Former Pioneer Mill researcher growing coffee on maui
KAANAPALI, Maui — Hawaii’s largest independently run coffee farm has its roots in the Pioneer Mill sugar company.
Agriculture researcher James “Kimo” Falconer spent decades at Pioneer Mill conducting trials on crops to replace sugar cane.
Pioneer Mill closed. But Falconer leased about 80 acres to revive the West Maui’s company’s coffee-growing operation in 2003.
Kaanapali Coffee Farms is now the only commercial coffee grower on Maui, The Maui News reported.
Falconer harvested the first MauiGrown crop in 2004. In the 10 years since, he has expanded the coffee-growing operation at Kaanapali Coffee Farms to 400 acres, the largest independently run coffee farm in the state.
Maui Oma Coffee Roasting Co. owner David Gridley said Falconer brought in different coffees that grow in different environments. These varieties are a lot more unique, particularly the Maui Mokka, which Gridley said maintains its flavor much better and longer than other varieties.
“It’s a hybrid that was developed specifically for growing at the foot of the West Maui Mountains. There’s no other place in the world where that specific hybrid is grown,” Gridley said.
The Maui Mokka is full-bodied and very smooth, Gridley said, and it has hints of chocolate and fruitiness.
Kaanapali Coffee Farms sells almost half its harvest to roasters on the mainland and overseas. It also sells about 65,000 pounds at the MauiGrown store in Lahaina and supplies green coffee wholesale to nearly all roasters on Maui and in the state.
“My priority market is obviously here in Hawaii. We’re 100 percent Maui-grown. So, for the roasters here, it’s their own product,” Falconer said. “But Hawaii can’t absorb all of it, so we sell a lot of coffee in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
Falconer said he hopes to add about 200 acres to the coffee farm. He’s experimenting with breeding new varieties, including ones that are resistant to diseases like coffee rust that are common elsewhere in the world.
Falconer hopes MauiGrown coffee will someday be recognized to be as good as, if not better, than Kona coffee.