The Interesting History Of Hawaiian Coffee

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In a practical sense at least, Hawaiian coffee is the only significant coffee to be produced anywhere in the United States. Despite only producing a tiny annual quantity of coffee compared to other growing regions worldwide, Hawaiian coffee is nonetheless recognized as one of the most outstanding in the world. What’s more, as demand continues to grow for the very best Kona coffee beans Hawaii produces, the value of this prestigious product is growing like never before.

If wondering where and how it all got started, the history of Hawaiian coffee dates back to the year 1825. Chief Boki, governor of Oahu, headed over to Brazil after visiting a series of coffee houses in England. It was there that he purchased a selection of seedlings and brought them back to Hawaii, calling on the expertise of agriculturalist John Wilkinson to establish the first coffee plantation in what is today the Kona coffee region.

For several decades, the coffee industry experienced a number of spikes and declines, often competing with the sugar cane industry as one of the most profitable crops for farmers across the region. Unfortunately, the industry collapsed in its entirety during the 1860s, due to deterioration of the local market and problematic growing conditions. This in turn led to several decades where coffee cultivation didn’t bring a great deal of money at all, resulting in most plantations being split, sold or abandoned entirely.

When the United States of America began its occupancy of Hawaii in 1898, the local coffee industry experienced another dramatic decline. The selling price of coffee decreased so enormously that most coffee farmers either made the switch back to sugarcane or walked away from agriculture entirely. It wasn’t for another 15 years or so that the market began to show signs of strength once again, after which Hawaiian coffee experienced a slow but gradual climb to fame at home and abroad.

Coffee Trees in Hawaii

Hawaiian coffee often have such different aroma and flavor profiles due to the entirely different climatic conditions from one growing region to the next.  In terms of elevation, temperatures, soil conditions and cultivation techniques in general, there are enormous differences from one Hawaiian coffee farm to the next. In the case of the very best Kona coffee Hawaii has to offer, these prestigious plants are grown exclusively in a small mountainous region with unique growing conditions.


Across the board, all of the best Kona coffee Hawaii produced in this beautiful US State is considered to fall within one of seven grades, which are:

  • Kona Coffee Extra Fancy – The most outstanding beans produced in the country, which must not display any more than eight imperfections for every 300g.
  • Kona Coffee Fancy – High-quality coffee where there must be no more than 12 imperfections per 300g sample.
  • Kona Coffee No. 1 – The same general grading, though allowing for up to 18 imperfections per sample.
  • Kona Coffee Select – According to the official Hawaiian Coffee Board, beans that fall into this classification "do not impart sour, fermented, mouldy, medicinal, or other undesirable aromas and flavors when brewed."
  • Kona Coffee Prime – The same general grading as above, though up to 5% of the bean samples can be considered "sour, stinker, black or mouldy beans."
  • Kona Coffee No. 3 – In this instance, the same limitation of 5% "sour, stinker, black or mouldy beans" applies, though up to 35% of the beans may be considered defective.
  • Kona Coffee Offgrade - Any beans that do not qualify for the above classifications though are considered suitable for export fall into the Offgrade category.

And there you have it – a brief history of Hawaiian coffee to think about, next time you settle down with a cover and the very best Kona coffee beans money can buy!

Hayman sources only Kona Coffee Extra Fancy, the best Kona Coffee Hawaii. They are available on our online store as unroasted coffee beans / raw coffee beans (for home roasting), roasted whole bean coffee, roasted ground coffee, Nespresso compatible pods *, and coffee pods compatible with Keurig K Cup coffee makers (incl. Keurig 2.0 models)**. We offer free worldwide shipping, click here to visit our gourmet coffee store now!


* Nespresso® is a registered trademark of Société des Produits Nestlé S.A., unrelated to Hayman®. Our espresso pods are not created or sold by Nespresso®.

** Keurig and K-Cup are registered trademarks of Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. unrelated to Hayman®. Our pods are not created or sold by Keurig®.