The first coffee to grow on the Hawaiian islands arrived in 1817, but those initial plantings didn’t survive. Then in 1825, Chief Boki, Governor of the island of Oahu, visited Brazil on his way home from Europe, and picked up some coffee plants there. These not only survived but thrived, and soon plantations were springing up on all the islands.
All was not smooth sailing for the coffee industry here, however. For instance, in 1858, coffee production on Kauai came to a sliding halt after coffee blight insects decimated plantations. Then there was competition with sugar growing, and landowners switching from coffee to sugar to bring in more revenue. These factors led to the abandonment of many plantations, which were subsequently split up into smaller farms.
The U.S. began occupying the islands in 1898, and the protecting tariffs for coffee were lifted, further collapsing the market. As a result, more farmers began growing sugar cane. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the coffee industry took a decided turn for the better due to the falling price of sugar. Currently, there are 12 coffee regions scattered throughout the islands, with Kona being the most well-known. Though prices for Hawaiian coffees tend to be high, traceability is great. Coffee tourism is also on the rise throughout the islands!