Hawaii is best known for coffee grown on the island of Kona. However, coffee can grow on any of the Hawaiian Islands, if grown at the proper elevation. Although coffee plantations are common, especially on Kona, coffee can also grow as an ornamental or hobby crop, if it has the right conditions. Although coffee is cultivated commercially and as a hobby on other islands, the combination of growing conditions, including the unique volcanic soil, of Kona have made Kona virtually synonymous with Hawaiian coffee.
Altitude & Location
Hawaii is located at about 21 degrees north latitude. This makes Hawaii's climate subtropical. In subtropical areas, coffee grows best at an altitude of between 1,800 and 3,600 feet. This altitude will give the coffee ideal growing conditions, including temperature, moisture and sun, over the course of a growing season. Although altitude is critical, it is not the only thing to consider when considering planting coffee.
Coffee grows best in deep soils that are porous and drain well. Volcanic soils, such as those on Kona, are ideal for coffee production. The ideal pH for growing coffee is about 6. Soil that does not drain adequately can create root problems for coffee trees.
Coffee is very sensitive to temperature. If the temperature is too cold, the trees will not produce adequately. Growth and production are also adversely affected by temperatures that are too high. Ideal coffee production temperatures over a season range from 59 to 73 degrees F. Temperature is one of the reasons that altitude is important when selecting a location to grow coffee.
Coffee requires at least 59 inches of rain to grow. However, too much rain, especially during the flowering season, can cause fruiting problems and result in reduced tree yields.
Although coffee grows best at higher elevations, it does not grow well on steeply sloping land. Ideal coffee-growing areas have slopes of 20 percent or less.
Guava is a good indicator of how well coffee will grow. If a guava tree produces many healthy, juicy fruit and has large, healthy, dark green leaves, the climactic conditions are good for coffee. If the tree's leaves look good, but the tree does not produce much fruit, the area may be too wet or cloudy for coffee production.
Most of the Hawaiian Islands have regions that offer the combination of rainfall, soil, land slope and temperature required to grow coffee. In fact, the University of Hawaii produces maps to show the best areas for coffee growing. Kona, Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the big island all offer areas that are well suited to coffee growing. However, Molokai has no areas that offer all of the conditions for ideal coffee cultivation.