The Story of Kona Coffee
The Story of Kona Coffee
Kona, Hawaii is about the furthest point on the globe from coffee's ancestral origins in the mountains of Ethiopia. It took an odyssey of hundreds of years for coffee to reach Hawaii's shores and establish itself in Hawaii, the only region in the United States where coffee is commercially grown. Coffee was first introduced into the Western hemisphere in the 1600's when a daring young French naval officer stole a prized coffee plant from the Royal Botanist in Paris and smuggled it onboard a ship bound for his home in Martinique, where he planted the coffee tree on his small farm. Officer de Clieu's coffee tree became the progenitor for the coffee that would eventually grow throughout Central and South America and Hawaii.
The first record of coffee in Hawaii was a planting in 1813 by Don Paulo Marin, King Kamehameha's physician and interpreter, in an area near Honolulu on the island of Oahu. This first attempt to cultivate coffee in Hawaii was not successful.
In 1825, historic events occurred that ultimately resulted in coffee becoming permanently established in Hawaii. Tragically, on a visit to England, both King Kamehameha II and his Queen contracted measles and died. Responsibility for the long voyage to return the deceased to Hawaii for a proper royal burial was placed in the hands of Governor Boki, the Governor of Oahu, who had accompanied the royal couple to England. While in England, Governor Boki had observed that coffee houses were enormously popular and, as he prepared for the long voyage home, he took the opportunity to persuade a gentleman named John Wilkinson, an experienced West Indies planter, to accompany him on the return journey to Hawaii. Boki wanted Wilkinson to introduce new crops to Hawaii. Fate played a hand when the ship carrying Boki, Wilkinson, and the deceased King and Queen, made a stop in Rio de Janiero, where Wilkinson purchased a supply of coffee trees. The coffee trees carried to Hawaii by Wilkinson and Boki were the start of what would one day be the coffee industry in Hawaii.
As planned, Wilkinson planted the coffee trees on Boki's land on the island of Oahu. In 1827, Wilkinson unexpectly died and the coffee trees he had so carefully tended became neglected. In 1828, Reverend Samuel Ruggles, on a visit to Oahu from the Big Island of Hawaii, took cuttings from what was left of Wilkinson's coffee trees and planted them as ornamental curiosities at his home on the Big Island near what is now Captain Cook. The coffee trees thrived in the climate on the Big Island and gradually small farms began to grow coffee for their own consumption.
In 1842 the first attempt to grow coffee commercially on a large scale took place on the Island of Kauai, where 1000 acres were planted and the first export of coffee from Hawaii, 245 pounds, occurred. Unfortunately, a combination of labor shortages, drought and blight ended this first coffee venture on Kauai in 1855.
During the time when Kauai was venturing into commercial coffee-growing, small farmers on the Big Island of Hawaii, where the climate was noticeably producing excellent crops, found themselves with enough coffee to begin exporting and selling their crops of coffee. And, while coffee was being grown in several areas on the Big Island of Hawaii, it began to be noticed that coffee grown in the District of Kona on the Big Island was unique. The coffee beans were larger and when it was roasted the coffee had an unusually smooth quality. Coffee from the Kona District became in demand by coffee connoisseurs and by the finest hotels and clubs across the country. The name "Kona Coffee" became, and remains, synonymous with coffee of extraordinary quality in texture and taste.
Today, most of Kona Coffee is still grown by small farms of less than three acres, located in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii. The coffee is still picked entirely by hand and Kona Coffee farmers take great pride in the uniqueness of their crop.
The State of Hawaii maintains a strict grading and certification program that sets a very high standard. When a Kona Coffee farmer has processed his coffee, he contacts the local agent for the State of Hawaii and the agent takes a sample of each and every 100 pound bag of green (unroasted) coffee. The coffee samples are carefully analyzed and evaluated. The coffee is graded according to a strict set of criteria that measures size, color, moisture content, and loction of origin, and other important standards of evaluation. Tiny percentages of size difference can dictate whether or not the coffee is graded as Kona Extra Fancy, Kona Fancy, Kona Prime, and other grades. Only coffee that has been grown in the geographical District of Kona, and meets all the criteria of The State of Hawaii, qualifies for the Certification of 100% Kona Coffee, a highly prized stamp of approval indeed!
Aloha Island Coffee has proudly been a part of this fine Kona Coffee tradition and commitment to quality since the company was founded in 2000. It is with great pride that we offer our 100% Pure Kona Coffee to our customers.