Puna is the wettest region of the Big Island with an average rainfall of 150″ to 220″ annually (380 cm – 550 cm). Characterized by this and its predominately lava rock-based land area, it comes to the surprise of many that coffee grows at all in this district.
By the end of the 19th century, coffee was the chief agricultural crop of Puna. Over 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) of coffee were owned by approximately 200 independent coffee farmers and six incorporated companies. But, like many former coffee regions in Hawaii, Puna ceased coffee production with the rise of sugarcane. The Ola’a Sugar Company, founded in 1899, uprooted coffee fields and cleared ‘ohi’a forests to make way for the new crop. The sugar mill operated until 1984.
During the mid-1990s, farmers began planting coffee once again, mostly on three acre lots in the Hawaiian Acres agricultural subdivision. However, small, isolated farms are scattered throughout the region, extending from 300′ to 2600′ elevation (90 – 790 meters). To date, Puna now has approximately 125 acres (50 hectares) planted to coffee, mostly with Typica, Caturra and Catuai varieties, though Mokka and Bourbon can be found as well. Total coffee production in Puna is about 50,000 pounds (22,680 kg) of coffee cherry annually.
Though very small and new to Hawaii’s coffee scene, Puna coffee has demonstrated excellent cup quality by placing high in the ranks of the HCA’s Annual Statewide Cupping Competition, even garnering 1st Place in 2013. In addition, a Puna coffee also managed to earn recognition on Coffee Review’s “Top 30 Coffees of 2013″ list.