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History of Coffee in Hawaii And Different Varieties

By Edited Nov 17, 2016 2 0

In the 1770’s James Cook originally called the Hawaiian Islands the “Sandwich Islands”.  Cook chose the then First Lord of Admiralty, John Montagu, who was also the 4th Earl of Sandwich to name the islands after.  (Yeah, some stuffy English dude with a title!)  However, if Cook would have known about all the exotic, rich and delicious coffee that would one day be grown on the islands then it is possible that there may have been a “Coffee Islands” somewhere in the Hawaiian and American history books.

Kona Coffee variety

Of course, Cook couldn’t know that though. Hawaii’s coffee industry was still pretty far in the future.

Coffee plants were not introduced to the Hawaiian Islands until the 1800’s and the industry never gained momentum, notice and finally become a major crop until the 20th century. 

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Fun Fact

Hawaii is the only one of the fifty United States with the environment and climate to grow coffee.  It takes the perfect harmony of rich volcanic soil, rain fall patterns and year round warm temperatures that Hawaii has to grow coffee with success.

Hawaiian coffee

Hawaiian grown coffee has become so diverse and dynamic that it has been acclaimed around the world.  The reason for the distinct flavors and diversity is not much unlike the vineyards of Napa Valley.  Any wine connoisseur knows that the soil and “micro-climate” of each vineyard imparts its own distinct flavor into the wines that are grown there.  Coffee farming is no different.  Coffee beans grown on different farms tend to cling to the personality of the people tending the crop and the climate it is raised in.  These result in rich flavor that are enjoyed as coffee drinkers.

Perhaps the best known Hawaiian coffee is Kona Coffee from the “big island” that the islands now take their name from, Hawaii.  However, there are over 700 coffee farms on the Hawaiian Islands each growing a unique and flavorful coffee bean.

Different Coffees on the Different Hawaiian Islands

Kauai Coffee

The island of Kauai has over 3100 acres of coffee farms that are growing on converted sugar
cane land.  Here there are 5 different varieties of Arabica coffee being grown. The coffee grown on Kauai is mildly acidic and comes with notes of citrus, flora, nut, sweet berry and chocolate.

Oahu Coffee

Between the towns of Wahiawa and Waialua you can find around 160 acres of Arabica Typica coffee being grown at 600-700 feet above sea level.  Oahu coffee has often been described as being well-balanced and medium-bodied while having notes of chocolate leaving a refreshing aftertaste that lingers.

Molokai Coffee

Kona Mountain Coffee

In the village of Kualapuu on the Island of Molokai there is a 115 acre coffee plantation that has its coffee beans being grown in rich, red, volcanic soil.  Molokai  coffee is a rich bodied, medium roast that leaves a chocolate hint at the end of the taste.

Maui Coffee

Asides from rich celebrities, Maui also has rich coffee.  There are over 500 acres of coffee bean being grown on over 50 farms on the slopes of the West Maui and Haleakala mountains.  There has been a coffee industry “boom” on Maui in recent years as its coffee gains popularity for its diversity, quality and uniqueness.

Hawaii Coffee

The big island of Hawaii is the star of the show with four major and very distinct flavor and

Hawaiian Coffee types
varieties of coffee being grown.

As mentioned in the beginning, Kona coffee is the most famous of all Hawaiian varieties.  It comprises almost half of the total coffee grown on Hawaii and has 600 farms inside the borders of North and South Kona on the island.  Kona coffee is delicate and aromatic and is considered by many coffee geeks the “be all end all” of their coffee world.

Kau coffee is grown in the district Kau on the big island has a unique climate giving it a very unique taste.  This region has produced some of the best coffees in the world.  It is rich with interesting and surprising hints of sweet and spice, citrus and jasmine aroma as well as lime, fresh butter, currant and a long finish of spice.  Kau coffee is really remarkable, actually, and my all-time favorite Hawaiian coffee.

Hamakua coffee on the big island is grown in the same soil that is shared by lush jungle and waterfalls.  Hamakua coffee has flavors that are akin to being a great dessert coffee with hints of vanilla, caramel and rich chocoloate.

Puna coffee is grown on the slope of Mauna Lua.  Puna is a big island district that is located between Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Puna is a strong, hearty coffee with nutty overtones.

Conclusion

Hawaiian Coffee is distinct in itself, but each variety grown on each of the islands compounds that uniqueness.  The differing microclimates and soils of each island produce distinct flavors that a coffee lover will learn to appreciate and love.  Many of these different flavors of coffee are available for purchase on the internet so you don’t have to visit the islands to brew some Hawaiian Love right in your own kitchen.

Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200 12 Cup Programmable Cofeemaker (Black/Silver)
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(price as of Nov 17, 2016)
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