of Kona Coffee
by Les Drent
A Coffee Cherry Picker
"Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other,
be it grown where it may and call it by what name you
Mark Twain, 1866
It has been many years since Reverend Samuel Ruggles
brought the first coffee plant cuttings to Kealakekua-Kona,
Hawaii. The cuttings were taken from plants growing
at the home of chief boki, governor of Oahu, who with
help from agriculturalist, John Wilkinson, brought back
several young plants acquired in Rio de Janeiro during
a royal British voyage taken in 1825.
Even though coffee was in Kona in 1828 it was not immediately
seen as a viable agricultural commodity. However, the
particular conditions in Kona's climate and soil turned
out to be some of the best known in the world for growing
coffee. The sheltered and fertile western slopes of
Mauna Loa and Mt. Hualalai along with sunny mornings
and gentle afternoon rains helped the coffee plant thrive
in its new environment. Soon enough coffee caught on
in Kona, and its distinguished flavor became known throughout
the world. In July of 1866 Mark Twain stated, in his
"Letters From Hawaii", Kona coffee has a richer
flavor than any other, be it grown where it may and
call it by what name you please."
It was not until the late 1800's, the period following
the California gold rush, that the coffee industry in
Kona saw its first boom. In 1898 the Kona hillsides
were consumed by coffee trees; over three million of
them spread out over six thousand acres.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's the initial steps
involved with processing the coffee were in most cases
undertaken by the independent farmers themselves. This
involved hand-powered pulpers, a sixteen hour soaking
period and drying the beans under "false"
pitched roofs that rolled back to receive the warm sunlight.
Local mills in Kona then removed the final parchment
membranes and loaded the grated beans into sacks before
being carried down the mountain in mule powered freight
wagons. The last leg of the journey began at either
Kailua or Napoopoo piers where the coffee was shuttled
by boats out ot waiting steamships bound for San Francisco.
Today, very little has changed from the coffee culture
in Kona as many of its farms continue to be owned and
operated by independent families. There are now mills
in the area that fully process the raw coffee cherries
for brew guaranteeing that the hand picked beans get
the full flavored roast they deserve, right here in
All of our beans at Coffee Times are hand picked, sun
dried and undergo stringent grading standards to uphold
the gourmet reputation and quality in every cup of coffee.
And, unlike some of our competitors we only roast to
order, so if it's freshness you seek it's freshness
you will receive.
The true taste of 100% pure Kona Coffee now awaits
you, so from my Coffee Times to your coffee times enjoy
Kona's very best.
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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