There’s a lot going on at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. Owner Mike Atherton has big plans, and he’s working on creating a town center and residential area around the plantation over the next decade. As that unfolds, Maui Tropical Plantation is finding its niche, building out a new area to expand the Mill House restaurant, adding a wedding planner office and opening up the Mill House Roasting Company & Café.
Walking to the cafe, I see little outposts in huts that line a walkway to the left of the plantation gift shop. I pass a sign that says “explore trees and plants in area H!” It lists the varieties you can spot like sago palm, jaboticaba, cup and saucer and dracena fragrans. The pathway is lush. At the top of the walkway, there’s a big fountain made with huge rusty gears, reminiscent of past industrial machinery. Behind that, ducks swim in a giant pond while a family is picnicking along the edge.
I get past the mini botanical garden, just past the zipline check-in booth and jewelry store, and find the coffee roasting facility and cafe. Soon, manager Gene Pike is telling me about the coffees they roast there.
“Our Maui blend we do with Brazilian and Nicaraguan,” he says. “Then we have a 100 percent Maui coffee in medium and dark roast, and then we have the Maui Mokka which came from Yemen originally and is now grown here on Maui in Ka`anapali. We source our coffee from Ka`anapali Estates farm–we get green coffee beans and roast it here. Fresh pastries come from our bakery every morning.”
It’s not a coincidence they use Nicaraguan coffee in their blend. Atherton also owns Jesus Mountain Coffee Co. in Nicaragua. He was also involved in Coffees of Hawaii on Molokai.
The cafe also includes a display on the variety of beans grown on Maui: the Mokka, red catuai, yellow caturra, and typica. They also offer a nice carafe of cold water freshened with strawberries on the other side of the counter space, and a case with fresh baked pastries. Pour-overs are $3.50-4, as well as espresso, granitas, teas and Pellegrino.
“We opened the roastery about a month ago,” says Pike. “We haven’t had a grand opening or anything. But the tour buses stop by and we are just getting started.”
The focus at the Mill House Coffee Roaster is to be an artisanal coffee stop, where they roast in small increments. You can buy bags of their 100 percent Maui-grown coffee; they’re hand-stamped at the shop and have a vintage looking design. The bags run $13-15 for a half-pound, and $25-29 for a full pound. Maui Blend is 10 percent Maui ground and sells for $8 for a half-pound and $15 for a pound.
Atherton also has the “largest coffee grinder collection in the Pacific Rim.” Some of his collection, like the German French Mill, is on display in the shop. They cover the walls in the cafe, with different ceramic designs. Drop your beans in the ceramic belly, turn the crank and your coffee comes out in a drawer below. Pike says they’re also for sale.
“Starting in November, the roastery will be doing private small batches for Bad Ass Coffee Company and Lava Java,” says Pike. “We will be roasting here where a small batch is easy. We can do 25 pounds at a time and really personalize it. We can really control the quality of the roast with our machine here.”
The shop does pour over coffees and you can choose what coffee roast you would like. They grind it on the spot, and make you a fresh cup. Pike says the best flavor comes out in the pour-over. First, they wet the filter to remove any paper taste. Then they moisten all the grounds equally inside the filter with the first pour of hot water. After those two steps, when you start actually pouring the water in the filter it extracts the most flavor from the ground coffee because all of the grounds are wet. All the grounds should be exposed to the water at that point, releasing the coffee aroma and oils.
Pike knows what he’s doing because he has a history with java, formerly working for Hawaii Coffee Company and Coffees of Hawaii.
“Maria Holmes and I worked together on eight years ago on Molokai,” he says. “I was helping her put together a restaurant at Coffees of Hawaii in Molokai. But the restaurant was not able to get a liquor license, so they decided not to open. Then I ended up working for the hotel on Molokai as a kitchen manager. Now we get to work together again here on Maui.”
Chef Jeff Scheer hosts his Chef’s Tables on Friday and Saturday next door to the cafe. The dinner includes eight courses and runs 6-10pm. You can ask questions and watch the preparations. Chef Scheer also introduces each of the dishes.
“There is a lot happening here,” says Pike. “It’s catching on.”
Mill House Roasting Co.
1670 Honoapi`ilani Hwy., Waikapu
Open Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-3pm