The Migration of Geisha Coffee into Hawaii

A Note From the Founders, Greg and Susy Stille

In May 2009, we met with Willem Boot and Kelly Hartmann of Panama Finca Hartmann, and the Peterson family of Hacienda Las Esmeralda (both Panama Geisha Farms), to talk about the possibility of growing and curating Geisha coffee in Hawaii. We believed that this exotic coffee could grow well and produce an outstanding cherry, full of unique flavors and aromas.

We began researching the necessary protocols to bring seed to the state. After starting the necessary procedures, we purchased two kilos of seed from Hacienda Las Esmeralda which arrived in Maui on April 1, 2010. At that time we started the quarantine grow-out at the plant quarantine office in Kahului on April 13th.  There were extensive guidelines that needed to be followed to ensure that no outside pests or contamination were brought into the islands along with the seed.  The grow-out room assigned to us was surrounded by a water mote and had two airlock doors leading to our grow-out room, to ensure there would be no contamination. With a single light bulb in the ceiling, hose bib and nursery tables around the three walls, we had tray/tree cells for 400 trees. Adding mist irrigation, grow lights and a time lapse camera, we began the process of growing our new geisha. Initially the seeds needed to soak in malathion and fungicide for 24 hours, and the potting soil was later drenched with the same insecticide/fungicide. The seeds grew over the coming year and everything that entered the control room remained in the room throughout the controlled grow-out.

In April of 2011 we received notice of release from HDOA that our Geisha trees were ready,  that we could remove them from the plant quarantine office and plant them on our farm, Piliani Kope, in Lahaina.
Our first harvest was on Maui in September of 2013. We processed the seeds for planting and never cupped a single bean, as we were looking for a new farm with more farmland in the Kona District.  In December 2013, we partnered with Greenwell Farms to do the germination/grafting and grow-out in their nursery. Our Geisha seedings were grafted to West Liberian trees which are nematode resistant.  It was uncertain whether the Geisha tree roots would be nematode resistant as well. We wanted to ensure these trees would have a chance.
In April of 2014, we started Monarch Coffee in Holualoa in the Kona Coffee District.  We believed that the location of the new farm would provide the right climate for productive trees. We immediately began with ground prep for the location of the new trees, and planting started in December of 2015. Monarch Coffee Farms’ first harvest was the season of 2017-18.  We currently have roughly 6000 trees producing and are into our 2nd harvest season.
Many have thought we were crazy, perhaps we would be unsuccessful.  Our efforts have not gone unnoticed as our Geisha is thriving.