History of Coffee in Hawaii and Kona
How did this ornamental tree imported into Honolulu in about 1813 by Kamehameha the Great’s Spanish interpreter and physician Don Francisco de Paula y Marin become Kona’s economic mainstay? The history of Hawaiian coffee is quite interesting!
The British warship H.M.S. Blonde brought coffee trees, to The Kona district on the big island of Hawaii produces the best coffee from this state - clean, sweet and mild. : Ah, Hawaii... what a nice place.... ...more, from Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra sang, "they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil".: Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra... ...more in 1825. Chief Boki, Governor of Oahu, had acquired coffee trees in Rio de Janeiro, on his way back from London. The coffee was planted in Manoa Valley on Oahu, and from a small field, trees were introduced to other areas of Oahu and neighbor islands. Hanalei Valley on the North Shore of Kauai was home to the first coffee plantation. Coffee was established in the valley in 1842, but was wiped out in 1858 by coffee blight, a scale insect.
The first coffee was planted in Kona coffee comes from farms along the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii: Kona coffee comes from farms along the Kona Coast on the Big Island... ...more by missionary Samuel Ruggles in 1828 or 1829. These first Arabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the taxonomic species name of the genus responsible for around 75% of the worlds commercial coffee crop.: Arabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the... ...more trees were taken from cuttings planted on Oahu a few years earlier. Coffee and Kona were a perfect match – Kona with its rich volcanic soil, hard-working family farmers, and perfect climatic conditions. Taste Kona’s coffee and you’ll sense its strength, the hand-picked quality that sets it apart.
The first written mention of coffee in Kona was noted in 1840. Coffee was planted in several locations around the Big Island but was best suited to the Kona district. A few coffee fields are now in production outside Kona, but the vast majority of coffee is grown right here.
Working these tropical coffee fields has always been laborious because everything – from planting to picking – is done by hand. Native Hawaiians and Chinese laborers first worked the large coffee plantations owned by Caucasians in the mid- to late-1800s. During the 1880s and early 1890s, Japanese immigrants began their coffee legacy in these same Kona fields.When the world coffee market crashed in 1899, the large plantations shifted to small Japanese-owned family farms. As the plantations gave up, land was divided into small 3- to 5-acre parcels and leased to the laborers. The cost of these early leases were one-half the crop, and by 1910, only Japanese coffee farms survived. The first Filipinos arrived to work the coffee farms about 1920, picking coffee during the season and returning to the sugar fields in the spring.
Today many Kona farmers can lay claim to being fifth generation coffee farmers. Coffee is an economic mainstay of Kona, where farmers continue the tradition and honor their heritage with every harvest.
Kona Coffee Has Royal Ties
It’s a rarely recognized fact, but one of the mainstays of the world famous Kona coffee industry is an institution that has never planted a coffee tree, never harvested a crop and never roasted a bean. And, likely, many coffee farmers hard at work in the field give little thought to the fact that the land from which they gather their harvest has a direct connection to King Kamehameha the Great, the warrior king who first united the Hawaiian Islands.
Most of the coffee grown in North and South Kona is cultivated on land owned by Kamehameha Schools Bishop A "coffee estate" is used to imply a farm that has its own processing facility, a wet-mill. In Spanish this is called an Hacienda. A Finca (farm) does... ...more (KSBE). Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate leases tracts to more than 600 farmers in the Kona area who produce the majority of the region’s coffee, plus macadamia nuts, exotic flowers, avocados, vegetables and fruits. It is the Kona coffee, though, that reigns as monarch of Kona’s varied produce. Average size of the farms leased from KSBE is seven acres. In all, more than 1,200 acres of KSBE-owned land are now in Kona coffee production.
Some coffee farms leased from KSBE have been in the same family for four or five generations, since the Estate was created in 1884. The KSBE charitable land trust was created by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last direct descendant of King Kamehameha the Great. The majority of the lands she inherited are on the Big Island of Hawaii. Pauahi’s husband, banker Charles Reed Bishop, enlarged the land trust when he purchased the West Hawaii ahupuaa of Kaahauloa and Honaunau. (An ahupuaa is the traditional Hawaiian land division, a wedge-shaped parcel stretching from a base along the seashore to a point on the mountain slopes.)
In her will, Pauahi directed that her lands be used to generate income for the creation and operation of the Kamehameha Schools, and that the lands not be sold, so that the schools would be supported forever. In carrying out the terms of her Will, the trustees of the Princess’ estate were instrumental in creating the long-term agricultural leasehold system which continues to serve both the schools and Kona’s coffee growers today. Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate owns 295,000 acres of land on the island of Hawaii. Of that, nearly half has been in agricultural use for more than a century
KSBE serves 3,000 students at the main campus on Oahu, and now is in the process of building four new schools, one of which will be in West Hawaii. KSBE also operates a network of preschools throughout the islands, and supports a college scholarship program for Hawaiian students. And all of that is supported in part through the leasing of land to Kona’s coffee growers. Just a little something to chat about over your next cup of fine Kona coffee.
Current production on other islands
As of this writing, there are attempts to revive production on Maui after the Maui Coffee Company went under. Kauai continues to crank out coffee. And in the districts of Kau and Hilo on the big island, they are trying to produce coffee. But the model of coffee farming on the other islands is large plantation/low elevation/flatland/mechanical harvest model, like Brazil. True Kona coffee has climactic advantages and soil conditions, but even the highest farms are already “low elevation” compared to other coffees. I mean, we buy a coffee from 3200 feet, but most everything in Central America we buy is over 1200 meters, 3900 feet! That’s the lowest grown … the highest is bordering on 7000 feet! Take away the average 1500 to 2000 feet altitude of Kona coffee, take away the special well-draining volcanic soil and mild climate, and you are not left with much. We have bought the special Moka A botanical variety is a rank in the taxonomic hierarchy below the rank of species and subspecies and above the rank of form (form / variety / subspecies... ...more from Maui because it was very unusual, and have carried Kauai A peaberry is a green coffee "bean" that has a rounded form: Coffee is the dried seed from the fruit of a flowering tree - each fruit having... ...more several years ago, but in general these cannot compete with a really good Kona in olfaction or gustation. I would love to find small-farm production of quality high elevation coffee, of quality cultivars (like the A variation on Typica grown in the Kona region of Hawaii.: Kona is a special cultivar, Kona Typica, a traditional varietal that cannot be grown at low elevations. ...more) on other islands, and invite anyone to please let me know if there is any, Thanks -Tom
Kona Coffee Grades
Kona Extra Fancy
Size:Will not pass through a 19/64″ round hole
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 10 or less, full imperfections per lb.
Other Beans: 50 or less, other type beans per lb.
Undersize: No more than 10% by weight
Size: Will not pass through a 18/64″ round hole
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 16 or less, full imperfections per lb.
Other Beans: 50 or less, other type beans per lb.
Undersize: No more than 10% by weight
Kona Number 1
Size: Will not pass through a 16/64″ round hole
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 20 or less, full imperfections per lb.
Other Beans: 50 or less, other type beans per lb.
Undersize: No more than 10% by weight
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 25% defective beans, by weight.
Included therein no more than 5% by weight Sour is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sourness... ...more or black beans.
Some Comments on the Competition from a Judge, Mainly for the Kona Farmers:
Since I have been one of the four judges in the competition for the last 2 years (and sure hope to continue to be in the future), I wanted to make a couple comments that farmers might find useful. Be warned, these are very candid comments … please don’t think I am trying to be a know-it-all. I don’t know jack about coffee farming. But I am trying to offer some thoughts from my perspective as a guy who has seen a lot of coffee farms and mills in a lot of places, including Kona.
First of all, people who grow coffee need to learn to roast and to taste coffee. It is kinda BS for a farmer to say “I have the finest coffee” or even to say “it has fine Floral notes in coffee exemplify the connection between taste and smell. Describing the taste of a specific flower is near impossible...we always default to “it tastes like it... ...more character, blah blah…” and then put out a table of 6 Kona coffees and say “find your coffee here.” How many could do that? How many really, really understand the cup character of their own coffee? Okay, I admit that is a hard line to take, and a possibly a tough Cupping is a method of tasting coffee by steeping grounds in separate cups for discrete amounts of ground coffee, to reveal good flavors and defects to their fullest.... ...more test. But if I set up a table of a Red Catuai is a high-yield Arabica cultivar resulting from a cross of Mundo Novo and yellow Caturra. The tree is short, with lateral branches forming close angles to the... ...more grown at 1000 feet, a Yellow Caturra is an Arabica cultivar discovered as a natural mutant of Bourbon in Brazil in the first decade of the 20th century, but wasn't studied until 1937. It... ...more from 1500 feet, a Kona A coffee cultivar; a cross between Typica and Bourbon, originally grown in Brazil: Mundo Novo is a commercial coffee cultivar; a natural hybrid between "Sumatra" and Red Bourbon,... ...more from Koloko Mauka at 2500 feet, a Kona Typica from Honaunau/South Kona at 1500 feet, and a coffee like the Bateman’s 3200 feet Typica, you should be able to find yours, if yours was one of them.
Farmers need to roast and taste their coffee throughout the crop, from beginning to end, to taste the different lots, the different grades, separate the A general characterization that cup flavors are diminishing in quality due to age of the green coffee, and loss of organic compounds. Before the use of inner lining... ...more from the average green from the opal green. I know, it’s a lot to ask of people who have a lot on their minds already while running a farm, but it will separate those who just grow Either a flavor in the coffee, or referring to the fruit of the coffee tree, which somewhat resembles a red cherry.: Either a flavor in the coffee, or... ...more to sell, from those who offer “estate” coffee, from those who offer “estate” coffee and REALLY know their coffee.
If farmers did this, than the results of the competition would not seem so random. The fact that last year’s winners come in the lower percentile would make sense, and would not be an insult or mean that their coffee is bad (it doesn’t mean that at all).
The fact is this: the competition is linked to the festival, and it seems that in most years it happens too early in the coffee season. That may or may not ever be changed, but what it means is that the competition is really evaluating who had the best Green coffee still in its outer shell, before dry-milling, is called Parchment coffee (pergamino). In the wet process, coffee is peeled, fermented, washed and then ready for drying... ...more coffee THAT week the samples were due. Now, you could call this unfair, but you would be calling your soil, your altitude, your rain and your sun unfair. It’s agriculture; there’s always an X factor. You could have the competition Dec 15 or Jan 15 and have a different set of “winners” for sure. But the agricultural reality of that X factor, when a coffee peaks for a certain farm, would never go away. My wish would be that the competition could be in January, and those who feel their best coffee was in November could simply hold it in parchment, in climate control, until it is ready to mill and submit to the competition.
Anyway, if you place low in the competition, I mean really really low, I think you should know why. I think, privately, the judges should be able to tell you, or write to you, about what we experienced in the coffee. I would say there were 10-12 defective samples of the 57, ones we found unanimously defective, and another 5 that some of us found defective, not all. Cupping is about communication. It’s a form of feedback, not a final judgement. A great, great coffee can be defective because of 1 bad seed, every farmer knows that. If a coffee was A defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. This often takes the form of vinegar-like aroma and flavor. Fermenty or vinegar... ...more, phenolic or hard tasting, if it was dirty tasting, then these are The removal of the cherry and parchment from the coffee seed.: Coffee is either wet-processed (also called washed or wet-milled) or dry-processed (also called wild, natural or natural... ...more defects that can easily be addressed (if the farmer knows about them). So I hope there would be a way (it is certainly possible via the web using secure logins) to return private results to each farmer about their coffee.
Now granted, a lot of these results would not be so informative. The bulk of coffees we cupped are just good, solid Kona coffees, clean, In coffee, a defect refers to specific preparation problems with the green coffee, or a flavor problem found in the cupping process. Bad seeds in the green coffee... ...more free, but not stand out samples. They might lack Associated with and sensed by mouthfeel, body is sense of weight and thickness of the brew, caused by the percentage of soluble solids in the cup, including all... ...more, or Acidity is a positive flavor attribute in coffee, also referred to as brightness or liveliness. It adds a brilliance to the cup, whereas low acid coffees can seem... ...more, or special aromatics. What that means to me (usually) is that your coffee is not at it’s peak yet. I mean, if you are at 2000 feet, there is some positive A euphemistic term we use often to describe acidity in coffee. A bright coffee has more high, acidic notes. : A euphemistic term to describe acidity in coffee.... ...more in the cup, but it has a thin body, and an almost A smell or flavor of fresh-cut green plants, vegetable leaves or grass, usually indicating fresh new-crop coffees that have not fully rested in parchment.: A smell or flavor... ...more cast to the flavor, it is too “young”. Maybe you were just barely able to get a sample together of ripe cherry. We can taste this “immature” flavor in the coffees, and I felt there was a bit more of it that usual this year. The other thing that made sense to me is the volume of Originally coffee literature referred to the fruit of the tree as a "berry" but in time it became a cherry. It is of course neither. Nor is the... ...more might adversely affect the cup. Now, this might be bugaboo, but I don’t think trees stressed out with overproduction of cherry, leaves turning yellow, drooping, are going to be concentrating the usual amounts of compounds in their seeds that result in the best olfactory and gustatory experience. Farmers love to see volume, but I am not sure it makes cuppers so happy.
It source would be nice if less farmers had to rely on wet-milling and dry-milling services. There is newer equipment available that allows you to be a true “estate”, to process coffee from start to Similar to aftertaste, but it refers to the impression as the coffee leaves the palate. Aftertaste is the sensations gathered after the coffee has left the mouth. We... ...more. Then again, I realize this is just not possible technically, spatially, economically. I wish the mills all had electronic Sorting coffee by removing beans that have a color that indicates a defect. Color coffee sorting is often done by an optical sorting machine, which has a high... ...more. Some do. Trent does. I know that the opinion is that, if all the other equipment is working right, the “electric eye” is not necessary. But I keep getting beautiful Kona XF or F, and plopped in the middle is a full-on A coffee bean whose interior is totally back (endosperm), due to fungi, mold, yeast, pest. This happens with over-mature coffee cherry where the bean falls to the ground... ...more. Do you know what a full black bean does to a pot of coffee? It will mean one of the worst coffee experiences of your life, seriously. The machine would take care of that.
Lastly, many Kona farms are direct marketers of their own coffees. This is great in order to return the highest price to you for all your work. But in order to distinguish themselves from others, a lot of sites are sorta making up stuff about their coffee. What needs to be hammered in for consumers is altitude, soil, micro-climate, small farm production, hand-picking, excellent Typica Cultivar is a term used interchangeably with Varietal in the coffee trade to indicate plant material, although there are distinctions.: The naming of a cultivar should conform to... ...more. When people start up with poetic “kissed by Pele” or fanciful agriculture ideas like using a trellis to grow coffee, trying to make associations to viniculture, I don’t think this helps then general effort to get the best prices for all the farms, and the best recognition to those who farm seriously. I guess I feel like everyone with low-grown should just sell cherry to go into Kona Blend, and there should be a real naming convention that communicates the level of care a farmer puts into a coffee. If you live on your farm year round or nearly, if you are out trimming and hauling and mowing, if you are hand-pulping and Patio-drying is a term to indicate that a coffee was dried in the sun after processing, on a paved or brick patio. Drying in the sun is the... ...more, if you are on an old, traditional farm with some serious altitude, then I think this deserves some special recognition. The fact that some estates sell coffee in their estate bags which is comprised of cherry they bought on the road, and that competes with you, the small true-estate farmer, I don’t think that’s exactly right.
Back to the competition: Judging coffee is tricky, imperfect, but I hope everyone knows that we do our best. I know the work that goes into producing that sample, and we give each cup our full attention, going back and forth between them, bringing back the ones that have potential for the 2nd round, reranking them for the finals. We have no idea who grew what, all we have is numbers and samples. We are presented with the parchment, green and roasted simple to look at, but we don’t judge the coffee that way. You don’t cup with your eyes. You use a spoon and your sense of smell and taste. That’s what we do, as best we can, looking for the best Kona coffee, the best character for Kona: aromatic, floral, sweet, some brightness (acidity), Suggests a harmony and proportion of qualities, and implies mildness since no one quality dominates.: Balance is both an obvious and slippery taste term. It implies a harmony... ...more, medium body, delicate, mild, clean Aftertaste refers to lingering residual sensations in the mouth after coffee has swallowed. It might be distinguished from "finish" which is the final sensations of the coffee while... ...more … and then hopefully some other special nuances that are Kona-like in character. That means if you plant Scott Labs selection 28 Kenya cultivar, a preferred type with Bourbon and Mokka heritage. It supposedly is selected from Tanganyika DR cultivar, found by A.D. Trench on a... ...more, or Yemen has a coffee culture like no other place, and perhaps some of what we enjoy in this cup is due to their old style of trade...: Technically,... ...more Moka, or Red Catuai or Ateng is a common name for Catimor coffees widely planted in Sumatra and other Indonesia isles.: Ateng, with several subtypes, is a common name for Catimor coffees widely... ...more, you probably won’t win here, even if your coffee is nice. Now, I like experiments and as a buyer might be interested in unusual cultivars except the Red Catuai or Catimor is a broad group of cultivars derived from a Hibrido de Timor (HdT) and Caturra cross, highly productive, sometimes with inferior cup flavor. The main issue is... ...more (we like Rita’s JBM is short for Jamaica Blue Mountain, which is both a trade name for certain Jamaica coffee, and a Typica cultivar. As a cultivar, it is one of... ...more). As far as the Fukinagwa (not the cut, but the Coffea Liberica is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea : Coffea Liberica is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea originating in Liberia, West Africa. It is... ...more root with Typica graft) I am not sure if I could cup the difference. I do know that the offspring from the graft might lack quality though and won’t cup like the original. Grafter beware! Okay, I have said my piece – or peace?.
Some of this information is gathered from the Kona Culture Festival web site: http://www.konacoffeefest.com/
Kowali Farm: Rita and Skip Cowell
We sourced coffee for years from Rita Cowell. They have a unique mix of different cultivars and were very careful to store their dried parchment in a controlled environment. Their farm is gorgeous, located in the mountains outside Honaunau
A Portrait of one of the small farms we sourced coffee from: Moki’s Farm
(Note: the family retired and sold the farm several years back). In 2001 the Rittenhouse family planted 900 new trees. The trees are planted in the “new style” enabling weed control by mowing and easier harvesting for the pickers. Today both new and old trees are thriving and producing exceptional coffee. In it first entry in the annual Kona Coffee Cupping Competition, Moki’s farm received honorable mention. In 2004 they received a top spot in the competition!
The new trees soon after planting. I was at the farm this year and they are 10 – 12 feet tall, a dense coffee forest, as you see in the background of this picture.
Typical branch on a 100 year old tree at Moki’s. No, coffee doesn’t ripen evenly and picker’s must make multiple passes to pick the same tree. That’s why good coffee is a lot of work!
Who is Moki? The name Moki’s Farm comes from a song that Vivian learned as a child in Hawaii in 1959. 1959 was the year Hawaii became a state. The song was about Moki and how he would bring Hawaii’s aloha to the rest of the country.
The “Moki song” became a fixture in the Rittenhouse family, sung on long car trips, camping trips and to the children. When the farm was purchased the name Moki’s Farm seemed natural.
Estate Coffee Moki’s Farm sells Estate Coffee. Estate Coffee is the product of one farm, unmixed with coffee from other farms. Estate coffee is grown, processed and roasted under the control of the estate farm. Estate coffee is unique to an individual farm. Estate coffee is comparable to estate wines, which are also the unique product of one farm.
Kona Coffee Cupping Competition
Official List of Entrants
1. Po’okele Enterprises LLC
2. Full Moon Coffee
3. Heavenly Hawaiian Farms / The Other Farm
4. Kona Cafe
5. Kona Mountain
6. Kiele O Kona
7. The Kona Coffee & Tea Co.
8. Long Mountain Kona Results: 2nd Place
9. Lions Gate
10. DHC Ohana Farms
11. Kona Blossoms
12. Konacopia Farm (Grown without the use of artificial fertilizers, herbicides, etc.: Organic coffee has been grown according to organic farming techniques, typically without the use of artificial fertilizers. Some farms... ...more)
13. Zuma Farm
14. Pearl Estate Organics (organic)
15. Lehuula Farms
16. Rancho Aloha (organic) Results: 1st Place
17. Royal Palms Coffee Estate
18. Pumehana Plantation
19. Cherry P.I.E. Kona Coffee Co.
20. Hubbard & Sons Coffee Co.
21. Sacred Grounds Coffee Farm
22. Moki’s Farm
23. Captain Cook Coffee Co.
25. G P Farms
26. Kowali Farms
27. Carroll Estate/ Mauka Fire Coffee
28. Kaloko Bayou
29. Holualoa Kona Coffee (organic)
30. Kona Safari Farms
31. Pau Hana Estate ( organic)
32. Hula Daddy
33. Honu Kona Estate Farm
34. Panda’s Bamboo Ranch (organic)
35. Buddha’s Cup (organic)
36. Kona Rainforest Farms (organic)
37. Mamalahoa Trading Co. LLC
38. Haole Boy Coffee
39. The Funny Farm (organic)
40. Madison Kona Coffee
41. Ueda Kona Coffee
42. Cornerstone Farms
43. Kanalani Ohana Farm (organic)
44. Paradise Found Farm
45. Aikane Kona Coffee Results: 3rd Place
46. Greenwell Farms
47. BrocksenGate Estate (organic)
48. Blue Hedge Farm
49. Makapueo Farms
50. Lafayette Coffee (organic)
51. Kainaliu-Kona Coffee Co.
52. Arianna Farm’s Ono Kona Coffee LLC
53. Lani Hau Farm (organic)
54. Koa Coffee Plantation
55. Lei’s Beans
56. Ahiwai Farms (organic)
57. Kaibab Farms