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A Timeline of Coffee in Hawai‘i

Find out when Hawai‘i began exporting coffee, the state’s first Starbucks opened and other historic moments.



Don Francisco de Paula y Marin plants coffee on O‘ahu, the first planting in Hawai‘i.



Chief Boki, governor of O‘ahu, returns from Brazil with several coffee plants, which are planted in Mānoa Valley.



The Rev. Samuel Ruggles plants cuttings from Boki’s coffee in Kona, where they thrive.



Hawai‘i begins exporting coffee. Previously, coffee was grown for local consumption and sold to whaling ships.



The first Japanese immigrants arrive to work on sugar plantations. Many eventually switch to coffee.



Japanese farming families make up 80 percent of the coffee growers in Kona.



Sugar replaces coffee growing everywhere in Hawai‘i except the Big Island.



Public schools in Kona adopt the “Coffee Vacation,” a school break from August to November, allowing children to help pick coffee.


Late 1940s

Surplus military Jeeps replace “Kona Nightingales,” the donkeys traditionally used to haul coffee on Kona’s steep slopes.



Kona schools give up the Coffee Vacation, conforming with the standard June-to-September summer break.



The first Kona Coffee Cultural Festival occurs. The 10-day event is still held today.



Plantation agriculture’s demise opens the door to large-scale coffee production on Maui, Moloka‘i, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i.



Hawai‘i’s first Starbucks opens at Kāhala Mall.



Hawai‘i farm revenue for coffee is estimated at $33.6 million. 



Hawai‘i remains the sole commercial producer of coffee in the United States.


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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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