(Extracted from Timeline Hawai'i, An Illustrated Chronological History of the Island)
Hawai'i's story begins with the Polynesians, ambitious sailors who ventured far from the Southeast Asian Continent in voyaging canoes to inhabit hundreds of Pacific islands, eventually discovering the Hawaiian Islands, the most remote archipelago on Earth.
By the time British Captain James Cook established western contact in 1778, the Hawaiians had developed an amazingly rich, unique and complex culture. Western weapons quickly played a key role in resolving conflicts between Island chiefs, particularly by the rising warrior Kamehameha, who had visited Cook's ship in 1778, and eventually established his rule over all the Islands. The post-contact era that began with Cook's arrival saw Western explorers, traders, missionaries and military ships coming to the Islands. Hawaiians began their accelerated transition to the modern age with new materials, peoples, values, and standards that changed the traditional Hawaiian way of life abruptly.
By the late 1800s the plantation economy with its major political and economic changes was American owned and influenced with virtually all aspects of life under the control of the "Big Five" sugar companies. In 1893, Hawai'i's sugar plantation owners and American businessmen helped overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy. To avoid bloodshed, Queen Lili'uokalani yielded to the United States government. When the Spanish-American War spread to the Philippines in 1898, the Island became strategically important as a coaling base for the United States fleet, and Hawai'i was annexed to the United States as the Territory of Hawai'i.
The rise of sugar had led to the mass immigration of plantation workers from China, Japan, the Philippines, Portugal, Korea, Spain and Puerto Rico. Their descendants and the intermarriage that occurred between them became the basis of the Islands' "melting-pot" culture. Sugar dominated Hawai'i's economy through the first half of the 1900s with lesser contributions from pineapple and tourism.
In 1959, Hawai'i was officially admitted as the 50th state and the start of the commercial jet service began to fuel a growing tourism industry. At the time of Statehood, 240,000 tourists were arriving each year, a number that would quadruple in the next decade and then keep growing.
Recent decades have seen a resurgence in traditional Hawaiian cultural knowledge and practices, infusing the native Hawaiians with a renewed spirit and pride in ancient traditions. Today, Hawai'i is an international destination whose urban centers face the problems of cities and towns everywhere - how to grow without spoiling the present beauty and protecting the environment.
This was my first visit to Hawaii and I was truly amazed by the natural beauty. We stayed in North Kona, where large lava fields give the appearance of having just stopped flowing yesterday. The Big Island of Hawaii is the youngest of the islands and is still growing, or I should say "moving", as it is gaining ground on one side of the island due active volcanos and losing land on the other as the ocean eats away at the soil.
We were fortunate to have planned our trip in early November, as it coincided with the 45th Annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. We had the opportunity to watch cupping competitions, attend lectures, see work by local artists and hear the music of the Hawaiian people. During the 5 day event, over 300 farms from the Kona region presented their best beans to be judged by professional cupping judges who use strict standards and coffee prepration methods to conduct side-by-side tasings. Judges sniff, slurp and taste their way through the entries to select the Kona coffee farm that best represents the perfect "Kona character". I overheard one judge saying that he was experiencing "tasting fatigue" after sampling so many beans.
Naturally our trip included visits to several farms in Kona. We met "Farmer Gary", owner of Kona Earth. We toured his farm and learned about the difficulties Hawaiian coffee farmers have finding and keeping skilled picking crews. The coffee industry in Hawai'i is highly regulated and pickers are paid specific wages for their work. There is also a shortage of affordable housing and many farmers have built accommodation for their picking crews. Crews can also be shared by a couple of farms, which can sometimes cause a delay in having the cherries picked. In the Ka'u region, we met Lorie and Joan Obra, owners of Rusty's Hawaiian. The farm was a passion of Joan's father and after he passed away, Joan, her husband and her mother continued to manage the farm and produce award winning coffee beans. We cupped several beans in Lorie's kitchen, enjoying their wonderful hospitality and learning a tremendous amount about farming coffee beans in Hawaii. Cloud 9 is pleased to be able to bring Kona and Ka'u coffee to Canada. We will continue to build our relationships with these exceptional farmers.
Japanese History Farm
We toured the Coffee Living History Farm, which was a working coffee farm owned by the Uchida family from 1925 to 1994.