In 2010, two young coffee lovers - a biologist and organic farmer - found a disheveled coffee farm in a jungled region of Hawai’i posted on Portland's Craigslist.
It could have been a scam, but with little to lose we thought 'why not?'and moved to a dilapedated coffee farm in one of the wildest places in Hawai’i: Puna.
Up to this point, we assumed Hawaiian and Kona coffees were categorically awful because we only knew of them as artificially flavored, stale, souvenir 10% blends. But that didn't matter. Our hope was to homestead and develop the craft of coffee production.
As we integrated with the community of farmers and sampled coffees from around Hawai’i, we were surprised by the unique varieties and the promising quality that went unnoticed. Like gems hidden in plain sight.
The more we learned the complicated steps to produce specialty coffee, the stranger it became that the final product was a gimmicky souvenir.
Worst of all, we saw how Kona coffees were rife with counterfeit scams and how native land was being bulldozed, planted, then abandoned after failed attempts to produce coffee.
We wanted to change that. To share diverse, authentic Hawaiian coffees, the stories behind them, and do what we can to protect the land.
Over the next several years, we rehabilitated our farm and obsessively trained ourselves to process and roast Hawaiian coffees. Our end-goal was always the same: artisanal mastery and the best Hawaiian coffee we could produce from our land.
Shortly after, we received a grant to start the first coffee refining mill in our area, and were awarded the Hawai’i State Senate Certificate for improving farm sustainability, quality and the value of regional Hawaiian coffees.
Today, we're proud to be one of Hawaii's most recognized, innovative brands, and industry experts. Our coffees can be found at premium locations nationally and locally. We've been featured by Good Morning America, Washington Post, and many more.
We work out in the field with farmers, in the roastery with your coffees, and in the board room as a Board of Director for the Hawai’i Coffee Assocation.
A passion for craftsmanship, farms and wild land lives in each of us that work at Big Island Coffee Roasters, and as we grow our mission will be the same: to showcase authentic, artisanal, exceptional Hawaiian coffees, and safeguard Hawaii’s wild and beautiful places.
Kelleigh & Brandon, Co-Founders of Big Island Coffee Roasters
IN THE NEWS
Visit our cafe in Hilo, Hawai’i!
You can also find us at resorts, retailers and cafes throughout Hawai’i, and in several specialty retailers throughout the continental US. Including but not limited to:
Hawai’i Resorts: Mauna Lani Auberge, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hideaway at The Laylow, Fairmont Kea Lani, and more...
Hawai’i Retailers & Cafes:Hawai’i Airport Gift Stores & Duty Free shops, Foodland Specialty, Whole Foods Market, Island Naturals, Mana Foods (Maui), Dean & Deluca, Morning Glass Cafe, and more...
California & Oregon resorts & retailers: Nugget Market, Lazy Acres, Bristol Farms, Zupans Market, Rainbow Grocery, Pronghorn Resort (Bend, Oregon), and more...
As we grow, we do so with a commitment towards preserving & protecting Hawaii's farms, wild land, food systems, native species, & ancient culture.
Organic and Fair Trade coffees are uncommon in Hawaii for economic, logistic, and policy reasons. But that doesn't mean Hawaiian coffees are "un-fair" or dangerous.
Most people are concerned because they've heard that coffees are sprayed with an abundance of toxic chemicals. This is true in places where monocultured coffees are common, coffee diseases are highly evolved and can withstand chemical use, and pesticide regulations are slim, like Brazil.
This is not true for Hawai’i. Of the 1000+ Hawai’i coffee farms, approximately 95% are small polyculture farms under 20 acres. In addition, Hawaiian and Kona coffees have enjoyed a relatively pest and disease-free existance until 2010, when Coffee Berry Borer was accidently introduced.
In developing treatments, the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture is generally conservative with what it approves. For example, the treatment used for Coffee Berry Borer is a parasitic fungus called Beauveria Bassiana. Itʻs not registered as organic, however, because the treatment contains a surfactant which protects it from washing off in the rain.
Additionally, organic fertilizers tend to reduce coffee yield, which motivates producers to clear cut more land or cut corners.
As for Fair Trade, U.S. wage laws render Fair Trade certification largely redundant in the United States.