s LION Coffee is over 130 years strong. Do enjoy a regal cup!