For years, I lived a few blocks from the (since demolished) Maxwell House Coffee plant in Hoboken, New Jersey. I had no clear image of what went on behind the gatehouse and the formidable plant walls. Factory tours were not in vogue then, and I had only the faintest idea — gleaned mostly from TV commercials — of what was involved in bringing coffee from tree to cup. All I knew is that when it rained, the aroma of roasting coffee permeated the air. You felt as if just breathing it provided a caffeine hit. Its enormous illuminated sign was a landmark when viewed from Manhattan.
Hilo Coffee Mill co-owner Jeanette provided a crash course today, and in half an hour of trailing her around the farm and roastery, I learned more about coffee roasting that I did in years of living a few blocks from the behmonth Maxwell House plant. I will never again wonder why coffee costs what it does — either by bag or at a coffee shop. Here are the steps (and I hope I’ve got them all inthe right order): Plant trees. Care for trees for five years begfore they begin producing usable fruit. Hand-pick fruit when it is red, which does not occur simultaneously on one tree, let alone an entire farm. Pulp. Ferment to remove mucilage from each bean. Dry to ceate a shell. Roast. Pack.
Their cafe serves a small menu of specialty and regular coffees and other drinks, sandwiches, bagels and salads, made with local and organic foods — even the tortillas for their wraps. Their retail inventory includes their own and other growers coffees (they roast for other eastern Hawaii growers as well as some Kona Cost growers’ and even one from Costa Rica), other local food products andd of coure, T-shirts, of course. Some chefs right now are enamored of nose-to-tail meat cooking. The Hilo Coffee Mill does something similar in the coffee realm, handling the process from sapling to sale.