There have been many things that have come to be part of Hawaii that did not originate here. We learned in earlier posts that most Hawaiian items were actually introduced by other countries. The ukulele and malasadas both came from Portugal. And shave ice came from Japan. But what about the famous Kona Coffee? How did that start?
Coffee was first introduced to Hawaii in 1817 by Don Francisco de Paula Marin. However, the plants were not a success. The governor of Oahu, Chief Boki, brought plants from Brazil in 1825. And those were a success. A missionary named Samuel Ruggle introduced a Bourbon variety in 1828. And a sugar grower name Herman Weidemann introduced a Typica variety from Guatemala in 1892.
Other Hawaiian farmers caught on to the idea of growing coffee. And soon, coffee farms began popping up in many different regions across all the islands. Most of the farms were on Big Island, totaling about 3 million trees by 1899. And then in the 1980s, most of the sugar plantations were also converted to coffee farms.
Today, over 8,000 acres of farmland are dedicated towards coffee growing. Kona is the only region in Hawaii that is in continuous production. More than 95% of the coffee grown on Big Island is in Kona. There are around 650 farms currently in the Kona district.
Kona, located on the Big Island, is the only region that produces the most coffee in all of Hawaii. And so it was there that the famous brand name of Kona was born. Rich volcanic soil, high elevations, and just the right amount of rainfall made for the perfect recipe.
The farmers are very precise in their pickings. Everything is picked by hand. And they wait until the beans are ripened just perfectly before they are picked. The beans are sun-dried, milled, sorted, and graded. Then they are sent to the plantation for roasting.
The Kona brand is very expensive, much like a vintage wine. But it’s 100% authentic and very rich in taste. Some retailers have begun selling “blends” in order to bring the price down and make it more affordable for the common consumer. These “blends” still require a minimum of 10% Kona in each. Just look for the Kona “Seal of Approval” to ensure it’s the real thing.
Kona Coffee Festival
Each year in November, Kona celebrates the new harvest with the Kona Coffee Festival. There’s plenty of music and dance, an art scene, food, coffee tastings, and tours throughout the different plantations and stores.
If you get a chance to visit Big Island this coming November, be sure to visit Kona and experience the special festival celebrating the culture and heritage of the famous Kona Coffee.
Image by: GoodFon