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History of Ka'u Coffee

Coffee was introduced to Hawaii in 1813 by the Spanish physician and royal interpreter, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin.

Ka‘u coffee was being cultivated 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.

When 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.


About Ka'u Coffee


An unspoiled land, sunny climate and misty afternoons give Ka‘u coffee its characteristic deep flavors. One esteemed coffee taster described a Ka‘u coffee as "the taste of chocolate, cherry, and coconut, accented with floral notes of orchid and citrus flowers."


Unique cultivating practices including hand picking, sun drying, warm sunny mornings and misty afternoon rains and fertile volcanic soils combine with the passion and aloha of Ka‘u farmers to produce some of the finest coffees grown anywhere.


We urge you to attend the ho‘olaule‘a and visit the farmers. Take part in the Ka‘u Coffee Experience to sample coffees from many Ka‘u coffee farms brewed by expert baristas.


Get to know the Ka‘u coffee farmers who banded together to form the Ka‘u Coffee Growers Cooperative years ago and started the Ka‘u Coffee Festival in 2009, or learn more about each farm here.


Experience a day in the life of a Ka'u coffee farmer, by watching this virtual coffee farm tour.


Ka‘u coffee has earned the reputation of one of the finest coffees grown anywhere. Since 2007, Ka‘u coffees have placed among the top entries in cupping competitions sanctioned by the world's largest coffee trade organization — the Specialty Coffee Association of America.


SCAA Roasters Guild Cupping Pavilion Competition (worldwide):


In 2007, Rising Sun from Will and Grace Tabios took sixth place. Marlon and Mely Biason of Aroma Farms took ninth place.


In 2008, Ka‘u Forest Coffee from Manuel Marques took eleventh place.



SCAA International Roasters Guild Coffees of the Year competition (worldwide):


In 2009, Kailiawa Coffee from Bull and Jamie Kailiawa took seventh place.


In 2010, Rising Sun from Will and Grace Tabios took ninth place with a score of 87.563 points, the highest of all Hawaiian coffees. Six of the 74 finalists selected were also from Ka‘u: Castaneda Coffee Farm, R & G Farms, Rusty’s Hawaiian, Kehua’s Coffee Farm and Kailiawa Coffee.


In 2011, Kailiawa Coffee from Bull and Jamie Kailiawa took tenth place.


In 2012, Rising Sun from Will and Grace Tabios took sixth place, Rusty’s Hawaiian from Lorie Obra took ninth place and Ali‘i Hawaiian Hula Hands Coffee from Francis and Trinidad Marques ranked tenth.



SCAA International Roasters Guild Roasters Choice competition (worldwide):


In 2013, Rusty's Hawaiian 100% Ka'u Coffee and Ka'u Coffee Mill were placed in the top 10 at the Roasters Choice event during the SCAA annual expo (a Coffees of the Year competition was not held this year).


Hawaii Coffee Association competition (statewide):



Top 10​

   5th - Miranda Farms

   10th - R+G Farms

District Winners​

   1st - Miranda Farms

   2nd - R&G Farms

   3rd - H&H Coffee Farm



Top 10

   8th - R+G Farms



Top 10

   5th - The Rising Sun

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