Coffee Culture in Hawaii-- an article on making coffee from the September 18, 1898 Los Angeles Times

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The Los Angeles Times,
    September 18, 1898, p. 7:


COFFEE CULTURE
IN HAWAII.

IF PROPERLY HANDLED
IT WILL BE A PAYING INDUSTRY.


By a Special Contributor.

    For several years coffee has been grown in the districts of Kona and Puna, on the Island of Hawaii, and in parts on the other islands, with more or less success. Hawaiian grown coffee under the name of "Kona" had gained for itself an enviable reputation for quality, and has commanded good prices.

    Of late years the Olaa district has been developed as a coffee-producing country, and resulted in many large and profitable plantations.
    Here the coffee is not merely grown as formerly, like Topsy, but is cultivated with intelligence, and as the result a bean of superior quality is produced, that is rapidly working its way into the front rank of all markets.

    The writer has recently traveled through the Olaa district for the purpose of investigating the coffee tree and its culture. The country is covered with large ohla trees, birds'-nest ferns, tree ferns and a profusion of other ferns, large and small, vines, shrubbery and undergrowth. The soil of Olaa is decomposed lava, with a dark brown or chocolate-colored subsoil, very porous, rich and fertile.
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    Coffee is grown at altitudes varying from 300 to 2200 feet. Trees at 2000 feet elevation do not mature as rapidly as those planted at 500 or 1000 feet. The temperature required is between 68 to 75 deg. Fahr., therefore coffee does not thrive at elevations subject to frosts. Nor does it grow well in heavy, clayey soil.

    The coffee planter secures his land by purchase or by a right of purchase lease from the government, on favorable terms, and clears the land by contracting with Japanese laborers at from $10 to $15 an acre, the Japs cutting down everything except the trees, which are left standing for shade and wind brakes.
    It is very necessary to protect the trees from wind, or the foliage will be blown off in those districts subject to strong winds. Some planters clear off and burn everything so thoroughly as to regret it; others remove as little as possible and leave the undergrowth to decay, it being good plant food. It is yet an open question as to what extent the clearing should be. The topography of the district is also an influence that should be considered. A complete clearning leaves no shade for the young plants, which sometimes burn or weaken; moreover it superinduces the pest known as the red spider. After the land is cleared, a nursery is started and replanted after one year, or one-year-old plants are purchased from a neighbor.

    Hawaiian, Guatemala and Java seeds are used, and planted six inches apart and one and three quarters deep. One pound of seed coffee will produce about two thousand plants. It takes the seed about six weeks to come up, and in ten or twelve weeks it is ready to set out.
    [Trans]Planting is very important work, and when done, the plants should be protected from the burning rays of the sun. Cloudy days are usually chosen for the work. The tap root is cylindrical, or turnip-shaped, and penetrates perpendicularly to the soil, and great care should be taken that it is put down perfectly straight. If the root strikes a rock or any hard substance it will bend and the tree wither. It is always economy to pull up a tree that shows evidence of having been planted badly and to insert a new plant.
    If intelligent labor is not employed in planting the work may have to be done over again, and perhaps the poor work may not be detected for a year or two. The plant may grow well for a time, then the foliage turn yellow and the tree decay.

    The distance between plants is a matter of taste and opinion, varying from 4x6 feet to 9x9 feet, the popular distance, and sometimes 12x12 feet. In Brazil the distance is 12x12 feet, and the height sometimes reaching 12 feet. The 9x9 feet distance is becoming more usual here and gives 538 trees to the acre. Others plant 10x10 feet, and get 435 trees, while a few grow only 302 trees to the acre, or 12x12 feet apart. Clearing, holing and planting costs from $35 to $50 per acre.

    After planting, continuous weeding for about three months is necessary to the welfare of the tree. Coffee will not endure weeds. Ferns are easily disposed of, if properly watched. The other weeds, a creeping grass, tarweed and chick weed must never be allowed to grow. If they get a good start, they cannot be eradicated, except at great expense, often costing more than clearing new land.

    I have seen a plantation quite free from weeds, and the planter stated that he could clean it monthly for about 15 cents to the acre. I have seen other properties that will cost hundreds of dollars to clean. There is little trouble, and it is inexpensive, if weeding is attended to from the first, and the land gone over monthly. After the roots have grown, hand-weeding is the safer and better method.

    Pruning should be carefully performed. During the second year all secondaries and blossoms are rubbed off; during the third year the secondaries are allowed to grow six inches, then cut off. All wood that is not to bear must also be cut off. Good pruning means a better yield of berries.

    The trees are topped during the third year. The branches of the coffee tree are cylindrical and knotty at certain distances, usually horizontal, alternating two by two in the shape of a cross. Twenty pairs of primaries are enough to allow growth on one tree.

    In topping, the tree is cut just above two primaries; some planters cut off one of the primaries only, because the weight of two as they bend down is apt to split the tree.

    The fruit is called cherries, and in appearance is similar, but a little longer than the real cherry. It grows in clusters on the primaries and at the junction of the secondaries, and until they ripen are of a green color. An average of fifty berries to each primary means a yield of about a pound and a quarter to a tree. The fruit is composed of a sweet pulp with two berries [beans, seeds, grains] covered with a parchment.

    Soon after picking, the berries are put through a pulping machine, (which, with a pulping-house, will cost about $400,) then they are washed, and dried in the sun, or what is better, in a drying house, that can be built for about $500.

    The crop is then ready for grading and shipping. If Hawaiian coffee is properly cleaned and graded, it will command a high price in any market in the world.

    It takes about five years for a coffee plantation to produce paying crops, and costs during that time, perhaps $150 an acre, including purchase, clearing, planting, picking, drying, etc. If planted from one-year-old plants, the time is reduced to four years.

    Coffee-raising in Hawaii may be said to be passing through its experimental stage, but most encouraging reports come from the larger and most experienced planters, and it is confidently believed that coffee-culture can be undertaken with promises of good profit.

    Many parts of the islands are specially adapted to the coffee tree. It is the universal opinion that one starting in the industry should have at his command $5000. As in everything else, a small capitalist has more disadvantages to contend with than has one with plenty of money; yet there are many small holdings in Hawaii that claim a profit on their labors and investment, and it is certain that coffee-culture in Hawaii will soon become a very important industry.
T. S. SOUTHWICK.   
 
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Classic Coffee Articles:
Coffee History-5 articles 1887-1916
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Ceylon Coffee Culture 1878
Coffee Growing in Guatemala 1888
Coffee in Nicaragua 1894
Coffee Culture in Mexico 1898
Coffee Culture in Hawaii 1898
Coffee Planting in Brazil 1899
Coffee Fields in Puerto Rico 1899

Classic Tea Articles:
Tea in China 1854
Tea Growing in India 1862
For Drinkers of Tea 1870
Tea Growing in Ceylon 1888
Tea Ceremony in Japan 1892

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