Samuel Ruggles brought coffee to the Kona District in 1828, more trees were set out in the Kalihi and Niu valleys near Honolulu, in 1828 or 1829. On the island of Hawaii Rev. Joseph Goodrich tried planting some coffee to make the Hilo mission self-sustaining. Goodrich planted gardens over his 12 years at Hilo, and taught classes for native Hawaiians on cultivation of both for cash to support the mission, as well as vegetables and tropical fruits for their own meals.
Pioneer coffee merchant Henry Nicholas Greenwell (1826–1891)
Early commercial ventures on the island of Kauaʻi in 1836 and 1845 ended in failure. The first records of production were made in 1845, of only 248 pounds, grown on Kauaʻi and Hawaii island. The great Mahele in 1848 allowed private ownership of land for the first time. Large areas were once grown on Maui, but were replaced by sugarcane and other crops.
In particular, Scale insects infected many of the coffee trees on the other islands. The slopes in the Kona area were unsuitable for sugarcane, so the area became the center for the coffee industry in Hawaii. To be called Kona coffee, it must be grown in this district only.
In 1873, the world's fair in Vienna awarded Kona trader Henry Nicholas Greenwell an award for excellence, which gave some recognition to the "Kona" name. Around 1880 John Gaspar, Sr. (Married to Maria Rice Santos), built the first coffee mill in Hawaii near Kealakekua Bay. In 1892 the Guatemalan variety was introduced to Hawaii by German planter Hermann A. Widemann. Also about this time lady bugs were able to control the scale infestation.
The "coffee belt" in Kona is approximately two miles wide from 700 feet (210 m) to 2,000 feet (610 m) elevation. Other districts on the island where coffee is grown include Kaʻū in the far south, Puna in the southeast, and Hāmākua in the northeast.
Although coffee can be harvested year-round in Hawaii, highest production runs from August to December.
In the 2008–2009 season, there were about 790 farms on the island of Hawaii, and 40 on other islands. Average yield was equivalent to 1400 pounds of parchment per acre. A total of about 7,800 acres (3,200 ha) are planted with coffee throughout the state. A little over half the acreage is outside the island of Hawaii, in particular on the island of Kauai, indicating that farms on other islands are larger in average size compared to those on Hawaii.