The History of Coffee in Hawaii
The earliest reference to coffee being grown in Hawaii was a journal entry in 1813 by Don Francisco de Paula Marin. He had arrived in Hawaii in either 1793 or ’94 aboard the Lady Washington. He became a well known horticulturist and a business adviser to King Kamehameha I. He is the first person to cultivate pineapple and coffee in the Hawaiian islands.
Not a lot is recorded about coffee in Hawaii until twelve years later. In 1823 Chief Boki accompanied King Liholiho, also known as Kamehameha II and ten others on a royal visit to London for an audience with George IV. In an interesting twist of coffee fate the ship they set sail on was an English whaler under Captain Starbuck. Of the twelve who set sail only four returned, the others having succumbed to measles, a disease unknown to the Hawaiian people. Chief Boki was one of the survivors. When he returned in 1825 on the British warship HMS Blonde he carried some Arabica coffee trees to Hawaii. He had acquired the trees in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on his way home. Then in 1828 Reverend Samuel Ruggles also known as ‘Keiki’ (child) by the Hawaiian people brought some of the trees from the Manoa Valley on Oahu to the Naole area on the Big Island.
This area is now known as the Kona District. These plants thrived and by 1878 Kona was producing 150,194 lbs. of coffee and was listed as the 13th largest coffee production area in the world. Today there are over 6500 acres of coffee under cultivation on all the major Hawaiian Islands with annual production running between 6 and 7 million pounds.