Hawaii is the only state in the United States that grows coffee for commercial purposes. The islands’ rich volcanic soil, year-round tropical weather and abundant rainfall create a perfect climate for the growth of coffee.
Coffee was introduced to the island state in the early 1800s by the British warship H.M.S. Blonde on its return journey from Brazil. Chief Boki, Governor of Oahu, acquired the coffee trees in Rio De Janeiro and subsequently planted the trees in Manoa Valley on Oahu and on neighboring islands.
As the coffee industry boomed on the island, the Kona district found the most success. Reverend Samuel Ruggles, an American missionary who had originally traveled to Hawaii in 1820 with the First Company of American Missionaries, brought the coffee plant to the Kona district and began cultivating. These coffee trees eventually became the most successful of early attempts to grow coffee. Today, this variety of coffee can still be found in the Kona coffee region.
The first Hawaiian coffee plantation was established on the North Shore of Kauai, the northernmost shore of the eight main Hawaiian islands, in 1842 by Frenchman John Bernard and British subject Godfrey Rhodes. In 1845, the plantation exported its first 248 pounds of coffee.
When the gold rush struck California, Hawaii’s coffee production suffered in part to coffee diseases, pests, drought and a loss of labor due to the gold rush. In most of the coffee growing areas, coffee production disappeared entirely, with the exception of the Kona region. The Kona region gained recognition worldwide in 1873 at the world’s fair in Vienna, Austria when coffee trader Henry Nicholas Greenwell was recognized with an award for excellence for his Kona-grown coffee.
The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 and by 1922, most coffee production in Hawaii had completely dispersed except for in the Kona district. Today, coffee production is thriving in the islands, and Royal Cup has proudly purchased Kona Coffee from many different Hawaiian farms over the years.