Hawaii’s Islands Have Uncommon Coffee in Common

Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee and it is now produced on each of the five major islands. Wherever you stay, it is possible to visit a coffee farm. As a confirmed coffee addict, I jumped the chance to see the little beans in their natural environment. At the farm we visited, the beans grow on trees pruned to remain fairly low to the ground. The trees are planted in rows to facilitate harvesting. Coffee is harvested each year from July through January, with the bulk of the beans picked in September – December.

We visited Kauai coffee over Thanksgiving. Their status board reported that harvesting had run a 24/7 schedule for that week with 8,000 pounds roasted and packaged. We tasted some of the wonderful, fresh coffee and had a sandwich at the lunch counter. At least at this time of year, the visitor center was very laid back — the history of the farm is told in a video, the coffee samples are self-service and the walking tour is self-directed. All of that is free. There is also a gift shop and the lunch counter (not free). The Kauai Coffee visitor center is on the site of the former McBryde Sugar baseball fields. The former sugar plantation was converted to coffee in the mid-1980s, in what was the largest agricultural persification project ever undertaken in Hawaii.

According to the Hawaii Coffee Association, coffee trees arrived in Hawaii in the early 1800’s from Brazil. The first coffee was planted in the Manoa Valley, then introduced to other areas of Oahu and the neighbor islands. For a while large-scale coffee plantations were attempted but coffee blight (an insect) and unfavorable economics wiped them out. Small coffee farms started up in the 1930’s and now there is coffee grown on all the major islands, producing 6-7 million pounds of beans (green weight) per year.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher