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History of Coffee in Ka‘u

Coffee was introduced to Hawaii in 1813 by the Spanish physician and royal interpreter, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. Coffee was being cultivated in Ka‘u in 1894 by J.C. Searle. However, his coffee business was not commercially successful due to the competition for land and labor posed by the sugar plantations.

Coffee cherriesWhen the sugar industry collapsed one hundred years later, and the Ka‘u sugar plantation closed in 1996, the displaced workers looked to coffee as one of the most promising avenues for post-plantation agriculture.

The first years of the fledgling Ka‘u coffee industry were rife with challenges as the farmers struggled to acquire the daunting array of agricultural, processing and business skills required to succeed in the coffee industry. The farmers persevered and quietly began producing amazing coffees rooted in Hawaiian tradition.

Ka‘u coffee slowly began to make a name for itself among local coffee buffs but remained virtually unknown outside the region until recently. This began to change in 2007, when Ka‘u Farm and Ranch Co. manager Chris Manfredi gathered Ka‘u coffee for the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual competition. Since then, Ka‘u coffee farmers have won numerous international awards and built an excellent reputation for their coffees.