Kona Coffee History

Kona Coffee History

What did it take to get these perfect cherries to you?

The origin of coffee is definitely points to Africa. Without a doubt everyone can say that the history points there. They say that the original strain of coffee called coffea robusta came from the Congo in Zaire. The strain Coffea Arabica which is associated with coffee that is good supposedly came from the highlands of Ethiopia. There have been many variations of the story of Kaldi the goat herder and some take some pretty weird twists as the stories are told, and some can not be told in this article.

But the story goes that Kaldi was out herding his goats and that he saw them eating the berries and parts of the shrub which is the coffee tree. The goats took an unexpected turn and started to frolic and play pretty vibrantly. Kaldi decided that since the bush that they had eaten was such an influence on the goats, that he might try them himself. He ate the berries and was soon feeling like frolicking around. This is the story about how coffee was discovered. It is passed down to coffee drinkers in just about every country that grows and drinks coffee.

Warriors in Ethiopia were known to eat butter laced with coffee grounds before they went to battle to give themselves an extra jolt of energy. However, this particular tribe that ate butter with coffee grounds in it was often defeated by its enemies. There exists quite a bit of lore and history about coffee before its Arabian days, and this history pre-dates the advent of the Muslim religion.

Once the Arab traders took coffee trees to the southern part of the Arabian peninsula the Muslim community quickly adopted coffee as its drink of choice because of the out-law of wine and other alcoholic substances. Coffee was an instant hit. This brought on the advent of coffee being grown in El-mocha, or some variant that is the source of the aberration Mocca. In southern Arabia traders from all around the world anchored in their harbors to trade for coffee or the “fruit of the wine”.

There were actually soldiers that were stationed in the harbors to protect any corporate espionage in the form of a traveler stealing a coffee seedling and taking it back to their country where they could go into competition with the Arabs. But, unfortunately, for the Arabs, a French man stole a seedling and was able to smuggle it back to the King of France. The King of France had the coffee seedling grown in his private greenhouse and that very tree that was smuggled from the southern part of the Arabian peninsula where Mocca is grown was used to start the entire plantation of Brazil and Central and South America.

The Kings of Hawaii have had bad luck when traveling abroad, as did King Kamehameha and his wife when he was visiting London, England. Both of them passed away from a measles outbreak in their group. However, Chief Boki, who was traveling with the Royal Court, as he was bringing back the bodies of the deceased King and Queen decided to stop over on the way back to Hawaii in Rio De Janeiro. This obviously, was as result of the Panama Canal not being built yet, and all travelers having to go around Cape Horn.

Chief Boki was able to take back the cuttings from Rio and successfully plant a plantation which lived on to produce all seedlings in Hawaii today. Skipping over all the failures and deaths on all the other islands, a man named Reverend Samuel Ruggles brought over some coffee trees to Kona to be grown as ornamentals on Kealakekua Bay. This was the start of the growth of the strain Kona Typica – coffea arabica.

The Kona Coffee pioneers were essentially the Japanese second-sons that came from Japan to find a better life in Hawaii. In Japanese patriarchal society, the first-born sons grew up knowing that they would get everything that dad had. The second sons would grow up knowing a very different reality. Actually, it was one where they would have to find their own way. And that is precisely why they traveled to Hawaii.

However, most of them worked on the sugar plantations in the north or south part of Hawaii and they of course bought products from the company store. So, at the end of the year, these Japanese second-sons had only a few dollars left to their name. These sons had heard of the coffee collapse that was taking place in Kona, and the reality that the coffee company was leasing out portions of its land to farmers.

For over 90 years farms have been leased from original missionary families, and some of them still remain in the 3rd generation from these original Japanese second-sons. It is said that it is actually these Japanese farmers and their families that gave Kona Coffee the name and reputation it has today. These families kept on farming through the hard times and despite and economic weather that influenced the world coffee prices. These families consistently brought Kona Coffee to world fairs and promoted the coffee throughout the world.

The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival officially credits the Kona Coffee Pioneers for this 180 year legacy. Where Juan Valdez has only an 80 year legacy, Kona Coffee remains one of the oldest and most famous coffee producing regions of the world.

In the late 1990’s there was an outbreak of counterfeiting in Kona that actually took place in Berkeley, California and implicated Kona Kai Farms. The counterfeiting scheme included taking some Panamanian coffee with similar growing conditions to Kona and had them re-sorted and bagged as Kona Coffee. This gave birth to the current certification standards upheld by the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture Coffee Program. To this day, coffee must be certified to leave Kona. This is the first instance of export regulations for coffee.

In the most recent times, there exists strict labeling laws in the State of Hawaii, where the State of Hawaii actually owns the trademark “100% Kona Coffee”, and anyone wishing to market their coffee using this designation must apply and appeal to state public policy. There still exists a legal outlet for companies to blend Kona Beans, but they must disclose the percentage of Kona Beans on the bags and the percentage must be as big as the word Kona.

Kona an example for the rest of the coffee world that export regulations work, and do indeed protect the integrity and origin of any agricultural commodity.

Kona continues to be a world-famous coffee producing region, with one of the best tastes in coffee. It is sought after around the world, and continues to be the coffee without any aftertaste. Make Kona a part of your history and drink the real deal every day in the comfort of your own home by purchasing farm direct from Mountain Thunder!