About Kona Coffee

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

Today

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.