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History of Hawaii Kona Coffee

The story of Hawaii’s most famous export begins way back in 1828.  An American Missionary named Reverend Samuel Ruggles planted the very first coffee tree in Kona as an ornamental plant, originally taken from a tree in nearby Oahu.  These coffee trees were grown by none other than the Governor of Oahu who had carried them back from a trip to Brazil.  Hawaii was no stranger to coffee by this time, but this was the beginning of the blend we know as Kona Typica – coffee Arabica. 

It took a while for farmers to be convinced that coffee would be a viable agricultural commodity.  As a result, it wasn’t until the late 1800s after the California Gold Rush, that the Kona coffee industry saw its first boom.   By 1898 the fertile Kona hillsides had been blanketed with coffee trees.  Over 3 million of them spread over 6 acres, mostly in large plantations.

During this time, most of the processing was done by the farmers themselves.  This involved hand operated pulpers, a sixteen hour soaking period and waiting for the tropical sunlight to dry the beans.  After this, the beans were sent to the local mills in Kona where the outer membrane was removed and the beans loaded into sacks.  From there the coffee beans would travel down the mountain in mule powered freight wagons to the nearby piers and loaded onto steamboats bound for San Fransisco.

 In 1914 the first World War broke out which saw a dramatic rise in the price of Kona coffee, mostly due to United States Army purchases.  A freak frost event in Brazil put a major dent in world coffee supply, causing the U.S. Army to acquire coffee from Kona.  As the 1980s came and went, the worldwide demand for gourmet coffee helped propel Kona coffee into the spotlight. 

 A major drought on the islands in 1994 forced farmers to start blending their coffee to create a unique Kona blend.  This actually helped to create a niche market, one that has propelled Kona Coffee to its current status as a delicious and complex brew.  Kona coffee is exclusively grown on the volcanic slopes of Hualuai and Mauna Loa which is favored due to its tropical sun drenched mornings and misty afternoons.  Given Kona coffees unique characteristics and history, it’s easy to understand why it’s the most sought after coffee in the world. 

The Hawaii Shop has several types of delicious Hawaiian Kona Coffee available so you can treat yourself to this magical rich experience anytime. We ship Hawaiian Kona Coffee worldwide. View our entire selection at