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Kona Coffee – A Brief History:

Coffee was discovered around 800 A.D. in Ethiopia by goats …. well not quite, but local goat herders noticed the goats were more active and alert after eating a certain fruit. This hilly region was named “Kaffa” and is the origin of the word “coffee” we use today. After 300 years of eating coffee fruit as a snack, Yemeni Monks are credited with accidentally roasting coffee around 1100 A.D. by throwing the raw cherry into the fire. The aroma caused the monks to pull the roasted coffee out and soak them into water overnight, crafting the original coffee beverage. Through centuries of controlled trade, the coffee market was developed across Persia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and much of Africa until approximately 1600 A.D. when it was smuggled from Mecca (Saudi Arabia) into Southern India where it has now established its position as one of the top ten producers in the world. The Dutch then procured coffee from the Indian island Malabar, which resulted in the fourth largest source of the coffee in the world … Indonesia. The island of Java was the most successful producer leading to the term, “a cup of Java”.

The Dutch gifted one tree to the King of France in 1714, this tree was later burglarized in 1723 by naval officer Gabriel de Clieu who introduced seedlings into the Caribbean which led to establishing plantations in Central and South America. By 1825 Brazil was poised to take over the world’s coffee trade and was visited by the Hawaiian Chief Boki, Governor of Oahu. He had attended King Kamehameha ll, Liholiho and his wife Kamamalu who succumbed to measles in London in a Political attempt to align themselves with England in the event that Kauai would ally with Russia. The seedlings procured from Brazil by Boki led to coffee being planted in Manoa Valley, however, they bore no fruit.

By 1828 one of the first missionaries from America, Reverend Samuel Ruggles saw these trees and decided that they would make an excellent addition to his new garden in Napo’opo’o on the Big Island of Hawaii. These early trees established the first coffee in Hawaii and led to the spread of coffee as a houseplant. The coffee trees bloomed in the hills of Kona, on the dormant slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa. Kona coffee was often called, “Kanaka koppe,” Hawaiian coffee.

In 1892 Hermann Widemann, an agriculturalist introduced the Guatemalan variety of coffee, later called “Typica”, that had higher yields and improved flavor. This variety surpassed the previous variety in popularity and is now the dominant coffee grown in Kona. By the 1980s Kona Coffee experienced a growing market, being recognized for its superior flavor, low acidity, smooth body and sweetness.

In 1950, only three coffee mills were in operation due to the rise and fall of the value of coffee on the international market. Many families from Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino, Mexican, Chinese, Korean, European and Hawaiian backgrounds began to earnestly pool their resources to find their own mills. Trading goods and diversifying their agriculture led to many switching over to other crops entirely and sustaining each other in times of hardship. The mountainous terrain of Kona now comprises approximately a 30 mile long by 3 mile wide belt with farms growing coffee at an elevation between 1,000 ft. to 3,200 ft.