If you know a bit about coffee, you realize how far it comes from before it gets to your kitchen shelf or cup.
The best coffee beans come from as far off as South America, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These countries are located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in the coffee-belt region.
Coffee shops in the US have to import Arabica and Robusta beans from these coffee-producing areas and roast them here in the US for local use and exportation.
Roasters and popular coffee shop franchises in the US have to put a lot of time and energy into importing these beans to satisfy the needs of their customers.
Since coffee is the most popular beverage in the US, wouldn’t it be great if coffee beans could grow here? That’s a question that most coffeeholic and coffee business owners ask. Let’s answer it.
Places in the U.S That Grow Coffee
While it may seem unlikely, there are parts of the US and its territories that grow coffee. These are California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico (a territory of the US) has been producing coffee for some time. In fact, it was once a high-volume coffee producer known for growing excellent coffee.
Unfortunately, coffee production has declined in Puerto Rico due to destructive hurricanes.
Despite these challenges, Puerto Rico remains one of the highest producers of coffee in the US. Some of its regions that are famous for growing great coffee are Grand Lares, San Sebastián, and Yauco.
Hawaii is also a long-term coffee producer in the US. Over 7,000 acres of Hawaii land in places such as Oahu, Maui, Kaui, Molokai, and Kona are occupied by coffee plants.
California is another region in the US that grows coffee. Most of the coffee farms in California are located in the San Diego and Santa Barbara area.
Coffee farmers in California grow their coffee plants under old avocado trees, a form of shade coffee farming. They also encourage the growth of healthy coffee plants by using irrigation. So far, there are over 70 coffee-growing farms in California.
Although California coffee is grown in small quantities, it is in high demand all over the US. If efforts toward supporting domestic coffee farmers bear fruit, the region could become a major coffee producer in the future.
There are also efforts to start coffee growing in Florida through a research initiative by the University of Florida. Scientists at the institution are focused on finding a way to grow Arabica coffee plants with citrus trees.
US coffee farmers are also overcoming the lack of enough rainfall in their coffee farms by using micro-swales. These are trenches used to capture rainwater that is then used to grow large quantities of coffee plants.
The History of Coffee Growing in the US
Puerto Rico is the earliest coffee-producing region in the US. It started growing coffee in 1736. By 1890, it was the 6th highest coffee producer in the world.
Since then, Puerto Rico has suffered natural disasters that have set its farming projects back. But it remains a major coffee producer in the US whose coffee is valued worldwide.
Hawaii has also been growing coffee for a long time. Coffee was introduced to the island in 1823 when a governor of Oahu called Chief Boki brought coffee from Brazil to the island.
A missionary called Rev. Samuel Ruggles decided to take coffee plants from Chief Boki’s farm and propagate them all over the island. His aim was to beautify the island with red coffee cherries.
To Rev. Ruggles’s surprise and that of the Kona people, coffee thrived in the area. Today, Kona is one of the most successful coffee-growing regions in the US, with a coffee brand named after it.
California only started seriously producing coffee in 2002 when Jay Ruskey (the owner of Frinj Coffee, Inc.) began farming non-native crops in the state. He realized that coffee plants and avocados grow well together.
The Frinj Coffee Inc. coffee project is one of the successful coffee-growing ventures since Ethiopian coffee found its way to California from Panama.
Why Does the US Produce Coffee in Low Quantities?
While the parts of the US that grow coffee produce great-tasting coffee, the quantity they get cannot compare to that of major coffee producers.
Therefore, even if world-renowned coffee brands such as Kona coffee from Hawaii come from the US, we cannot expect their coffee production to make a mark on the international coffee market.
The climate in the US is not ideal for coffee growing. Coffee plants thrive in a tropical environment. They prefer places with rich soil, high humidity, and substantial rainfall. These are qualities that very few regions in the US can meet.
While most coffee-growing regions in the coffee belt get at least 40 – 60 inches of rainfall a year, US coffee-growing regions like California only get 15 – 30 inches of rain a year. That’s not enough to grow large quantities of coffee.
Growing coffee also requires a lot of labor. You cannot mechanize the whole process.
The minimum wage in the US is too high to accommodate the number of workers’ needs in coffee farms while allowing coffee producers to make reasonable profits.
That’s why most countries in Latin America and Africa that produce high quantities of coffee depend on cheap labor.
Hiring coffee workers for low pay is currently impossible in the US due to its strict labor laws. However, it creates an ideal environment for coffee growers to produce specialty coffees while meeting Fairtrade standards.
But due to the factors we’ve outlined, US coffee beans are quite expensive. That lowers their market because few coffee buyers can afford to pay some of the outrageous prices these farmers charge.
While green coffee beans from Latin America cost about $ 15 per pound, a 5 oz bag of coffee from California costs $ 27. That makes US coffee unaffordable when compared to coffee from other major coffee-producing areas.
It is also quite outrageous, considering coffee from Latin American countries is of better quality than US coffee.
But the US hasn’t lost out on earnings from coffee production. It is the largest coffee importer in the world. The coffee beans imported into the US are processed into coffee products that are exported to international countries.
Coffee farmers in the US also engage in coffee tourism to popularise their unique coffee growing methods. That may increase the country’s earnings from coffee and encourage more research into increasing coffee production.
Now you know the answer to “can coffee beans grow in the US?”. The US can grow coffee in states such as Florida, California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Although research is ongoing on how to grow quality coffee in Florida, scientists have already proven that coffee plants can grow there. Hawaii and Puerto Rico are already well known worldwide.
Therefore, we expect the US to continue increasing the quantity of coffee it grows yearly.
As for now, the US continues to be a significant importer of coffee while encouraging the improvement of coffee farming in its coffee-growing states.