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Sustainable Grounds - Dec 2009
By: Sami Ewers for Wend Magazine


This morning, much like every other, I walked from my bedroom to my coffee maker without any detour. But unlike most mornings, today I had something unique — genuine East Hawaii coffee grounds that I picked up on my trip to Hilo, Hawaii, at the locally owned and operated Hilo Coffee Mill.

This coffee is good… I mean really good. It’s rich and complex but not overpowering. And that’s not even the best part. What makes the java I’m sipping even tastier is the knowledge I have about its origins, its growing and roasting process, and all of the people who are involved. Ultimately, it’s some of the most sustainable coffee in the world.

The Hilo Coffee Mill is set on 24 acres of land (3,000 square feet), where the beans are literally grown, picked, hulled, dried and roasted by a dedicated staff that works together like a family. The coffee mill itself is also a farm, complete with over 70 chickens, perfectly plump and free-range — with the freedom to roam anywhere they please. Nearby farms and neighbors benefit from the Hilo Coffee Mill, where they can buy coffee (and yes, even eggs) for a fair price. One neighboring farmer, as co-owner jeanette Baysa told me, has even made use of something previously thought worthless — coffee bean hulls, the papery, thin outer shelling of the bean, which is much like that of the papery peanut casing inside of the shell. This man’s horse has an allergy to hay, so he regularly picks up entire bags of coffee hulls, which serve as bedding for the allergic horse. The owners take pride in their ability to not only help others in unique ways such as this, but also to reuse and recycle almost everything that comes out of the coffee roasting process.

As Baysa puts it, ” We live on an island, so it’s especially important to be in business not only for ourselves, but for our community.” The Hilo Coffee Mill supports itself on a smaller scale much like the island of Hawaii supports itself. By using (not abusing) the rich local environment for what it has to offer, and by providing locals with what they as a business have to offer. Rather than importing beans, roasting them 100 miles away, and selling them for more than the workers get paid, the Hilo Coffee Mill has created a system that completely eliminates extraneous transportation and energy, and in doing so, is constantly helping the community right next door, as well as across the ocean.

My adventures in Hawaii are a result of an awesome press trip that I got to take thanks to the Big Island Visitor’s Bureau.


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