When you think of Hawai’i, what do you think of? Surfing? Pineapples? Coconuts? Luaus and leis? Us, too. Except, having recently visited O’ahu, we’d add just one more thing to our list: coffee. Specifically, Kona coffee.
Described as a “deliciously rich, medium-bodied and slightly acidic coffee with a heady aroma and complex, winey, spicy taste”, it turns out that Kona coffee is extremely popular among coffee aficionados worldwide and is considered one of the most valued and premium coffees in the world.
With a history that is just as rich and plentiful as its taste, it’s not difficult to understand why.
The first appearance of coffee on Hawai’i dates back to 1825 when an English agriculturalist brought coffee trees from Brazil on a British warship and planted its seeds in the Manoa Valley of O’ahu.
It wasn’t until a few years later (1828) that missionary Samuel Ruggles brought the cuttings planted on O’ahu to Kona, a region located on the west coast of The Big Island that proved to be an ideal location for growing coffee – which needs a very specific combination of sun, soil and water to flourish.
The volcanic slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in Kona, coupled with both a “diurnal cycle” of bright sunny mornings, humid rainy afternoons and mild nights, set Kona on the path to becoming world-renowned for its coffee production. Indeed, at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna, an award for excellence was bestowed upon a Kona trader named Henry Nicholas Greenwell who was a pioneering Hawaii coffee merchant.
Having survived a series of setbacks and milestones throughout the 20th century, today the Kona Coffee industry continues to thrive, with an estimated 690 independent coffee farms in North and South Kona, most just three to seven acres in size – and all located within what is now known as the “Kona Coffee Belt.”
It’s also worth noting that hard-working families in the region have played a significant role in Kona’s success over the years, as everything – from planting to picking – is done meticulously by hand, giving it that extra “special” quality.
Perhaps this explains why my roommate put in a request for Kona Coffee when he heard of my travels to Hawai’i.
Interested in trying some? We recommend checking out Koa Coffee Company, recognized by Forbes magazine as the “Best Coffee in America.” And if you’re ever in Honolulu, be sure to visit the Honolulu Coffee Cafe, located right outside Waikiki Beach’s oldest hotel, the Moana Surfrider.
If you’re anything like us, you probably like to have a little “treat” to dunk in your coffee. The Honolulu Cookie Company offers a variety of delicious homemade shortbread cookies, hand-dipped in different chocolates (pictured above). We took a whole box home and plan on ordering more online! (Our favorite flavors are the white chocolate coconut, chocolate-dipped macadamia and white chocolate Kona coffee).
Please note that the above information was gathered from our travels and here.
Check out our other posts on “All Things Hawaiian”, including:
a reflection on our travels in O’ahu
some interesting facts about Hawai’i
what “The Aloha Spirit” really means
what makes the Plumeria flower so special
a glimpse into Mark Twain’s “Letters From Hawaii” and
the history behind legendary Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.