A timeline helps tell the story of important dates and events that shape history. Kona’s world famous coffee has a history that spans nearly 200 years.
Coffee In Hawaii Historical Timeline
1813 Don Paulo Marin, a Spanish physician, first planted coffee in an area behind Honolulu. Marin’s plantings were unsuccessful.
1825 Traveling with King Kamehameha II and his wife Kamamalu, High Chief Boki, Royal Governor of Oahu visits England, names John Wilkinson, agriculturalist, to cultivate sugar and coffee on Boki’s land in Manoa Valley.
1825/26 Wilkinson planted a small field of coffee on Governor Boki’s land in Manoa Valley on Oahu
1827 Wilkinson coffee plants matured and were ready to produce
1828 Reverend Samuel Ruggles, brought cuttings from Governor Boki’s land in Manoa to Napoopoo, South Kona.
1841 Coffee plantations were established in the Kona District
1853 Tobacco grown commercially in the Kona District
1873 At the World’s Fair in Vienna an award for excellence was given to Henry Nicholas Greenwell, a pioneering Kona coffee merchant
1880 Hawaii’s first coffee mill was constructed by John Gaspar Machado near Kealakekua Bay
1892 Herman Widemann introduces a bean from Guatemala that became known as Kona typica or Kona Coffee
1898/1899 3 million coffee trees growing on over 6,000 acres, mostly in large plantations.
1899 The first Japanese mill known as the “Kona Japanese Coffee Mill” was established
1910 About 80% of Kona’s coffee farms were family-run operations
1914 World War I begins. The price of Kona coffee rises due to U.S. Army purchases
1915 Tenant farmers, mainly of Japanese descent, were cultivating Kona’s coffee
1920′s American Factors, known as AMFAC, roasted, packaged and marketed Mayflower Kona Coffee
First Filipinos arrive to work the coffee farms, picking coffee during the season and returning to the sugar fields in the spring
1922 Only remaining coffee farms in Hawaii were in the Kona District
1929 Beginning of the Great Depression. Kona coffee prices fall, farmers start to default on debt
1932 Kona’s public school vacation schedule changes to August through November to align with coffee production.
1936 10 struggling Kona coffee farmers signed a charter for a new credit union, the Kona Farmers Federal Credit Union
1940 World War II leads to higher prices for Kona coffee. U.S. government caps price. Jeeps replaced “Kona nightingales,” or donkeys for transporting coffee from farm to mill.
1950 Production of Kona coffee were at its highest at 22 million pounds of green bean produced annually
1952 First co-op established in Holualoa with 72 members, Kona Coffee Cooperative Association
1958 Kona coffee growers begin to establish their own mills; Pacific Coffee and Sunset Coffee Cooperatives are formed
1957 Kona coffee crop valued at $6.5 million
1959 Hawaii Statehood. Twelve coffee mills had been established in the Kona District
1960 American Factors and the Captain Cook Coffee Company close their mills. Sunset Coffee Co-op of Kona begins.
1969 Kona schools conform to summer vacations with rest of Hawaii schools
1970 First Annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival held. Kona coffee return down to $1.5 million
1981 Only 1,600 acres of coffee remain grown by mostly small independent farms run by aging immigrant farmers and their families
There are about 650 farms cultivating coffee in the Kona district. The typical size of a Kona coffee farm is 3 acres. Kona coffee represents approximately 95% of the coffees produced on the island. There are about 3,500 acres of land utilized in Kona coffee farming, producing about 3.8 million pounds a year, valued at about $14 million.
There are working coffee farms and mills along the Kona coffee belt that open their farms to visitors. Plan a visit and you’ll meet farmers who have a story to tell, millers and roasters and Kona coffee pickers who pick each ripe cherry by hand.