A Brief Journey Through Hawaii’s Coffee History

Polynesian - Makawao Coffee

Hawaiian coffee is loved around the world and has a rich and complex history dating back to the early 1800s. Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. with the appropriate climate and altitude to produce a commercial coffee crop.

Hawaii’s agricultural and cultural past has many nuances that won’t be covered here, but let’s do a quick dive into the development of coffee in this beautiful state, which laid the groundwork long ago for the establishment of the Makawao Coffee Co. Estate Farm in 2013.

The beautiful islands of Hawaii were settled by Polynesians who voyaged across the Pacific Ocean in the eighth century.


Native Hawaiians

A Spaniard named Don Francisco de Paula y Marin is believed to have planted the first coffee seeds on O’ahu in 1813, though the outcome of his crop is unrecorded. In 1825, then Governor of Oahu, Chief Boki, planted coffee plants from Brazil in the Manoa Valley. Other prominent coffee planters of this time include Rev. Joseph Goodrich and Samuel Ruggles, who planted in the Hilo and Kealakekua regions.

Rev. Samuel Ruggles, one of the first people to plant coffee in Hawaii

Early commercial attempts were established in the 1820s and 1830s on Kaua’i and in Hanalei and Kona, to varying degrees of success — coffee has been continually produced in the Kona district on the Big Island since the mid-1800s.

Learn a Hawaiian word!

Hawaii became a became a U.S. territory in 1900 and a state in 1959. During the 20th century, the two World Wars and several severe frosts in South America, a major coffee producer, caused the demand for Hawaiian coffee to rise and fall. When large-scale sugar and pineapple farms dramatically declined in Hawaii the 80s and 90s, the coffee industry began to see steady growth. Coffee growing is now centered in 11 major regions in Hawaii, while individual farms are found throughout, including on Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and Maui – the idyllic island that Makawao Coffee Co. Estate Farm calls home.

About 7,800 acres of coffee are now planted in Hawaii and up to 500 acres are currently in production on Maui. The Makawao Coffee Co. Estate Farm in the heart of Maui upcountry lovingly produces hand-crafted, single-origin coffee on a 64-acre farm. The farm is situated among lush rainforests and verdant farmlands at an altitude of 1,750 feet.

Makawao MugAfter being grown, harvested and processed on the farm, Makawao Coffee is roasted in small batches in Orange, Virginia. Our roasting facility will be in full swing soon and we can’t wait to see you there. In the meantime, check out our online store for the purchase of sumptuous coffee and lovely Makawao mugs.






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