Kona coffee is a popular selection for the coffee obsessed! Many people enjoy its full bodied flavor and delicious aroma. Since Kona is on the Big Island of Hawai'i, people around the world seek out Kona coffee because of its ties to paradise. But what makes Kona coffee so special? Well, the weather and soil have a lot to do with it, as well as the rarity of this coffee since it's only produced in a relative small "belt" of land in the Kona district (approximately 6 square miles).
Here's a brief history of how Kona coffee came to be:
1817- don Francisco de Paula Marin plants first coffee in Hawai'i. His plants fail.
1836- A coffee venture beings on Kaua'i; other attempts to grow coffee commercially follow on parts of other islands, including in Kona.
1848- The Great Mahele allows private ownership of land.
1860s- Coffee is gone except in Kona and Hamakua.
1892- The 'Guatemalan' coffee variety is introduced to Hawai'i and becomes the standard-bearer of Kona coffee by 1920.
1899- Severe drop in coffee prices cause investors to leave the coffee industry. Kona remains one of the last districts to continue growing coffee.
1917- World War I produces coffee demand.
1918- Severe weather in Brazil destroys coffee crop and creates world shortage of coffee; prices begin to rise.
1929- U.S. stock market crash; coffee prices plunge.
1940s- As U.S. enters World War II, the Army purchases Kona coffee. Even after the war, coffee prices continue to rise.
1953- Another frost in Brazil causes a shortage of coffee worldwide; huge boom in need for Kona coffee.
1959- Kona records highest number of coffee acres harvested at 5,900.
1963- First grading standard for Kona coffee is adopted.
1970s- Start of the decade looked bleak for coffee enterprises since lack of labor and high costs, but by the mid-70s, coffee prices dramatically rise.
1980s- New farmers come into specialty coffee market, some were children of coffee farmers while others were completely new to the industry.
As time has gone on, there have been some issues surrounding the Kona coffee name, since some people around the world try to pass off their coffee as Kona coffee since it's a specialty item and fetches a higher price point. The State of Hawaii has tried to combat this type of fraud, and are considering even stricter standards regarding the labeling of coffee as "Kona coffee" or a "Kona blend."
For more information about Kona coffee, please check out this book by Gerald Kinro A Cup of Aloha: The Kona Coffee Epic.