This coffee farm specializes in the under-appreciated (next to Kona) Hawaiian coffees on the East side of the Big Island (Puna, Ku’a, Hamakua) as well as Kona and coffee from the other islands (Maui Moka, Oahu Waialua, Kauai). They take in beans from many local farms for roasting or selling as greens, and they’re at the heart of a modern revival of East Hawaii beans.

In the late 1800s, some 6,000 acres of East Hawaiian rain forest were used to grow coffee until more profitable sugar cane took over at the turn of the 20th century. But since the last of the Big Island sugar plantations closed in the mid-1990s, East Hawaii coffee has been making a comeback.

The Hilo Coffee Mill grounds Hilo Coffee Mill's Deidrich roasters

In talking and sampling with the barista on duty (and Hilo Coffee Mill co-founder), Jeanette Baysa, we learned how nearby Puna coffees are generally less acidic than their world-famous Kona counterparts (also, FWIW, Hilo Coffee Mill only sells estate Kona). And given that the Hilo side of the island receives up to 300 inches of annual rainfall versus Kona’s typical 10 inches, there’s often a challenge in drying the coffee.

They have two 30-lb Diedrich roasters on site for roasting — choosing the Idaho-based manufacturer for a greater availability of parts and the ability to get equipment service “in a known language”.

Inside the Hilo Coffee Mill café Seating inside the Hilo Coffee Mill café

Also on site is a showroom that sports an espresso bar and a gift shop full of flavored coffees, teas, and the real deal in paper bags. Next to these rows of coffee and related accessories is a bar powered by a two-group Laranzato ME-2 machine. With it they produce some of the best espresso shots on the island.

It’s not just the fresh roasting, either. They spent nine months developing their espresso blend of 100% arabica beans from Central America, South America, and India (note: no Hawaiian coffees). The resulting shot has a darker brown, even crema that’s just a touch thin. Served tall in Laranzato-logo cups; it’s too tall, but yet it’s not overextracted. It has a pungent aroma and a more rounded and pungent flavor of a good espresso blend.

Read the review of Hilo Coffee Mill.

Hilo Coffee Mill's Laranzato The Hilo Coffee Mill espresso

UPDATE: May 6, 2011
Some three years later, the Los Angeles Times finally discovers the Hilo Coffee Mill: Hawaii: Coffee grown on the Big Island’s rainy side –