One of the two states in the United States capable of growing commercial coffee plants in Hawaii, the other being California. However, it is not the only coffee grown on US soil; for example, Puerto Rico has had a coffee industry for some time, although it is not a state, but an American territory. Ramiro L. Colon has worked in the Puerto Rican coffee industry since 1925, for example. There are two other experimental coffee growing projects taking place in the United States in Santa Barbara, CA, and Georgia.
History of Hawaiian Coffee
Don Francisco de Paula and Marin recorded in his diary of January 21, 1813, that he planted coffee seedlings on the island of Oʻahu, but not much is known about the fate of that planting. John Wilkinson, a gardener who came to HMS Blonde in 1825 under Captain Lord Byron, brought coffee plants from Brazil. Governor Boki provided some land in the Mānoa Valley on the Oahu. However, Wilkinson died in March 1827, and the trees did not thrive. Some cuttings were taken to other areas around Honolulu. Some plants in Manila were also grown by Richard Charlton, the British consul.
Several trees were planted in the Kalihi and Niu valleys near Honolulu in 1828 or 1829. On the island of Hawaii, Rev. Joseph Goodrich tried to plant some coffee to support the Hilo mission. Goodrich planted gardens during Hilo's 12 years and taught classes for Hawaiian natives on cultivating both money to support the mission and tropical vegetables and fruits for their meals.
Father Samuel Ruggles (1795–1871) transported some coffee cuttings to Kona County when he was transferred from Hilo, in the eastern part of the island of Hawaii, to Kealakekua Church in the west, in July 1828. Although it would be a necessary time to settle, this area would be the most successful.
The first trade initiatives on the island of Kauaʻi in 1836 and 1845 ended in failure. The first records of production were made in 1845, for only £248, grown on the island of Kauai and Hawaii. The Great Mahele allowed private land ownership for the first time in 1848. Large areas were once cultivated on Maui but were replaced by sugar cane and other crops. In particular, Scale insects have infected many of the coffee trees on the other islands. The slopes in the Kona area were not suitable for sugarcane, so the area became the center of Hawaii's coffee industry. To be called Kona coffee, it must be grown only in this district.
In 1873, the World's Fair in Vienna awarded the Kona merchant Henry Nicholas Greenwell an award for excellence, which gave some recognition to the name "Kona". Around 1880, John Gaspar, Sr. (Married to Maria Rice Santos), built Hawaii's first coffee mill near Kealakekua Bay. In 1892, the Guatemalan variety was introduced to Hawaii by the German planter Hermann A. Widemann. Also during this period, female bugs (also called ladybug beetles) managed to control the scale infestation.
When the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 (forming the territory of Hawaii), the drop in tariffs meant that sugar was even more profitable and some coffee trees were broken. Prices fell in 1899 and 1900, eliminating some remaining plantations. In 1916, production was about 2.7 million pounds, while sugar continued to expand. World War I in 1917 and a severe frost in Brazil in 1918 caused a world shortage and prices rose.
Japanese sugarcane planters would often start small farms in Kona after their employment contracts expired. By 1922, most of Hawaii's coffee production had disappeared, with the exception of the Kona District. The Great Depression of the 1930s lowered prices and forced many farmers to withdraw their debts. After World War II and another frost in South America, prices rose again in the 1950s. Production peaked in 1957 at over 18 million pounds.
In the 1970s, the tourism industry competed for labor, and production declined. The closure of the sugar and pineapple plantations in the 1990s provided a slow renaissance in the coffee industry.
Modern Production of Hawaiian Coffee
The "coffee belt" in Kona is about two miles wide, from 210 feet to 610 m. Other districts on the island where coffee is grown include Kaʻū in the far south, Puna in the southeast, and Hāmākua in the northeast.
Although coffee can be harvested year-round in Hawaii, the largest production takes place from August to December. In the 2008-2009 season, there were approximately 790 farms on the island of Hawaii and 40 on other islands. The average yield was equivalent to 1,400 kilograms of parchment per acre. A total of about 7,800 acres (3,200 ha) are planted with coffee throughout the state. Just over half of the area is outside the island of Hawaii, especially on the island of Kauai, indicating that farms on other islands are on average larger than those in Hawaii. Although total production has increased since 2007 to around £ 8.6 million, farm prices have actually fallen, bringing the value of the dollar down by around 8%. (Due to the relatively small number of coffee farms in Kauai, Maui, and Honolulu counties, their number is combined in USDA statistics to avoid disclosing individual operations in those counties.) Several former sugar and pineapple plantations have changed into coffee production, such as Molokaʻi coffee.